“Un floc de Gascogne et un pousse-rapière, s’il vous plait.”
I order the aperitifs with a sense of pride. I have done my homework and was well informed of the regional specialities. We are finally kicking back at Le Grand Noble, our minotel near Aeroport Toulouse-Blagnac, a hotel with a restaurant known for its regional cuisine.
Only a few minutes earlier, we were following street signs to the airport and found ourselves in Aerospatiale, home of the Airbus. Road works were under way, lanes were closed, sorties were blocked and needless to say we were lost. Again. We spotted the minotel sign indicating to take sortie no 4 but the sortie was nowhere in sight. We circled around the Aerospatiale, spotted a couple of airbus prototypes panic set in when the petrol gauge was getting too low and we were not any closer to our destination. We asked directions at a nearby hotel and got lost through the roundabouts. Finally we found a street map. We stopped the car, checked our location and hoped that the car would start again. A few minutes later, we pulled in front of the hotel.
We take a sip of each drink and make noise indicating of nothing but approval. Floc de Gascogne, a local aperitif available in red or white, is a sweet mistelle made from unfermented pure grape juice fortified with a young Armagnac which brings its total alcohol content up to 16 to 18 degrees. It’s aged in oak casks for two to three years then enjoyed chilled. Pousse-Rapiere is a cocktail which is served as a chilled aperitif, made from one part liqueur d’Armagnac, a sweet Armagnac liqueur macerated with orange and various flavours mixed with five parts of vin sauvage, a local sparking wine. We remain undecided on which of these beverages tasted better.
We study the menu, prepared by Monsieur Bouchet the chef. There is a good selection of regional cuisine which makes choosing a difficult task. I look around the dining room to see what others are eating. Most guests are hommes d’affaires, business men with hungry appetites and especially hungry glances. As the only young woman around, I feel a little uncomfortable.
I order le tournedos flambé a l’armagnac au poivre du moulin, a tender fillet of beef flambée in Armagnac with a cracked pepper sauce. Mr G opts for the noisettes d’agneau au caramel d’orange, lamb noisettes cooked in a caramelised orange sauce, a reduced orange sauce with the look and consistency of caramel which has him swooning in delight. For wine, we order a bottle of Chateau Lamartine Cahors 1989, an Appelation Cahors Controlee, from Gayrud et Fils.
We delight in the generous servings and the exquisite flavours that Monsieur prepared. We’re very pleased with our choice of hotel which we primarily selected for its gastronomic restaurant.
When it comes to dessert, my nougat glace au coulis du jour is mouth-watering but no match for Mr G’s choice. Coupe d’Artagnan, is described as glace pruneaux-armagnac avec pruneaux a l’armagnac arrose d’armagnac. It translates as prune Armagnac ice cream served with prunes macerated in Armagnac, and generously sprinkled with Armagnac. A dessert that undoubtedly would have made d’Artagnan and his mousquetaires very proud.
At the conclusion of the meal, we partake in that recently adopted French tradition. We are offered a digestif to help digest the meal. What better choice than cerises a l’armagnac, with whole tiny cherries macerated in the potent liqueur.
We take a sip of the heavenly Armagnac then bite a cherry. An explosion of fruity alcohol in the mouth follows. We savour this taste and commit it to memory knowing that it will linger long after we return home.
… continues tomorrow
‘Le Tour de France Gourmantic’ series is the story of a young couple from Australia who took to the French roads on a whirlwind Tour of France back when the internet wasn’t at everyone’s fingertips, phones were still attached to sockets, GPS was an unfamiliar acronym, digital cameras were a pipe dream and the Euro hadn’t replaced French Francs. With just one fold-out map of France and boundless enthusiasm, they took their Renault 19 and went on a cultural and culinary discovery.
Hôtel Le Grand Noble
90, Av. de Cornebarrieu
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