Saturday, September 8, 2012

Auberge de la Clue, Plaisians - Head Cheese Anyone?

I was awaken by church bells ringing at 7:00 on Saturday morning. After talking to Shirley who was home in California, the staff at Bistro Des Copains who were finishing Friday dinner service and checking my emails, I headed out to take my morning walk around Sablet.

First stop, a visit to the Tabac to pick up the "International Herald Tribune" and check out the latest issues of "Saveurs" and "Cuisine et Vins de France", my two favorite French cooking magazines. I also buy a SFR ticket recharge (minutes) for my French mobile phone.

Then to the boulangerie to get a palmier to nibble with my morning double café. If you don't know, palmiers are a type of crispy buttery delicious cookie made of puff pastry. I think palmiers are my favorite French pastries and Julien makes really good ones.

On my way to Café des Sports, I run into Alain who along with wife Mimi own the Vival épicerie, the little grocery store in Sablet. He is rolling out the racks of fresh fruits that he displays on the sidewalk in front of the store. After la bise (cheek kissing), we briefly catch up.

I finally get to Café des Sports where I am happy to see Bruno, the jovial owner in short pants as usual, at the espresso machine. After more cheek kissing and explaining why Shirley is not with me, I order a double café and a bottle of Vittel spring water. Ordering the latter with coffee marks me for sure as an American.

I sit at a table under an awning in front of Café des Sports and read the newspaper while I wait for Bruno to bring my café and water. The sky is brilliant bright blue and I can tell it is going to be a beautiful day. I am so happy to be back in Sablet.

Later in the morning and after checking the Michelin Guide for restaurants in the area that are designated "Bib Gourmand" defined as Inspectors’ Favorites for Good Value, I drive off in my rented car in the direction of Mont Ventoux east of Vaison-la-Romaine. I am headed to Auberge de la Clue in Plaisians, a resto and village about 23 miles from Sablet where I have never been.

I drive down the road through a beautiful forested area till I come upon a sign that points to Plaisians. I make a sharp left turn and cross the Gorge of la Clue.

I drive slowly down a narrow road that snakes back and forth around hairpin curves and up the road past hillsides covered with what appears to be Forsythias bushes in full bloom.

More of those blooming Forsythias bushes. Whatever they are, they are a beautiful spot of bright yellow on the green hillsides.

I finally arrive in the center of Plaisians and park near the square 18th century belltower that stands next to the church of Plaisians.

The village is tiny, only about 180 people live here, isolated so not very many tourists find their way to Plaisians. The 17th century church sits in the center of Plaisians.

As I said, I have come to Plaisians to eat lunch at Auberge de la Clue, a restaurant that is designated as a Bib Gourmand in the 2012 Michelin Guide. The Auberge has a beautiful garden terrace as well as several small dining rooms for cool or inclement weather.

It is a beautiful warm day and I am seated at a table on the garden terrace under a big umbrella.

A single rose bush with pink and white flowers grows near where I am seated on the terrace.

From my seat, I can see the Auberge with its two hotel rooms and Mont Ventoux in the distance.

The Auberge de la Clue offers a number of fixed price menus. I choose the 5-course menu for 34 Euros. Except for me, it appears that all of the diners have dined there before and know exactly what they are going to order.

One of the specialties of the Auberge is Pieds et Paquets (sheep's feet and stomach) and the couple sitting at the table next to me tell me they have been coming to the Auberge for over 40 years for this dish.

The five courses does not include the Cadeau de la maison (gift from the house). When the dish below is set before me along with a ramekin of marinated mushrooms, I initially think this is a wood dome over a plate with a special treat from the Auberge.

As I said, that was my initial thought until horrors, I saw it jiggle and discovered this was another specialty of the Auberge, a whole house-made head cheese. Now this was a new experience for me and being a "foodie," self-proclaimed of course, and restaurateur, I figured I had to at least try it.

