Dinner in Valreas

Foie gras torchon, champagne and strawberries

The meal starts with champagne: sweet, dry, bubbly and accented by local strawberries, which taste like a farm, hay and sunlight. We wipe our pink fingers on napkins and toss the green tops in a bowl. Soon, toasted bread and a torchon of foie gras are set upon the table. Generous pieces are spread across savoury bread. Foie gras and champagne compliment each other so well. The acidity and bubbles cut through the nearly-overhwelming fat that clings to your teeth with flavour.

Next: We assemble salads. Ripe heirloom tomatoes spread out beautifully on a platter in a wheel, topped with thin slices of onion and a layer of chiffonade basil. Cucumbers, mozzarella: salty, fatty, clean. Finished with a pinch of fleur de sel, good balsamic and olive oil from the trees outside. Simple, perfect.

Tomato, mozzarella salad, olive oil, balsamic, onions, basil

The sun sets behind the olive trees in the backyard as our evening continues.

Sunset through the olive trees in France

Laughter, joking, gentle teasing are key condiments at every family table. Though I can’t comprehend everything in French, I am just happy to be around it. In the background of our conversation, the grill sizzles with young lamb saddle, andouillette sausage and pork.

Saddle of lamb, potatoes gratin dauphinoise

Dinner: Potatoes dauphinoise, a creamy and crisp gratin with plenty of black pepper. The young lamb saddle is grilled perfectly and coated in herbes de provence. It is arrestingly crisp, savoury and maillard brown on the edges. Juicy, tender, flavourful in the centre: one of those life-changing dishes. The pork and the andouillette are lovely as well, proclaiming the grilled flavours of summer.

Assorted affinage of picador

Pre-dessert: Red wine and four affinage of local Picodon style chèvre: 2 months, 3 months, 3-4 months, and 6 months. The 6 month is rock hard, orange, pungent, slightly chalky. One is weeping it’s fat, smells of mushrooms, sweet and pungently old. Notes of characteristic Chèvre ammonia sour. The 2 month has a pronounced line of affinage. We talk about them all as we talk about food throughout the whole night. They are all delicious and by this point I am drunk on the wine, good company and gourmand pleasures.

For dessert, we are offered a giant bowl of sugar macerated strawberries and a can of whipping cream. I happily munch on three bowls, tasting my childhood amongst them: berry picking at local farms and family meals under the sun. We leave the table grateful, with full stomaches and ruddy cheeks.

Thank you to my coworker Manon and her father for the lovely meal.

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