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GRAND CAFE OCCITAN: RESTAURANT REVIEW

 

We made our way to a new restaurant the other day, up toward the hills past La Liviniere in the small town of Felines-Minervois. None of our party had been there before, but a friend had visited and said that she'd enjoyed it. She's a vegetarian. First clue.

Now don't get me wrong. I have no gripe with those who choose to go meatless. I understand the environmental concerns and I understand the horrors of factory farming. But I also understand that form follows function in the design of tools, in the design of appliances, and in the design of human teeth. Our incisors and canines did not develop over the course of hundreds of thousands of years to rend the flesh of a fresh-caught broccoli. We are omnivores by design, Darwinian design. And I enjoy eating omni.

Enough preamble...

I never went inside the Grand Cafe Occitan. A young lady who would be our server met us at the front door of the nicely pointed old stone house, leading us to a pebble-covered courtyard on the side, shaded by a few trees and suspended reed matting. Mismatched tables and chairs. Paper place mats and napkins. A wine list, but a slate for a menu. French country ambiance.

I started with rillettes de porc - slow cooked, shredded pork with the fat reincorporated to make a kind of paste. Not quite confit but holding to the idea that much of the taste is in the fat that it's cooked in. Three small gherkins accompanied a chunk of rillettes on a small plate. I took my bread from the basket on the table. OK start, mostly because I like rillettes. But certainly not exceptional and totally lacking presentation. (French chefs have spoiled me,) Of the other starts, the salad with the fried. homemade pork-liver sausage was the winner for me, interesting taste for those of us who like that sort of thing.

I was doing fine up to this point. The wine helped. I can highly recommend Chateau Maris rosé.

The three mains took me off the rails. Table mates said that the menu was all about French country cooking. I would be surprised to be served vegetarian cassoulet or skate in a French country kitchen. Cathey enjoyed the skate though, a fish that is sufficiently hard to cook that pleasing Cathey is commendable. Several of us chose the third choice, basically boiled chicken, a leg and a wing floating in a rather plain broth, with potato and leek and onion and an herb pesto. Boiled chicken. Really? French chefs have spoiled me.

The desserts followed the formula, limited choices, familiar faces, the one standout being the ice cream garnished with chunks of fresh figs. Not a drop of chocolate in sight. There's always chocolate. But not here. French chefs have spoiled me.

\Service was attentive and cheerful. The pace of the meal suited our lazy afternoon. I cannot speak to the total price because I didn't see the bill including the wine. But 24€ for three courses is certain;y reasonable.

I'm picking nits. I may have been the only one at the table who was less than enthusiastic. But the drive to Felines-Minervois lasted over 40 minutes and I can count a dozen or more restaurants on the way that I might have preferred. French chefs have spoiled me.




Comments

  1. French chefs have spoiled me. The joke wears thin as you read on.

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  2. I must admit that main dish would not have pleased me as the colors were so weak and tasteless-looking but seeing the bare boned chicken leg finished me off. The menu did show some other offerings though and the ice cream looked yummy but I would have chosen the creme brulee. On to your next adventure!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did have the crème brûlée. A small ramekin that was well done. I pointed out the ice cream with figs because it was the one that was a bit different from the norm. Thanks for your comment.

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    2. Perhaps you should try running a small restaurant with all your expertise, it’s easy to criticise 😞 such comments can be very damaging to someone starting up.

      Delete
  3. The saucisse de foie was good and I said so. The skate was good and I said so. The ice cream with figs was good and I said so. My table mates were more enthusiastic than I was and I said so. If you want uncritical cheer leading, watch college football.

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