If you must know, head cheese is the unappetizing term for a kind of French charcuterie made from, well, the meat of a calf or pig's head (minus the brain). Fromage de tête is set in an aspic made of reduced cooking juices, seasoned, and molded into a terrine. It is sliced and served cold or at room temperature.

I noticed that one of these whole head cheese was placed on every table and that everyone took just a slice or two and the remainder went back to the kitchen. I didn't see any table receive one that had been sliced into previously so not sure what happens to the leftovers.

For my first course, I chose a salade de chèvre fermière aux olives de Nyons (a farmer's goat cheese salad with olives from Nyons).

For my next course, I selected the Coquilles Saint Jacques fraîches sauce safranée (scallops in a saffron sauce).

For course number three, I chose Lotte fraîches sauce Nantaise (monkfish with an herb butter sauce).

For the cheese course, I went with the faiselle (fromage blanc) with house made red berry sorbet rather than taking different cheeses from the large cheese trolley that was rolled from table to table.

And to finish off my meal, I chose the profiteroles with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce with chantilly cream, a nice refreshing way to finish a very good meal.

The Auberge de la Clue is set in a beautiful and isolated spot high up facing Mont Ventoux. The chef serves diners a huge amount of very good food. I was totally satiated at the end of the meal. I have now had my fill of head cheese and won't have to try it ever again.

Have a great weekend! Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt.

Auberge de la Clue
Place de l'Eglise
26170 Plaisians
Tel: 04 75 28 01 17


  1. Pieds et Paquets and fromage de tête?! Obviously, I've just discovered my husband's favorite new restaurant. As for me, I'll stick to the palmiers, they're my favorite pastry too :)

  2. Your experience with head cheese is a good lesson for Americans in watching to see what the other diners do. Imagine the horror if you had eaten the whole thing...

  3. Je pense que vos forsythias sont en fait des genêts !

  4. Bonjour, Michel,
    I am back in the Napa Valley for at least a few months--I need a good dose of the US. I was wine tasting at Littorai in Sebastopol a few weeks ago, and i was hoping we could have lunch at your place. But then I discovered it is closed at lunch! Will have to try again, at dinner.
    Sharon deRham

  5. Ohh, the Auberge de la Clue looks fabulous and I'm all for trying local specialties too, but might have drawn the line at head cheese. You are very brave! My big accomplishment this summer was eating escargots in Burgundy...but admittedly, they were delicious :)

  6. Sara - Sounds like Auberge de la Clue would be a good place for you to take your husband. The lady on the neighboring table told me the Pieds et Pacquet were the best in the Vaucluse.

    Jennie - No way I would have eaten the whole thing even if I had really like the head cheese. However, it is clearly an acquired taste and there was no chance I was going to eat the whole thing.

    Annie - Merci. C'est tres possible!.

    Sharon - Nice to hear from you. Thanks for thinking about Bistro Des Copains for lunch. Even if its not at the Bistro I would love to meet up with you since we are neighbors in the Vaucluse and have never met in person.

    Tuula - I figure if I want guests at our Bistro Des Copains to try the various foods we offer like rabbit which is quite foreign to most Americans that I had to try a very French dish.

  7. My parents love palmiers, but they call them "elephant ears". I don't think I could have handled the head cheese. Bravo.

  8. We and our friends from Australia ate at this restaurant last week, after reading about it here. It was lovely :)

  9. Megan - Palmiers are definitely my favorites too and I have seen them referred to by others as "elephant ears" too. I believe that once is probably enough for the head cheese.

    Mccardey - I am glad you followed up and went to lunch at Auberge de la Clue. How did you like the head cheese?

  10. Between you and me, Michel - I avoided the head cheese. I'll admit it - I wimped out, totally. But my three companions loved it.

    I had the ravioli, the lamb and the fromage blanc - all were delicious!

  11. Michel, in Germany palmiers are called "oreilles de cochon" - Schweineöhrchen - and I loved the head cheese at L'Auberge de la Clue so much I took a whole one home - they even vacuumpacked it for me.