Saturday, August 6, 2016

Truffle Season and Lunch at La Beaugravière in Mondragon

Almost without fail, we are out and about during the middle of the day so every morning I look for a new restaurant to try or a favorite dining spot to return to. So one morning last February, I was thumbing through the Michelin Guide to "Bonnes petites tables" for restaurants that had been awarded Bib Gourmands in our area looking for a restaurant.

On one page, I saw a restaurant called La Beaugravière that was located in a village called Mondragon. I recalled that the young ladies at Domaine de la Charbonnière had mentioned the restaurant to us and said "On mange très bien là-bas," we eat every well there. We had never been to this restaurant so we decided to give it a try.

Mondragon is a small village stretched out along the old National-7 highway beside the Rhône river, north of Orange. Ruins of an old castle are perched above, and some Medieval buildings and doorways remain in the narrow streets of the old town. It took us about 40 minutes to get there, longer than we expected, we hoped the trip would be worthwhile.

We finally arrived, but I wasn't sure what we were getting into when I saw the sign on the non-descript building seen below located next to the N-7 highway.

La Beaugravière Restaurant in Mondragon

We parked and walked into the dining room. It was clear from the muffled French we heard throughout the dining room that the restaurant is mostly frequented by locals, not tourists. A word we heard multiple times was "truffes" (truffles), from the server and guests. Being February, La Beaugravière was featuring truffles on menus as well as many of the dishes on the A la Carte menu.

Locals Dining

We looked over the menu options and dishes offered "A la Carte." To our disappointment, there were not a lot of options for someone like Shirley who is mostly vegetarian. She does like fish but there were none on the menu that day. The wine list was excellent and included quite a few red and white bottles from Domaine de la Charbonnière.

2012 Domaine de la Charbonniere, Chateauneuf-du-Pape

We figured out a meal for Shirley that began with a simple Butternut squash soup, one of her favorites. When the server set it down in front of her, we saw the simple soup had been gilded with a pile of thin slices of truffles. The aroma was out of this world.

Butternut Squash Soup with Truffles

I went with one of the menus and chose for starter seared foie gras with caramelized apple balls. I have had foie gras many times but the only time I truly love it is when it's served in this manner. I think eating a foie gras terrine or torchon is similar to eating a stick of butter, obviously with much more taste, not something I really like.

Seared Foie Gras with Caramelized Apple Balls

For her main course, Shirley chose atichokes barigoule, a traditional Provençal dish of artichokes braised with onions, garlic and carrots in a seasoned broth of wine and water.

Artichokes Barigoule

My main course was beef cheeks Parmentier with truffled potato puree. It was a very good choice as it was truly delicious. Parmentier is a culinary term referring to dishes garnished or made with potatoes. This dish honors Frenchman Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, an 18th-century French botanist who devoted his lifetime to promoting potato's attributes.

Beef Cheeks Parmentier with Truffled Potato Puree

Shirley was still a little hungry so we ordered a cheese plate. The selections included Roquefort (a sheep milk blue cheese), St. Marcellin (a soft cheese made from cow's milk), St. Nectaire (cheese made from cow's milk in the Auvergne), and two Reblochons (a soft washed-rind and smear-ripened cheese made in Savoy from raw cow's milk).

Cheese Plate

We chose apple tart tatin, a famous French upside-down apple tart made by covering the bottom of a shallow baking dish with butter and sugar, then apples and finally a pastry crust. While baking, the sugar and butter create a delicious caramel that becomes the topping when the tart is inverted onto a serving plate.

Apple Tart Tatin

The other dessert we chose was a chocolate fondant, a dessert that combines the elements of a flourless chocolate cake and a soufflé.

Chocolate Fondant Cake

We're usually a bit sad to see a nice meal come to an end, but in some restaurants you get a plate of mignardises to finish your meal. This parting gesture from the kitchen—usually an artful arrangement of confections like gemlike pates de fruits, something made with chocolate or tiny macaroons—is a tradition that dates back to 18th-century France. The name mignardise comes from an old French word for "precious" or "cute."


When I received our check after asking for "l'addition," I was dealt a surprise. I recalled that the Butternut squash soup had been quite reasonably priced on the A la Carte menu, but the addition of those truffles which we had not known was going to be done, added a lot to the bill.

I am not a person who is bothered about spending money for a good meal in a restaurant. But the price of the soup was a shock. I just said to Shirley, "I hope that was the best soup you have ever had." I have been forbidden by Shirley from sharing how much it was (she is embarrassed), but let's just say it was way more than the most expensive steak I have ordered in a steak house.

All in all, I would return again. Every dish was excellent. When I reserve the next time, I would see if there is something the chef could prepare for Shirley that was not on the menu.

The terrace at La Beaugravière

La Beaugravière Restaurant
214 Avenue du Pont Neuf (National-7)
84430 Mondragon
04 90 40 82 54