Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Lunch in historic settings

During our weekend trip to the Alsace, everything went according to plan … or almost. The weather was slightly ‘under the weather’ – especially on Friday – and the restaurant that I had chosen for our Sunday lunch, was closed due to ‘congés annuels’ (annual vacation).
It was still dark when we left Brussels at 6 a.m. on Friday. We were trying out our new GPS for the second time, giving it a last chance to prove itself, as it had dreadfully let us down during our trip to the Loire Valley in June. If you have a GPS, you know how annoying it is when is fails you, don’t you?
We took the E411 motorway in the direction of Luxemburg. Two hours later, just before crossing the border into the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg, we drove into the parking lot of a road restaurant for breakfast. We had a hearty meal of bacon and eggs, a slice of wholegrain bread and some coffee and orange juice. Half an hour later we were back on the road. The further south we drove, the darker the clouds got.
As it was my friend’s birthday, we had booked a table for lunch in a gastronomic restaurant in Phalsbourg called ‘Le Soldat de L’An II’ (The soldier of the year 2). In this case the ‘year 2’ doesn’t refer to the year 2 A.C. but to a dark period in French history.
On September 2nd 1792, three years after the French Revolution, the monarchy was abolished. This also marked the start of ‘La Première République’ and the beginning of a new era. 1792 became the year 1. The following years, the new government led by Robespierre (1758-1794) established a terror regime which would bring death to 40.000 people. In a lapse of two years, 1793-1794, an average of 50 people per day was beheaded, shot or drowned. But leaders come and go, and in 1794 Robespierre himself was sent to the guillotine. The new era ended with the ’Constitution of the Year XII’. Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself as emperor and France became a hereditary empire.
Although I don’t know of any factual link between Phalsbourg and this tumultuous period, the town has a distinctive military character. There are the remains of the Vauban fortifications and in the middle of the town square stands the statue of General Mouton, of whom Napoleon used the say: ‘Mon mouton est un lion’ (My sheep is a lion), to illustrate the courage of one of his leading generals.
Therefore, Phalsbourg is the perfect setting for a restaurant called ‘Le Soldat de l’An II’. By the door of the restaurant you are welcomed by this handsome fellow, a stone replica of a soldier in the traditional 18th century uniform.

Inside there are two dining rooms. The one on the right is more recent and less attractive than the one upstairs. As we had been to this restaurant on two previous occasions, we knew about the interior and had therefore booked a table on the mezzanine. We had recollections of savoury and beautifully prepared dishes with outstanding ingredients. The setting and the food were exactly what we needed to celebrate my friend’s birthday. What did we have?
The starter consisted of a ‘pressée de légumes’ (vegetable terrine), a ‘mousse of sarriette’ (mousse of the savory herb) and a ‘crème brûlée aux truffes’ (custard type egg cream with truffles). As a main course my friend had the ‘Bar aux girolles’ (sea bass with chanterelles) and I had the ‘Filets de rouget au millefeuille de legumes du sud’ (red mullet with finely sliced and stacked tomatoes, red and green peppers and courgettes). Finally we had a selection of fine cheeses from this impressive cheese platter. A nice bottle of Mr. Joly’s Savennières wine accompanied our meal. I’ve written about Savennières wine here.

Want to take a guess at what the big one on the top right is? If you're English, you're bound to know it!

Needless to say that we had a lovely meal … in spite of the heavy rain that fell outside.



Anonymous said...

Une fois de plus un veritable delice

chm said...

Belated happy birthday to C...

Anonymous said...

Bien merci CHM

ladybird said...

chm, Thank you. It was the perfect location to celebrate a birthday and we had a lovely time ... Martine