Given that we will be traveling for six weeks, there were two important reasons we wanted to sprinkle a couple of gîtes into the accommodations mix: 1) we would need to do laundry and it’s easy at a gîte with a washing machine and 2) we needed to eat a few relatively healthy meals (at least I’d know the ingredients). But we didn’t want to completely miss the cuisine of this region of France. We decided to have 3 meals out in the area, one lunch and two dinners. As it turns out there is only one restaurant in Laroque, we would venture to other towns for two of the meals.
Le Laromet (Cuisine traditionnelle) Au bord du lac – Menus a part de 14 Euros & carte
Véronique highly recommended that we try Le Laromet. It is located less than 2 kilometers from the gîte on a lake and we could walk there. She said the food was excellent but when we said we’d have dinner there, she said no it’s better for lunch. The dishes are light like salads; or at least that’s what we understood. She told me to absolutely make a reservation, the place isn’t all that big and we would want to be sure we sat outside.
I made a reservation for 2 people for the next day for lunch. There was definitely a little confusion on the phone, especially my trying to spell “Lenowsky” in French. I tried to make reservations for 1PM, but it seems they only take reservations for what I thought was a single seating, noon. Noon it would be. I was pretty sure we were set for lunch at Le Laromet.
It was a beautiful day, the sun was shinning, it was actually hot. We walked to the lakeside restaurant (au bord du lac). When we arrived I told the woman who looked to be in charge that we had reservations and for a few moments there was complete confusion. I didn’t understand her and she didn’t understand me. She acknowledged that we had reservations, but for some reason she wasn’t looking to seat us. Finally, I heard the two words I had missed on the telephone the day before “et demi”. All I heard was “a midi” [at noon] and she was saying “a midi et demi” [12:30]. Once that was clear we knew we just needed to kill some time. I was really pretty hot, so walking back to the gîte didn’t make sense so we found a big rock and took a seat water front. About 15 minutes later, people started arriving and they were being seated. We noticed a contractor like pick up truck pull into the parking lot with three guys who were definitely coming from a jobsite enter the restaurant. They were clearly regulars by the reaction of the staff. It was 12:15 PM. I made Phil wait another 10 minutes before we headed back. She was emphatic with me 12:30.
We were seated, outside and it was just lovely. We had two servers, the main woman and a young man. We were asked if we wanted an aperitif. Phil had a beer and I told him I would have water. He offered me everything from fruit juice to vintage champagne, but we were going to eat out for dinner this evening and I knew I needed to save myself for wine with dinner. They brought Phil what looked like a mini-beer compared to the beers we saw being consumed at other tables along with a plate of olives. No one was rushing us we were just enjoying a beautiful sunny day. I did have a bit of regret that I hadn’t ordered a glass of rose or the like. Phil ended up needing a second mini-beer. I must have messed up ordering it and must have asked for the child’s beer by accident.
They were only serving the “menu” today – nothing a la carte. Okay, we could work with that. The daily offering was written on a chalk board and brought to our table.
For 15 euros, we had our choice of a salad of tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and pesto vinaigrette or a salad with scallops. I run hot and cold with scallops – there are times when I can’t get enough of them and other times when I can’t bear to look at them, I’m in a cold period and Phil “Mr. Lobsta” finds them too rich so we both ordered the tomato salad. It was simple, fresh and delicious. The tomatoes were red and flavorful – a preview of summer. The mozzarella tasted like pure dairy and had a clean flavor; a little hard to describe, pure freshness. The basil was sharp. Classic caprese!
For the entrée, we had our choice of steak with shallots or fish with a little shellfish. We knew “cabillau” was fish but that’s about all we knew. I felt adventuresome. Phil’s steak was served medium rare, it came with frites cooked in olive oil, a little salad and a medley of mixed vegetables. On top of the steak were beautifully caramelized shallots “echalotes confites”. I tasted both his steak and the fries and they were great.
My fish was spectacular. I picked better. Cabillau is a very mild yet tasty white fish. Our server told me it was from the area. It was cooked to perfection; not undercooked and not overcooked. It was topped with tiny steamed clams. There was a side of perfectly cooked rice. All this was sitting in a light, creamy lemony sauce. I was surprised at how much I liked the fish plain, but in the sauce it was fancy dinner worthy and sensational. I shared a few clams with Phil.
For dessert, we had a choice of bananas with a ginger (on the list) sauce or strawberry melba. I wanted the strawberries, Phil settled for the strawberries. There was no chocolate in sight. It was so good. The sweetest locally grown strawberries, with a scoop of strawberry ice cream and another scoop of what I think was almond ice cream, topped with freshly whipped (not too sweet) cream and a tuile.
We finished with an espresso that came with another tuile.
The restaurant is lovely. We were never rushed. The value of the meal was just amazing. Should you find yourself in the neighborhood this is a must. Lunch or dinner. Remember the contractors, they stayed for 1 hour and 45 minutes (I was watching). They each had at least one beer and they shared a bottle of rose. It’s good to work in France.
L’Entrée Jardin (Cuisine gastronomique) Rue du Pont – CADILLAC – Menu de 27 euros a 84 euros ou a la carte
The first of our two dinners out would be at L’Entrée Jardin in Cadillac. The limits of Cadillac “CAH – DEE – ACK” are said to be only 3 kilometers from Laroque. It feels further away than that. Most probably because we knew we would be driving. We checked Uber but nothing was available.
Michel had made reservations for us earlier in the day. He was so smooth. He called the restaurant, explained where he was calling from and that he had guests who wanted to try their exceptional cuisine. Would they be able to accommodate that? They said of course and he went on to ask for a nice table on the patio for his guests from the United States. Madame could speak French. In the event they had been full, I think with Michel’s approach we would have gotten in no matter what.
