Today’s Guest Blogger is Sonia Marsh who writes about her recent gastronomic experience at Restaurant du Vieux Pont, a one-star Michelin restaurant located in Belcastel, France. Sonia shares her writing on her website Gutsy Living and is in the final stages of revising her memoir: A Gutsy Move, about a family at risk who chucks their cushy OC life and roughs it in Belize to rescue their son.
Belcastel village is home to a one star Michelin
(The Old Bridge Restaurant)
If you love food, especially French food, and dream of dining at a one star Michelin restaurant in France, let me take you on a journey of flavors, aromas, artistic talent and setting. The French are known for love, passion and seduction, and this translates into everything, including of course, food.
I am fortunate to have lived in Paris during my youth, and came to understand the French and their never-ending obsession with food. I don’t mean this in a negative way at all and, during my recent trip to southwest France, I realized that even younger generations talk about food and fresh ingredients as though they’re recounting a personal love story.
We celebrated my father’s 85th birthday, (he lives in France), in Belcastel, a medieval village located in the department of Aveyron, between Clermont-Ferrand and Toulouse. With its cobbled streets and fifteenth century church who would have expected a modern one star (Michelin) and 16/20 (Gault et Millau) restaurant with hip young waiters dressed in black. The renowned stone bridge above, gave the restaurant its name: Restaurant du Vieux Pont.
Chefs Nicole and her husband Bruno Rouquier call their cuisine, “Contemporary, subtle and sensuous with local products evoking faraway scents”.
Considering the old stones on the exterior of the building, the interior consisted of one cozy dining room with only six or seven round tables. The walls were faux-finished in warm beige tones with modern artwork. White unusual tablecloths, with delicate corduroy fine lines and matching napkins rolled in a sisal ring with a button.
We selected the 52 Euro meal, or $65 called “Decouverte et Gourmandise” , a seven course meal.
Amuse-gueules (tiny appetizers) are complimentary, served while you wait for your aperitif (cocktail) on small slabs of granite.
I like the idea of heating a small slab of granite in my oven, and serving appetizers to my guests next time I entertain. These tiny rolled pancakes were bursting with fresh herbs.
In a French restaurant, you have to taste the local wine of the region, so my dad ordered: Gaillac, a red wine aged up to five years from southwest France. It ‘s one of the oldest wine-producing areas of France, established since Roman times.
I ordered a dish with snails, since I figured I was in France, and hadn’t had snails in years. My appetizer was served in the shape of a tower, about an inch and half in diameter, with four layers in stunning greens, yellow, orange and brown, which I assumed were snails. I did not taste the escargots, though I did taste the various flavors of spring peas and carrots. Delicious, and fortunately, not filling.
Next, a couple of ounces of cod cooked in hazelnut oil with a decorative trail of pureed peas with tiny bits of ham and baby peas. Although presented with style, there was one thing that bothered me: the sauce. It was translucent and bubbly and did not taste like anything I recognized. The fresh peas were sweet and tender plucked a few minutes before, from a nearby garden, or so it seemed.
Everyone else ordered the veal, which was delicate and served pink, however, after the waiter explained that the calf was still suckling, I could not get the image out of my head. I guess I’ve lived in the U.S. for too long.
I could not resist the cart with at least twenty varieties of cheeses. I tried several unpasteurized goat cheeses, something I cannot find in Orange County. I enjoy pungent cheeses over mild cheddars and Monterey Jacks.
Dessert was the most rewarding, both in deliciousness and artistry: imagine a ribbon of caramel gracefully topping a burst of lemon meringue surrounded by succulent strawberries with lemon cream, and punctuated with a scoop of lemon, ginger sorbet.
An amazing experience I shall never forget, and what struck me as different was the relaxed young staff who knew all the ingredients and how each dish was prepared. They weren’t stuffy and overbearing, so we felt at home in Restaurant du Vieux Pont, one star and all.