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In a vacation in Roquebrun
, "Le Petit Nice," that included trips to the tremendous Cité de Carcassonne, the market at Saint-Chinian, and the beautiful Valras-Plage on the Mediterranean, the best and most memorable thing is without a doubt the lunch I had in the small town of Olargues. Restaurant Fleurs d'Olargues is located next to the town's beautiful 13th century "Devil's Bridge," along Le Jaur, a tributary of the Orb river. In addition to the idyllic location, the food is incredible, the service spectacular, and the overall experience nearly unbeatable.
We were supposed to go to Carcassonne on the day we ended up in Olargues, but rain forestalled our trip to the fortress, and I am so very grateful for that. Upon arriving the beauty of the location was immediately apparent, with outdoor seating just below the aforementioned bridge and thus the hillside village it led to. It seemed unlikely that the food could live up to the atmosphere; I cannot emphasize how wrong I was about that. With a menu that includes both prix fixe and a la carte options, there are not a huge amount of options, but they can accommodate vegetarians and omnivores alike; vegans need not apply.
|A view of Restaurant Fleurs d'Olargues from "Devil's Bridge"|
I selected the standard prix fixe menu, a three or four course option that gave diners the choice of a few appetizers and main courses, a cheese plate and/or dessert. I selected the foie gras appetizer, duck main plate, and the cheese plate. Several people at the table went with the menu of the day, a three course meal that included a chevre salad that everyone raved about, stuffed pork tenderloin, and a lemon zabaione.
My meal began with a shooter of cold zucchini and garlic soup. Refreshing, bright, and with a bizarre yet delightful spiciness. This was a really great start, very simple but delicious, an attractive little glass of soup that served essentially to wake up the taste buds and get you excited for what came next.
And oh my, what came next. Meat butter is the best way to describe foie gras, the incredible, smooth, silky liver that has caused so much angst here in the United States, and oh my god it is good. Studded with figs, served with pickled onions, a crisp of cheese, and some dabs of tart sauce, this was among the best courses I have ever had in a life of eating some truly amazing food. The presentation was gorgeous, so very simple, so focused on just presenting the food in a way that I tend not to associate with French cuisine. I will admit, my general attitude toward French food is that technique takes too much of a role at the expense of showcasing the ingredients, but this was not that; it was just the food, and it was so stunningly good I really cannot describe it.
Following up the foie gras was always going to be a tough task, but they did an impressively admirable job of it. Seared duck, along with a croquette of what I am fairly certain was shredded duck liver, a mash of celeriac, braised Brussels sprouts, and red cabbage cooked in wine. The duck was perfectly cooked, medium rare with the fat cap both crisp and unctuously satisfying, while the mash was just the right consistency; not quite smooth, with some good texture to each bite, but not lumpy by any means. Brussels sprouts have only recently moved from my short list of disliked foods, but if I had had these I would have always enjoyed them; so simple, but so delicious. Cabbage is a hit or miss food for me, but these were perfect; a little crisp, savory, with a similar flavor, texture and look to German style red cabbage. Best of all, however, was that croquette, which was tied with the foie gras as my favorite thing I ate all day. Crunchy, savory, filled with umami flavor, just a hint of gaminess, and perfectly salted, this was literally perfect, but again, just very very simple. I will go back to this restaurant just on the off-chance they have it again.
Rather than a sweet dessert, I decided to have the cheese plate, which came with four cheese, some bread, with a fruit compote and a berry sauce, and a single flax-like crisp, which was the only bad thing I ate all day. The cheeses were delicious, from a goat cheese so sweet it nearly a dessert in and of itself to a stinky, delicious blue. There was even one cheese that tasted and looked like a richer, albeit less sharp, version of America's cheddar. I tried the dessert, and while it was delicious, I am glad I went with the cheese.
Following the dessert/cheese course, several of
|Coffee after lunch|
us had coffee (if you were not aware, coffee is never served with dessert in France; it is, in fact, its own separate course, and they do not appear to be willing to deviate from this, as one of our group discovered to his chagrine), which was also spectacular. Essentially a slightly larger espresso, the coffee was strong and delicious, served with raw sugar cubes. Typically I drink my coffee as it comes, but I added a cube of sugar and it was perfect in this case, since the coffee was so strong. Definitely do not skip this course if you like coffee.
All in all, I cannot speak highly enough of this entire meal, and I will absolutely be going back when I am next in Roquebrun; the short trip to Olargues is more than worth it. If you have the opportunity to go, do not miss this gem.
|Olargues's hillside portion of town|
|Smoked tuna appetizer|
|Dining room from the outside seating area|
|Dining room from inside|
|"Devil's Bridge" and the tower that was the center of the keep when the town of was built|
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