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)
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.