Monday, May 13, 2013

Dining Al Fresco and Duck Fat

Mom and John arrived on Saturday morning, and we had to get on the road right away to make it down to Rocamadour in time to go sightseeing, so I packed a bunch of food for a picnic. We stopped at one of many rest areas (called aires) along the autoroute, this one the "Area of the Grey Heron." There were no herons, other than the sculpture at the entrance, but there were lots of birds singing in the little woodland area where we had our lunch. I'd brought smoked duck breast and pork rillettes, both of which were well received, with bread (gluten-free and regular) and blanched asparagus and sliced carrots, ripe avocados and cherry tomatoes (fresh and oven-dried), and a mixed sheep- and goat-milk tomme that I'd gotten at the natural foods store, as well as an herbed potato salad. We ate the same thing for dinner at the hotel in Rocamadour, along with sparkling wine from Saumur and Vouvray, having promised the owner that we wouldn't spill things or make a mess on the floor.

After visiting the Padirac Cave, we ate lunch at a ferme-auberge, the Ferme de Larcher. They raise their own lambs and duck, and then serve them up for lunch, as well as selling the foie gras de canard on site and in stores. We were the first to sit down for lunch at the dozen tables in the wooden-beamed room (there were outside tables, but it was a little too brisk to eat in the open); by the time we left all the tables were full of French families enjoying a leisurely Sunday lunch.

Allergies weren't a problem, as all the cooking is done in duck fat rather than butter, and there was no flour used in anything but the desserts. The set lunch menu starts with a "salade de Quercy (Quercy is the old name for the region that is now the Lot) of lettuce in vinaigrette topped with smoked duck breast, sliced confit of giblets, and either a slices of duck neck stuffed with a farce of meats and 30% foie gras, or pan-seared slices of whole foie gras. We got two regular and one "extra" using the pan-seared foie gras, and it was very, very good. Like eating butter, only lighter - it just melted in the mouth. The main course is a selection between pan-seared rare duck breast, roast lamb, or confit of duck leg. We got one of each, so that we could each taste everything. one of the advantages of traveling in a group.

Then the cheese course, either a fresh local goat's-milk Cabecou or a slice of tomme de vache that John said tasted like Havarti, and the dessert (walnut tart with ice cream was John's choice), and coffee to finish. We were there for two hours enjoying the meal, and the conversation, and the hosts were very nice about answering all the questions about possible allergies, and bringing an apple for Mom instead of the desserts, and wrapping up an extra slice of walnut tart for John, and not pointing out how gauchely American it was for me to bring in the plastic containers from the car so that we could take the rest of the duck-fat-fried potatoes with us, along with the meat we couldn't finish. We were getting odd looks from the rest of the customers as we walked out with our stack of containers and wrapped food. But tonight, if we decide that having the food in the car without refrigeration for the eight hours it took us to get to the gîte here in Provence won't cause any health concerns, we will have the leftovers. Or that might be breakfast. Or we might decide that one day of insanely rich food is enough, and eat raw vegetables for the rest of the week. But it was so very tasty ...

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