It's a travel day for our friends Peter and Jill. I'll be taking them to the train station across the river in Noyers-sur-Cher in a few minutes. They'll be in London by mid-afternoon. We've had a good visit despite the rainy, cool weather.
It rained pretty hard from 7:00 a.m. until about 5:00 p.m. yesterday. We spent the day inside, making only a short trip to a restaurant over in Pouillé (five miles from our house) to have lunch. It's a restaurant that occupies an old wine cellar or cave — pronounced [kahv] — meaning a network of tunnels and alcoves carved into a limestone hillside by people quarrying the stone in past centuries. It's called Le Bousquet and has been in business, I understand, for 40 years now.
We're not talking about a gourmet food experience. It's really the polar opposite of a place like the Agnès Sorel restaurant in Genillé, where the atmosphere is calm and dignified. It was a case of quality vs. quantity of food. At Le Bousquet, we were in a room where every table was full and people were good-natured, relaxed, and boisterous. As we started started our meal, two musicians — an accordionist and a guitarist — starting playing to entertain the crowd.
The musicians approached each table and asked people what song they would like to hear. They obviously knew all the French classics — Piaf, Montand, Aznavour, and so on. When they came to our table, I looked at them and said: "We are a group of four Americans, so..." They had that panicked look on their faces that indicated they wondered if we would suggest a song that they actually knew how to play.
Peter and I had joked about maybe asking them to play a Janis Joplin song like "Another Little Piece of My Heart." But we didn't. I asked them to play the pre-war French standard called "Parlez-Moi d'Amour". A woman about my age at a neighboring table was watching and listening to our exchange with the musicians, and when I named the song she smiled and winked at me!
The music was so loud — they played six or eight songs in all before moving on to another part of the restaurant — that we could hardly talk to each other at all. But it was fun. The food was real "down-home" French fare. First, they brought us a pot of rillettes (potted pork), a dish of country-style pâté, and crock of cornichons (pickled gherkins). It was all-you-can-eat time.
The main courses we could choose from were entrecôte-frites (steak and fries), a chicken breast in cream sauce with fries or rice, and a salmon fillet with either fries, rice, or green beans. The fries weren't very good, and the steak, while tasty, was kind of gristly. The next course was a very nice cheese board with a dozen cow's-milk and goat's-milk cheeses. The waitress just left the board on the table and we had 10 minutes or so to serve ourselves whatever cheeses we wanted. There was also a bowl of green salad in vinaigrette to go with the cheese.
Dessert was a couple of scoops of ice cream or a cup of coffee. There were plenty of other desserts, but if you ordered those you had to pay for them separately from the set price of the meal — 20 euros. Wine was separate too, of course — we had a local rosé. I didn't take my camera. It's too dark in a cave to take pictures without a flash.
We arrived at the restaurant in a hard rain, and we left in a hard rain two hours later. We spent the afternoon watching the men's final at Wimbledon on TV. Now it's time to go to the train station, for a 7:15 departure. It's not raining... yet.