10 October 2008

Cooking in Cahors: Makeshift Tarte Tatin and A Visit to Le Vinois

I like a man who knows his way around the kitchen.

When I was young and dating, I thought this was endearing. Sexy even. I married my husband because of his Beef Stroganoff. Never mind that he sometimes forgets a key ingredient, like sour cream. I mean, he's my guy and sharing a meal with him is a gift.

I like a chef who knows his way around apples. Jean-Claude Voisin of Le Vinois in Caillac, just to the northwest of Cahors, knows his apples.

Last January, I told you about Jean-Claude's visit to my city and the wonderful meals he prepared here. One of them included a trio of apple desserts. I believe I went into frenzies of ecstasy over that. But I liked everything that came out of his kitchen. I believe I may have embarrassed myself online with my raves.

So I was looking forward to seeing Jean-Claude on his home turf when we spent 16 days in France recently. Unfortunately, both my husband and I came down with head colds and had to delay our visit a bit. It was nearly our last day in the Lot when we finally made it up to Le Vinois, Jean-Claude's sleek-and-chic restaurant/inn, and meet his lovely wife, Elizabeth.

We were not disappointed with our meal. Our amuse bouche included two small and slender glasses of a cream appetizer soup and salmon with avocado. Our next course was ravioli pockets in a garlic sauce. Our main dish was a duck confit with whipped potatoes and a cabbage leaf stuffed with vegetables and folded to look like a large Brussels sprout.

"Best duck I ever had," said my husband.

Our dessert was a moist and crustless tarte tatin with a lemony-tang and a zig-zag of banana-y sauce spiked with ginger that tasted like the inside of my mother's spice drawer smelled when I was a little girl. The ice cream was light and fruity and topped with two toffee crisps.

By the time the dessert came along, my husband and I were nearly rolling on the floor with ecstasy.

Next came another unexpected treat: A small jar - yes, I said jar - of applesauce topped with a crust of rich chocolate. Then we had a lovely visit with Jean-Claude.

Local ingredients with a touch of classic style meet exotic accents and creative combinations: That's how I would describe Jean-Claude's culinary approach, though he may disagree. It is all presented with artistic flair in a contemporary ambience that is the perfect foil for the food.

I can recommend Le Vinois without reservations. But you had better make reservations. Elizabeth Voisin, who may answer the phone, is happy to speak with you in English, if you prefer.

We hope to return, this time spending a night or two in the inn. Caillac is a lovely little village with a 12th century church, a cafe and a spa. It is about 20 minutes from Cahors, and is perhaps best reached from Mercues or Pradines.

Le Vinois (Jean-Claude and Elizabeth Voisin)
Le Bourg
46140 Caillac
05-65-30-53-60
www.levinois.com

The night before, I'd made my own version of tarte tatin, using what I had on hand: Two Granny Smith apples and a bit of pie crust. It was pretty rustic, but tasted fine. I would never have thought of using Granny Smith apples back home, but they were perfect sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.

11 comments:

Paz said...

Looks delicious.

Paz

toni said...

Of all fruit tarts, Tart Tatin is my absolute favorite. I have made it several times. In fact, I think I might have even posted one at some point this year. Unfortunately, though, it didn't come on the heels of a visit to this wonderful restaurant!! Thanks for taking us along with you, Mimi!

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Welcome, Paz! Jean-Claude is very talented, and I'm afraid my dish was a poor third, at least in appearance.

Toni, it's my favorite too! I recall that post...

Fiona said...

I would have been rolling on the floor in ecstasy after the meal Jean-Claude prepared for you too !!! That dessert looks divine, "my kind of dessert" :)

We normally use the Granny Smith apples for cooking down-under, though they definitely do need some some sweetening.

I'm enjoying reading about your adventures in France, though I'm sorry to hear you both had head colds.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Actually, the colds were not that bad, at least mine wasn't. It gave us an opportunity to visit a pharmacy for something other than beauty products (I am enamored with French pharmacies) and we were impressed with the pharmacist and the system.

Eileen said...

I love tart tatin! I have, however, never made it with apples; only pears... The best duck I've ever had was also in France. Thanks again for your post on your recent trip. I so enjoy hearing about anyone's trip to France, if I can't be there myself :(

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Thanks, Eileen. This was certainly the best duck I've had, although I did have some pretty good duck 5-6 years ago when we still had a French chef in town.

lady jicky said...

Mimi you have made me very hungry and I think Jean-Claude should migrate to Australia and open a restaurant! He, he, !

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Lady Jicky, this guy is a wonderful chef and an awfully nice person, too. I think you would like him!

lady jicky said...

Great Mimi - send him over! LOL

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Hmmm. He made it clear he's staying put for a while. But we all enjoyed his visit here last winter.