|The Independent Traveler's Newsletter PAGE FOUR|
by Jo Anne Marquardt
Who doesn't enjoy a fine meal in a foreign country? And what exactly does a 'fine meal' entail? On my last trip to France I believe I hit the jackpot. Not only must the food taste good, it must be beautifully prepared and presented with professional service in an attractive setting.
A rainy evening at Hôtel Restaurant Salvetat near Cadouin (Dordogne) began with an apéritif of Perlant du Perigord (the pink sparkling wine of the region) around an old fashioned fire. We were seated in the warm-toned, ambient dining room with old beams painted pale green and served an amuse bouche (mouth amuser from the chef) of crème of tomato soup. My entrée (appetizer) was escargots in a red wine garlic sauce with a thin, flaky sheet of pastry on top. Fabulous. My plat principal (main plate) was pintadeau (guinea hen) stuffed with chestnuts, resting in tarragon sauce and accompanied by morsels of vegetables and tiny potatoes artistically cut to resemble mushrooms. For dessert I chose prunes from Agen poached in chamomile tea and submerged in Armagnac liqueur, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side, light but flavor packed. With the meal we drank a Duras wine called Pie Colette. The server explained it was a play on words, as picolette in French refers to a person who drinks a lot. I dubbed this meal . . .dinner with humor.
French pacing of a meal is meticulous. The client owns the table
the evening so the pace is leisurely, allowing time to savor each
course. Comprehending a French menu is a plus, as subtleties are
difficult to translate into English. Three courses offered on a prix
fixe menu are often a bargain but can become too much when
a period of several nights.
Mangio Fango near Ste-Marie-de-la-Mer
(Camargue region of Provence), a formula of two courses was my
choice. The amuse bouche,
an assortment of tiny, from-the-oven pastries topped with cheeses and
savory herbs, whet the appetite. I passed on the entrée and ordered a plat principal of loup de mer (sea bass) that came
accompaniment of delicious vegetables creating a framework for the
fish. The potatoes gratin were heavenly as was the creamy
eggplant mousse, crispy pea pods and artichoke hearts. Can you
the colors and textures carefully placed around the fish on a black
rectangular plate? It was like an artist’s palette. White
Arles enhanced each delectable bite. Dessert put me over the top.
. .warm tarte tatin with ice
cream . . . maybe the best I've ever eaten.
next indulgence was at La Cabane de l'Ecailler (hut of the oyster
shucker) at Port St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (Côte d'Azur) where we sat on
the elegantly set terrace to gaze out at the yachts and azure
water. The amuse bouche
was a lightly fried, oh-so-tender, calamari with a mayonnaise Yuzu
sauce. My plat principal
was Asian style rare tuna that melted in my mouth and came with thin,
lightly sautéed vegetable sticks sprinkled with sesame
seeds. I had no reason to complain but swooned when I tasted the
risotto with freshly-grated truffles on top that came with my husband's
petit lobster. Wine from the region was a perfect match. We
wisely share a dessert; a café gourmand coffee with a
selection of several miniature traditional French desserts. The
servers, handsome, impeccably dressed men in black, were exceptionally
attentive, professional and a little flirtatious!
Montmirail near Vacqueyras (Provence) was a grand respite in the
country. Like a large resort, the terrace was set up to
numerous guests. Creamy zucchini mousse with a shrimp balanced on
was the amusing amuse bouche.
The creative entrée
consisted of thinly
sliced eggplant wrapped package-like around other chopped vegetables,
tomatoes and chicken, set-off by two wedges of cheese and confetti-like
vegetable flakes. The plat
principal was beef, but I requested fish
and received a grilled filet of bass with a vegetable medley. The
Gigondas wine was spectacular as was the attractive strawberry tarte
with green apple ice cream. This may have been my favorite meal
on the criteria cited at the beginning of the article.
I'm in reverie with these exceptional French dining experiences dancing through my mind and making my mouth water. I'm definitely ready to return!
Jo Anne Marquardt is a true francophile and travels to France as often as possible.
journals during her visits, and you can click to find a collection
the banner to order your copies today!
We have all experienced jet lag at
one time or another, so here are a few things you can do to mitigate
the problem the next time you fly:
o Stay hydrated. Drinking lots of water ~ but very little caffeine or alcohol ~ will help prevent jet lag as well as fight against the dry airplane air. A saline nasal spray is a handy thing to have to combat the dry air as well.
o It is now being recommended that you travel with packets of sanitizing hand wipes and clean off airplane tray tables, armrests, buttons at your seat for the TV, etc. to keep your exposure to germs at a minimum. Take a wipe into the lavatory, too, to wipe those surfaces others have probably touched such as door handles.
o Once you reach your destination, do something active! If you arrive at 10 AM, check your bags at your hotel (they probably won't have your room ready but will keep your baggage for you), and take a walk. Go to lunch. In the afternoon, once you've checked into your room, you can take a nap, but keep it to 30 minutes or less. If you sleep too long, your body clock will be out of sync. Go out sightseeing, find a restaurant for dinner, and return to your hotel room at bedtime. You'll wake the next day like you've always lived in that time zone.
o Don't eat heavy meals. Start off light to keep your digestive system working.
o If flying during hurricane season, keep that seat belt on! Turbulence can occur, so it's better to be buckled in.
o Hurricanes and other bad weather conditions can cause flight delays, cancellations and missed connections. Buy travel insurance! It's not expensive and covers almost all unforeseen problems.
o If you have at least a month before traveling and you live in the United States, consider signing up for TSA's Precheck so you can get on a shorter line at the airport and not have to remove your shoes, belts, watches, jackets, etc., and you can keep your laptops and liquids in your carryon baggage. Once approved, which for us was only a few days, your boarding pass will indicate your Known Traveler number. There is an $85 per person fee. For a TSA Precheck located near you, visit their web site - https://universalenroll.dhs.gov/#precheck-home.
TRAVEL INSURANCE: Check with Travel Guard online at www.travelguard.com or phone them
at 1.800.826.1300 for information about travel and trip cancellation insurance.
You can choose your plan and have coverage for lost luggage, cancellation/interruption/delays
in your flight, medical expense and evacuation coverage, 24-hour emergency assistance, and more.
We've used Travel Guard for many years, and we do recommend that you consider it.
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