Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Walk through beautiful Grignan and lunch at Bistrot du Chapouton at La Ferme Chapouton

We have made several visits to Grignan in the Drôme Provençale, an area that falls between the Rhône River and the Alps north of the Vaucluse. A few weeks ago with friends Steve and Mary, we decided to go to Grignan, to try a new restaurant that was recently awarded a Bib Gourmand designation by Michelin.

Our route took us past olive groves and fields with row after row of lavender which one or two weeks earlier, must have been a sea of purple and buzzing honey bees. Grignan sits on a large rocky peak crowned by a huge castle, formerly owned by Adhémar de Monteil.

Construction of the Grignan castle which can be seen from quite a distance, began in the 12th century, but it wasn't until the 13th century that the Adhémar family expanded it to a huge fortress. In the 17th century, François Adhémar de Monteil transformed the fortress into a luxurious residence.

Grignan Castle in the distance beyond the cemetery

We usually find parking in the car park across the road from this pretty restaurant at Place de Castellane.

A pretty restaurant near the Grignan car park at Place de Castellane

Attractive shop display

Grignan became renowned in France during the 17th century when Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, the Marquise de Sévigné, a French aristocrat, famous for writing letters, wrote about Grignan and the surrounding area in her letters; Most were written to her daughter Françoise, who was married to François Adhémar de Monteil, Comte (Count) de Grignan.

Madame de Sévigné caught a "fever" and died in April 1696 in Grignan and is buried in the Collégiale Saint-Sauveur Church. She is revered in France as one of the great icons of French literature.

The fountain shown in the photograph below was built in 1840 at Place de l'Horloge in the center of Grignan. The statue of Madame de Sévigné was added to the fountain in 1857.

Fountain with Statue of Madame de Sévigné

The Hotel de Ville or town hall was built in 1857 in neo-classical style on the site of 16th century market halls and butcher shops.

Grignan Town Hall

Madame de Sévigné travelled three times to Grignan in order to spend time with her daughter and son-in-law: a 14-month stay beginning in 1672; another 14-month stay beginning in 1690 taken before a quick trip to Brittany; and a third stay of 22 months leading up to her death in 1696. Madame de Sévigné spent a little less than four years total in the part of France which filled so much of her heart and letters.

Place de l'Horloge

Tricot tower or belfry

We have dined at Le Poème de Grignan when we visited Grignan on previous occasions. While Le Poème is very charming and the food has been excellent, their outdoor dining space is limited to a couple of tables on the narrow street which runs in front of the restaurant, so I decided that since it was a beautiful day, we should try Bistrot du Chapouton since their website touted their terrace.

La Ferme Chapouton is located just outside of the village walls and offers a hotel and Bistrot with indoor and outdoor seating. They also have a gastronomic restaurant with 1 Michelin star called La Clair de la Plume located about 400 meters away from La Ferme in the village. Julien Allano, a native of Avignon, is the Chef de cuisine for Clair de la Plume and the Bistrot du Chapouton. The Clair de la Plume was awarded a Michelin star in 2015 and the Bistrot a Bib Gourmand in 2019.

Bistrot du Chapouton at La Ferme Chapouton

La Ferme Chapouton is located in a building dating from 1760. The hotel offers 9 rooms and a great view of the castle of Grignan and Mount Ventoux.

The entrance to Bistrot du Chapouton

We were seated at a terrace table just next to the large, grassy lawn. Everyone at our table decided to start with a house aperitifs, my selection is shown below. I don't like beer of any kind but nevertheless, I chose the aperitif with some white beer. While it wasn't bad, it wasn't my favorite of all time, by any means.

House aperitif with Cointreau, white beer and lemon syrup

The daily 3-course menu offered a choice of two starters, and two main courses. One of the choices for starter (entrée in French) is shown below.

Ceviche style marinated tuna, cucumber, celery, lemon and ginger with mustard greens

The other entrée was a really good tomato pineapple gazpacho.

Tomato pineapple gazpacho, served with creamy herb goat cheese made in Grignan

Since it was a beautiful day, and we were dining "en pleine air" (outside) as the French would say, we went with a local rosé. A tasty, light pink blend of Cinsault (60%), Grenache (30%), and Syrah (10%) produced by Domaine Rozel.

Domaine Rozel Insouciance Grignan-les-Adhémar Rosé 2017

The choices for main courses (plat in French) for the €32.50 three-course menu were Seared Tuna with eggplant and zucchini and the Supreme of Chicken shown below. I chose the chicken, which was perfect and the others chose the tuna.

Roast chicken breast with summer truffle sauce and vegetables

To complete our meal, the chef offered a selection of desserts including a cherry tart, strawberry tart, pana cotta with coconut, lemon mousse cake, and a selection of sorbets and ice creams. We went the light route in our opinions, and chose sorbets and ice cream.

The Grignan castle, which can be seen from the Bistrot du Chapouton terrace, was ruined in 1793 during the French revolution. It was rebuilt in the early 20th century by Madame Fontaine who spent her entire fortune restoring the castle to its former grandeur. The castle now belongs to the Department of the Drôme.

Grignan Castle in the distance over the umbrellas

In order to save steps for the others, I walked back across Grignan to the car park to get our car.

Grignan Street

Another view of Tricot Tower

The defensive walls of Grignan were built in the 13th century. The circular protective wall included a dozen defensive towers and six gates. The Tricot tower, also known as the belfry, with its arched passageway through the wall was extended upward in 1600 so the first public clock could be installed.

Tricot tower or belfry

Rue St. Louis

The Collégiale Saint-Sauveur Church (Collegiate Church of the Holy Savior) seen below, is located under the castle terrace. The church was constructed between 1535 and 1539 at the request of Louis Adhémar. The Renaissance façade is flanked by two square towers and a beautiful Gothic rose window. Inside is an impressive 17th-century altar and organ loft. On the floor in front of the altar is a marble funerary stone marking the sealed entrance to the tomb of Madame de Sévigné.

Collegiate Church of the Holy Savior

The top of Grignan Castle from the Car Park

Bistrot du Chapouton at La Ferme Chapouton
200 Route de Montélimar
26230 Grignan
Tel: +33(0)4 75 00 01 01

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