We expected the restaurant to be within the walls of Cadillac. We parked in a municipal lot and went in search of the restaurant, we were surprised that it was outside of the walls of the bastide and even more surprised when we realized the restaurant had a parking lot. Lesson learned, next time ask. We were lead through a lovely restaurant to a beautiful screened in patio.
Tonight we would have an aperitif. Champagne pour deux, SVP! The champagne came out and so did a fish “dip” with tiny toasts. Not overpowering, not mayonnaisey – perfect with the champagne.
The restaurant was lovely. We were eating outside on the patio and the weather was perfect. At 8 o’clock the place was practically empty. By 8:30 PM it was starting to fill up and by 9PM the joint was jumping.
After the server took our dinner order and we ordered a half bottle of Chateau La Gard (Pessac – Leognan) red to have with our dinner. We were treated to two tiny amuse bouches from the kitchen. Both were salmon, the first was a salmon tartare and the second was simply amazing, a savory salmon crème brulée. I could have made a dinner out of the amuse bouches had it been offered.
Phil and I selected the exact same menu with the exact same choices. Normally, I would switch just to try something different but I wasn’t budging. As a starter we had langoustines, served a top an artichoke heart, with some chorizo under that flower, with an avocado puree. It was twice as good as it was beautiful to look at.
Phil went for a repeat and I followed his lead. We do eat beef, but not all that often. When I was growing up we probably had beef two or three times a week. Today, we average beef 1 time a month (for dinner – as I have no control over other people’s lunches or dinner’s out). The beef was cooked to medium rare perfection, served with creamy, rich, smooth mashed potatoes (not sure if it was cream or butter or both that made them heavenly), rich, dark gravy and crisp vegetables.
We went over the top and had the cheese course as well as dessert. We were served three perfectly sized pieces of cheese – one goat, one cow and one sheep cheese. Two were creamy and one was hard. None were sharp. All were good – I love cheese! The salad that accompanied it was perfectly dressed.
Phil and I selected different desserts. I loved what I picked. Strawberries again, on a pistachio cake a top a shortbread cookie with strawberry sorbet, pistachio wafers and a little Chantilly cream. OMG – it was as good as it looks!
I can’t even remember what Phil had. Checking my notes it was “Douceur de miel d’accacia, mousse de lait et espumas de bleuet”. Which translates to “Sweetness of acacia honey, milk froth and blueberry foam”. Phil really enjoyed it. He loves blueberries. We ended the evening with coffee and the post dessert sweets including milk choclate turtles, meringue cookies and Canelés de Bordeaux. The canelés are little cakes, that look like a chef’s cap to me, they have cream inside and are flavored with rum and vanilla. Just roll me out and to sleep.
Our other choice for dinner was Le Chaudron d’Anna in Rions. When I called their machine said they were closed. I didn’t fully understand the message. When Michel called he said they were closed for vacation. A rather odd time of year for a restaurant to be closed. When we visited Rions we learned that a movie was being filmed at the restaurant and that was the reason for the closure. Next time for sure; Michel said it is very good
Vincent Poussard’s L’Auberge Girondine – St Croix du Mont
St. Croix du Mont is about 10 kilometers from Laroque. Phil was less than thrilled with me for picking a restaurant so far away; he wanted to eat in Cadillac again (3 kilometers). I think he got over when he saw it was on the main road, it was easy to get there and there was ample parking. The restaurant is part of a guest house/hotel. When we arrived I think there were no patrons in the restaurant. I’ll admit I was a little concerned. This was not a fancy place. The main wall of the restaurant was painted with blackboard paint (what a great idea) and it had specials written with chalk. We each had a glass of sparkling wine and we were treated to little “egg salad” toasts. They were quite tasty.
We both selected the same appetizer and main course. All my vegetarian friends should skip down a couple of paragraphs and go straight to dessert.
Our appetizer came out at the speed of light. We were taken aback at how fast it came out. We were served just about the biggest piece of foie gras de canard that I have ever had. I love foie gras and when it was brought to the table I didn’t think I’d ever finish it. It was served with fig chutney and grilled toast. Foie gras with sweet figs on warm toast is simply delicious. It’s rich and smooth and sweet and yummy all at once. I powered through it and so did Phil.
We had no sooner finished our foie gras when the main course came out. Hey, slow down this is France we eat slowly here; we savor our food. We ordered a carafe of local red and both ordered the filet (breast) of duck in orange sauce, with mashed potatoes and a crispy piece of prosciutto. The duck was perfectly cooked to medium rare. The sauce was sweet from the oranges and yet gravy like. The potatoes were smooth and as you can see there weren’t too many to load the dish down. But the genius of dish was the crispy prosciutto. The crispy, salty top quality prosciutto was a surprising contrast to the rich, sweet duck. It was great!
The restaurant was filling up and fortunately, there was some time to relax between the main course and dessert. We actually don’t think they were rushing us; we think the kitchen staff was eager to cook and we were the only orders we had.
I opted for Basque sheep milk cheese with homemade cherry jam for dessert. Cheese and cherries, what could be bad. Phil had the dessert that our server recommended: Paris Sainte Croix Du Mont, crème pralinee noisette. I don’t think he shared any of it. I can only describe what I saw: there was cake, chocolate sauce, hazelnut mousse inside, whipped cream on top, and some crunchy nutty things decorating the plate and then there was nothing!
Three wonderful meals – the “Laroque and its environs” is a happening restaurant scene.