Provence is dry as a bone. No significant rain for months. The trees and bushes are all coated with dust, and the little grass brown and withered.
The forecast for today calls for showers, so we are bringing our rain-making skills to bear to try to help. We figure that if we set out for somewhere nice for outdoor dining, the showers will come. With that in mind, after doing a few loads of wash at the mas, we headed out to St. Remy to find lunch and bring the showers.
As we meandered over on the tree-lined road that links Eygalières to St. Remy we decided to return to Maison Drouot, a new place that we went to last year based on a recommendation from Christine and Philippe Theme, our dear friends from Les Baux. The place was opened by a wonderful young couple in an old building on the outskirts of St. Remy, just near the back entrance to the Intermarché market. The parking lot is tiny and the building masked in part by a large tree, but inside lurk wondrous meals and warm welcomes.
We had no reservations, and the lot only had one open space, but we parked and went in anyway. A smiling hostess seated us on the porch with the glass ceiling, a perfect place to beckon rains. At lunch it is Table d’Hote, no menu, just the meal they are serving. Today the appetizer was Serrano ham and goat cheese on a slice of roast potato, followed by Haike with fennel done two ways. Dessert was homemade ice creams. Perfect! We ordered our kirs and sent rain-rays skywards. Sure enough, within a few minutes rain was falling, light drops at first, followed by a deluge. The food was wonderful, the Hauvette blanc that David ordered was one of our favorites, from a vineyard just down the road from the mas. The roast potato turned out be an incredibly thin slice, with just a nuance of olive oil. The Serrano and goat cheeses balanced perfectly. The Haike was done to perfection, moist and flavorful, it reminds one a bit of a cod, but more delicate.
As the rain continued, the server-owner-wife of the chef said “you have been here before (I recognize your husband’s terrible French.)” We said that we had been there last year at almost the same time, which resulted in a big smile and “Welcome back.” It is always nice to be remembered.
A couple was seated at the table next to us, and – as is the custom in France – we said hello. Over the course of the meal, we found out they were Aussies who have retired and now spend half the year on a boat which they sail along the coast and use to cruise the rivers and canals. We swapped stories of places to eat and visit in France and shared some of our Hauvette with them. The lunch dragged on until 3pm while we chatted over coffee. All the while the rain poured down on the thirsty countryside.
We left and headed over to the St. Remy Intermarché, which is the biggest and most well-stocked in the region, with an incredible selection of cheeses and meats. We used our Florida handicap sign to grab a spot right next to the door (we had been told it would be recognized in France, but this was our first test.) Our “few items” expedition expanded a bit as old favorites and tempting new offerings came into play. Sanguinello blood orange juice, a grand cru Emmenthal, the unctuous la Mere Richard St. Marcellin cheese, Delices des Papes jambon, and some smoked lardon (bacon) joined the more mundane paper towel, napkins, baguettes, and water in our basket. Our car was still in place when we exited, so we loaded up the back seat and headed home.
After our lunch, dinner seemed like overkill, but we decided to cook the wonderful farm chicken we had bought the previous day at the butcher in Eygalières. Soon the kitchen was filled with the wonderful smell of the bird roasting in the oven, stuffed with lemon and Thyme with just a light coating of olive oil. Some potato slices were all we needed to make the meal complete. The chicken was wonderful. I ate a drumstick and David the breast, then David carved up the remainder to add to a salad later in the week. Provençal cooking is so simple, and so good.
we took some time to catch up on our emails and try to make our football picks. The rain built outside, and continued as we turned in — hour after hour of steady heavy rain. Just what the countryside needed.