It’s that time of year. The vendange is complete, and the harvest party at la Gramière is scheduled for tomorrow. Summer people are leaving, back to Paris, Belgium and the Netherlands, the UK and the US. Even Jill and I have, reluctantly, a date in mind. Shops and restaurants are closing. Leases are expiring.
It is an expiring lease which has prompted Lisa Muncan to move her restaurant to the Luberon. Her landlord is repossessing this beautiful 15th century house in the centre of Vers for his own purposes, leaving bereft thousands of patrons of this restaurant gastronomique. Our friends Tom and Unity had charmed a reservation for us on Thursday, and not a single mouthful of the seven course menu disappointed.
After the Sox débacle the previous evening, reports of Tito’s resignation, and a succession of triumphalist Yankees tweets from someone called Salman Rushdie, I was in need of restauration, literally restoring. I left totally restored in every respect.
The building itself is magnificent. Patrons pull a bell and are admitted through a pair of ancient oak double doors. One eats in an imposing room with vaulted ceilings, once the refectory of a nunnery in the 16th century and the dining room of a private school in the 19th century. Tables – there are only 16 covers - are set well apart to allow privacy. Service is impeccable and, when necessary, multi-lingual. The wine list is well-chosen, with priority rightly given to local and regional wines, but Bordeaux and Burgundy also represented. We drank a white Côtes du Rhône and a superb red Pic Saint Loup: Le Gouletier 2007 from Domaine Chalazon.
The menu lists seven courses, but I think we had nine. There were two rounds of amuses-bouches, and a pré-pré dessert as well as pré-dessert and dessert. Between these, we were treated to delicious scallops, a gorgeous fricassé with a jus d’Estragon, and the highlight for me, Quasi de Veau de Lait, which was one of the tastiest, tenderest meat dishes I have ever eaten. (I am informed that the cheese course was also exceptional.)
And here’s the beauty of it. Despite clearing our plates completely, despite the number of courses, and despite the gorgeousness of the home-made bread, we left the table three hours later not unpleasantly full, not bloated, but totally satisfied: each dish had been ‘an elegant sufficiency’.
I envy the residents of and visitors to the Luberon next year. But I suspect that our side of the Rhône will also be blessed with new and rewarding places to eat. Rumours abound of Parisian chefs taking over established restaurants in Uzès. Frederik is taking over the Bar du Marché and will be re-opening after the obligatory two week closure, during which customs and licensing authorities carry out their due diligence (or not, if you listen as I do to the locals).
The winter here is a little like the off-season in baseball: there are sales, retirements and trades and, most of all, there is gossip and rumour about these things. In baseball, this is called the Hot Stove: it’s a pretty appropriate phrase for what has already began here.
This is the cycle. It happens every year. In my end is my beginning. As one door closes, another opens. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. Here’s to 2012.
Today's listening: Thea Gilmore, John Wesley Harding. The complete Dylan album, reinterpreted by this brilliant singer.