Friday, March 13, 2009

Last weekend, JP and I went off on our own - not a single child in tow - just the two of us! We went cross country skiing and then ate at a restaurant. We haven't been alone in a restaurant for a very, very long time. I'm talking years, here.
We have basically subscribed to the "Why have kids if you don't want to be around them?" school of child-rearing, which I think is a good, good thing. But an occasional break is nice, especially now that the "babies" are 11 years old and eldest will be able to drive in three months...
It was a gorgeous day and the skiing was great. Not that I'm very good at it. I prefer the flat bits and even the least incline makes me edgy. (I am SO not ever going to go downhill skiing. It's a shame, but I just don't have it in me any more.)

Afterwards, we drove up the valley looking for a likely restaurant. We found this one, which was SO unbearably charming that I had to take pictures.

As the sign above indicates
1. We've had a LOT of snow this year
2. The restaurant specialises in Savoyard dishes. There are many permutations, but all Haute Savoie cooking boils (ha!) down to this:
a. cheese and potatoes
b. cheese and potatoes with lardons (thick chunks of bacon)
c. cheese and bread
As we had only skied for an hour and not all day, we didn't feel we required a gargantuan caloric load-up, so despite the gorgeousness of the place, as can be further attested to here:

we moved on down the valley, closer to home.
We drove past a little café by the side of the road that we had seen a thousand times. We'd always thought it was out of business, as there never seemed to be any signs of activity. But today, instead of being blocked by parked cars, the front door was actually accesible. And besides tables, chairs and parasols, there was even a life-sized plastic chef de cuisine holding up a chalkboard menu! Who could resist that?
We walked in and and were met by many promising signs that this would be a good place to eat and hang out.
1. We were immediately greeted by a very chubby and cheerful man that was, of course, the owner of the place. It immediately was clear that he and his wife run the place completely on their own.
2. There were lots of clients, all locals. Not a tourist in sight.
3. There was an old gentleman there eating his lunch, feeding his little white dog with scraps under the table. Any time you see locals in a café with their dogs, you know it's a good place to be. That's the sign that it's THE place to be- everyone's home away from home.
It wasn't fancy, by any means. In fact, it was the epitome of a small café/bar/restaurant in a tiny village. The tables were linoleum with paper place mats. The decor consisted of posters for a local accordeonist, a hefty gentleman with an impressive walrus-type mustache and a beret. You could buy his cds at the bar for 11 Euros each.
In fact, it was the French version of small-town diner in the middle of the United States about 50 years ago.
There had been two specials of the day, but the owner/cook told us that he was out of mussels and only had steak left. I was disappointed, not being a big meat fan. So, he very kindly had a look in the kitchen and decided that there were actually enough mussels left for a "small portion", which turned out to be fine for me.
There was a pâté en croute as a starter. Then the main dishes, simple and served with a big basket of tasty fries to share. And dessert was a smashing coconut raspberry torte. It was all very simple and amazingly good.
After we were served, the owner came back out of the kitchen and sat down at a table to hold court. He told stories and jokes and kept quite a good ambiance going. He even offered us free glasses of his homemade plum eau de vie (fruit brandy). It was very strong and the glasses were too full. I could only manage one sip, so JP had to drink his and then most of mine. It wouldn't have been good manners to leave any.
It reminded me a bit of that time in Peru when my professor had to eat my plate of goat entrails as well as his own plateful, because I couldn't manage it and we couldn't insult our hosts...

1 comment:

oreneta said...

JP should count his lucky starts that it wasn't viscera he was dealing with. I love those kinds of restaurants...mmmmmmmm