Thursday, January 22, 2015

CAFE DU MIDI - BIZE MINERVOIS - A REVIEW

You can't go home again. Well, in this case it might be more accurate to say that you can't always get back to where you once were even if you go back to the same place. Catch my drift? Too much drift?

On a luscious fall day in 2004, my wife Cathey, her sister Liz, and I happened across a restaurant in the little village of Bize Minervois. It's a pretty little village with the river La Cesse running alongside, not far from the regional olive cooperative with its neat gift shop, and on the back road from here to there if you're tired of the highway. We're in and around Bize quite often. But we've never returned to that little restaurant just inside the Bize archway until this weekend. We remember the restaurant well, though we've lost the name, because of a picture that Liz took of Cathey and I as we sat down to eat, a picture of a younger, happy, and satisfied couple that was printed out, framed, and given prominent play in my office at work and also served as my avatar on several websites in the decade since it was taken. The meal was as memorable as the picture. The girls shared a huge salad plate with a dozen or more ingredients including fresh veggies of the region and the season, pickles, and a hunk of country pate. I had rabbit, my first in France, stewed to perfection and served in a funky terracotta bowl. No ambiance, though. Not a lick. Just good French country cooking.

Today's Cafe du Midi is a different sort of place. Modern brown and red fabrics in place of the white linen. Modern, slightly awkward chairs. Modern lighting. Modern. That's okay. Modern is okay. But the menu was not okay. Our choice for a main dish was either hamburger or steak. Granted that it was a winter weekend. Granted we arrived just before a party of about twenty that had booked beforehand. Granted that it was the fixed price special. Even so, you shouldn't have to choose between cow and cow.

I will say that the presentation was interesting. Check out the picture. But to Cathey, the idea that hot and cold courses were served at the same time meant that by the time that you got to the last hot course, it wasn't hot any more.

So...

The sauteed veggies atop a square of puff pastry with a mild sauce was OK. The gazpacho with bits of bacon would have been interesting if we didn't get the feeling that the tomatoes came out of a tin. The steak was French biftek with a sauce and a dash of onions. The fries - chilling down while we worked on the veggies and the gazpacho - were probably reconstituted. The pineapple was fresh and the presentation novel. The goat cheese was good and the cheddar was French cheddar. (The French don't get cheddar.) Good baguette.

With a demi of wine, 32 Euros. Cathey has spoken. There are too many kitchens to sample in the region to come back to the Cafe du Midi any time soon.

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