ALL ABOUT THE FOOD

I’m a Foodie.I’m not a gourmet with refined tastes or a professional in the food industry who wants to eat only the best food. Foodies are amateurs. We simply love everything about food. We like to eat it (and drink with it :) But we also love to study it, talk about it, prepare it, and hear about it – both the best and the ordinary – oh and about the science, industry, personalities, everything, absolutely everything surrounding food.

For this reason, foodies are sometimes viewed as obsessively interested in all things culinary. Oh yes, I’m a foodie in France! A country that’s obsessed with food. So when I was preparing for our trip I researched for hours about restaurants, on food blogs, message boards, etc. For this dinner, I picked the best I could find (and afford) in Arles – the heart of Provence. And so we came to Le Cilantro

Three of our new friends – also Foodie’s themselves – accompanied Ted and I on this gastronomic event – Bob, Marolyn, and Betsy. We were able to get reservations with the help of our kind French-speaking hotel clerk and arrived for the early seating. Are you ready? Here comes the food…
They started us off with an amuse-bouche which literally translates to “mouth amuser”. These are different from appetizers in that you don’t order them from a menu. When served, they are done so according to the chef’s selection alone. My foodie sense kicked in to high alert. They brought us a platter of Tapenade – a quintessential Provençal dish consisting of puréed olives, capers, anchovies, and olive oil. This was accompanied by home-made veggie and potato chips and toasted slices of French bread.

We all ordered from the Prix Fixe menu so that we each received a complete meal of several courses, each with several options, offered at a fixed price. It was a much better deal than ordering à la carte. I went for the full deal to include the cheese course (huh, hello? Foodie, remember?). Ok so first up was the entrée (appetizer to us heathens). Several of my friends enjoyed Gambas à la pancha & asperges au gingembre confit (shrimp and asparagus in a pickled ginger flavored sauce)

And Betsy got this vegetable delight – Petits farcis de ma Provence, jus tomates rôties (stuffed veggies of Provence with roasted tomato juice). She was delighted with a surprise inside every bite.

And for me…I lapped up every morsel of Morilles de printemps au foie chaud, parfum réglisse (spring morels with pan seared liquorice flavoured foie gras). Oh yes I did.

For the main course several got the Aiguillette de quasi de veau, gratin de macaronis & blettes (roasted veal, macaroni gratin and swiss chard). It was the best looking, and tasting, macaroni and cheese with succulent slices of veal anyone has ever tried.

And of course, I got the lamb (JP, you are not surprised I’m sure…) In short, this is Selle d’agneau tomato crispy, quelques légumes braisés, jus aux olives coquillos (tomato with crispy saddle of lamb, braised veggies, and coquillos olives juice). It was perfect.

I think they brought my cheese course next (although it could have been after the desserts, I can’t really remember) which included several types of fromage de chèvre – my new absolute favorite kind of cheese – with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of cracked black pepper. I’ve never had it that way before but it was fantastic as the olive oil was fresh and flowery, complimenting the cheese perfectly.

And finally, we come to dessert. That course in a full meal at which the French excel. Some of my table-mates got this lovely concoction of Sablé breton “pépit-choc” une crème vanille & framboise, sorbet yaourt (Britain biscuit “pépit-choc” raspberry & vanilla creme, yogurt sorbet).

And I was so happy to try this delight… Fraises & framboises sur un biscuit Basque, émulsion fruit de la passion à l’huile d’olive (red berries on Basque biscuit with olive oil flavoured passion fruit emulsion). What a combination! Who would think to put olive oil with berries? It totally worked.

Then to top off the evening, the chef sent out trays with a little finale for each of us – a serving of delicate chocolate mousse, a piece of hazelnut fudge, and a little puff of something strawberry. At this point, the Foodie in me was crying uncontrollably from sheer joy.

It was a perfect meal with wonderful new friends … and … Ted’s WOW moment of the tour … our table sat under this picture – The Matador avec Package!

On the way out we got a peak into the kitchen – and the chef signed a menu for me – too cool.

How am I going to top this birthday ever?

One happy Foodie,
Caroline

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