Friday, July 16, 2010

La Charrette Bleue, 7 kms east of Nyon

One gray Tuesday morning we were walking through the market in Vaison la Romaine with our five friends in tow from Bistro Des Copains in Occidental California.

Despite the drizzle, the market was full of shoppers checking out the artfully arranged tables of fresh fruits and vegetables along with the honey, olive oil, linens, soaps and other items from Provence which the merchants had set out for sale.

After wandering around for a while, I was happy to spot our friend Bruce who lives in Villedieu where wonderful Maison Bleue is located, chatting with our favorite poissonnier - fishmonger, Edmond Lafont of Maree du Comtat Venaison.

Monsieur Lafont always has an amazing assortment of the freshest fish and seafood on display over a bed of ice. I should mention that he parks his truck and sets up shop every Thursday morning in Sablet.

After catching up and chatting about the awful weather and being told "ce n'est pas normal" - this is not normal weather, I told them I was looking for a restaurant to take our friends to for lunch.

I told them I wanted to go to a restaurant that serves la bonne cuisine régionale - good regional food, for a petit prix - moderate price. Monsieur Lafont and Bruce threw names back and forth, questioning each other if some were closed on Tuesdays or weren't that good.

Monsieur Lafont asked me "tu connais" - do you know, restaurant La Charrette Bleue on the road to Gap? I did not. He emphasized that he had not been there but had heard they "fait du bon travail" - do a nice job. Bruce said he had not been there either but he had heard the same thing.

After getting directions in normal Provençal fashion, meaning not clear at all, I figured out that to get to La Charrette Bleue, we needed to head out of Vaison la Romaine towards Nyon and then follow the Route de Gap till we got to Les Pilles.

After finishing our walk through the market and hiking up to the fortress that sits above Vaison la Romaine (I will write about that in a future post), we headed out to find La Charrette Bleue. By the time we drove the 23 kms to the restaurant, the morning's drizzle had turned into a down pour.

We parked our car and everyone made a mad dash into the restaurant to avoid getting totally soaked.

Upon entering the restaurant, we found ourselves in a very pretty, warm, dining room with wood beams on the ceiling, just perfect for a rainy day. Just looking around and seeing the attention to the little details, I was sure we were going to enjoy a nice lunch.

After being seated and looking over the menu, most of us chose the 3-course Menu Découverte for 25,50 Euros. We ordered a bottle of rosé from Domaine Alary, a producer of wonderful wines located in Cairanne, to enjoy while we waited for our first courses to be brought out.

Our first courses included warm goat cheese encrusted with angel hair pasta, some greens, a white balsamic reduction sauce and finely diced zucchini and bell peppers.

Others had a split pea soup with croutons.

I had a wonderful dish of moules gratinées - mussels with a rich sauce of garlic and butter. Yummy!

A dish of potatoes Dauphinoise was brought out for the table to share.

Some of our party chose the pan sautéed Dorade - a Mediterranean sea bream, served over a fennel carrot sauté.

Adam chose the pork tenderloin with boudin noir sausage. He said it was delicious.

I had the pan sautéed skate served over a cabbage brussel sprout braise with a beurre blanc sauce. It was wonderful.

For dessert, some chose the orange brûlée tart served with dark chocolate mousse.

Someone else chose a terrine with layers of blackberry, raspberry, chocolate and white chocolate mousse.

One member of our party chose the banana apple galette with rum raisin ice cream and sweetened lentils. This was the one dish we ordered that was not really successful in our opinion. It was weird.

I chose the îles flottantes with crème anglaise, puffy clouds of softly poached meringue floating on a vanilla custard sauce. It was topped with something wonderfully crunchy.

Our group would say that La Charrette Bleue is a charming country restaurant which serves excellent food for a reasonable price and should not be missed if you are in the area. We will definitely return many times I am sure.

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