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Monday
Aug222005

La Bastide de Capelongue

Well, it's been a pretty crazy weekend for me. My cousin Karen got married in Vancouver on Saturday, and after staying at the wedding festivities until about 2AM, I got 2 hours of sleep before boarding an early morning flight back here to SF. I leave for Sydney on Wednesday.

 

capelongue.jpg
Back to the trip. After a great lunch with Chef Aubertin, we of course had to rest for dinner. We wanted to eat dinner at Chez Bru either Tuesday or Wednesday, but couldn't get in - we ended up eating it for lunch on Thursday, which is coming up later. For Wednesday night we managed to get into La Bastide de Capelongue, Edouard Loubet's new restaurant in a small town called Bonnieux.

A little bit of background: until this year, Loubet ran Le Moulin de Lourmarin, a Michelin 2 star in the neighboring town of Lourmarin. It was a well-established place that my dad had been to several times. When we called there, we were told that Loubet's family had opened a new inn in Bonnieux, and Loubet had moved his restaurant gastronomique there. The restaurant at Lourmarin is now a cheaper and more casual place. We wanted the serious deal, so off we were to Bonnieux.

The drive was a solid hour or hour and a half. Bonnieux is a tiny town that sits atop a hill in the countryside, and we could see our destination from a pretty good distance before we got there. Climbing up the hill and through town, we got a beautiful view of the road we had just taken up. La Bastide de Capelongue is at the very top of the hill and down a side road a little bit, and as soon as we arrived we could see the place was just beautiful. Calm, serene, and secluded, the front of the inn is already impressive. Walking inside is simply amazing. As you go into the restaurant, two open terrace areas appear - the main dining area on the left, and a small sitting area on the right. Facing this right side, you get an absolutely breathtaking view of the sunset - the vast French countryside lies under the deep red glow of the sun. Since the two terraces are pretty much connected, you can see this sunset as you eat in the dining area.

I said before that Oustau de Baumanière was the most beautiful place I'd ever had dinner, but Capelongue was at least as pretty, though different. Baumanière offers a view from the base of a valley looking up, while Capelongue is at the top of a hill looking down at everything around. Seriously though, the place is worth the drive for the view alone.

Let me note here that Edouard Loubet was by far the most visible chef of our whole trip. A very friendly and surprisingly young guy, he came to greet us and talk a bit after we sat down. We'd also see him coming out to the dining area and moving about throughout the whole meal. He even came to take our dessert order! I really enjoyed this, as it allowed me to put a face to all the food we were eating. He really makes you feel like his guests, and makes the whole experience more memorable.

tomato gazpacho and eggplant caviar The first of many freebies came shortly after we sat down. Sorry about the lighting for the first few pics - the light was weird as the sun started to set, and I had trouble making the camera and the flash cooperate with the twilight. The tomato gazpacho was sweet and refreshing. The eggplant was tasty but the toast it was on had a weird, almost stale texture to them.

vegetables with Provençal dip As we pondered over the long menu, we were also brought these vegetables with dip - endive, cherry tomato, courgette, radish, carrot and cauliflower. I'm not sure what the dip was made of but it had a salty, distinct flavor. I'm tempted to say it was seafood based. I loved the radishes, which were wonderfully crisp and refreshing.

escargots with lemon ragout When this amuse came out after we ordered, I started to get the feeling this would be a meal with a lot of freebies, especially considering we ordered a la carte. And of all the freebies on the trip, this was not only one of the biggest but one of the best. These snails were tender, and the sauce was light and flavorful (not to mention interesting - I've never had escargots with a lemon-based sauce before). Plus, we each got 6 of them! That's like a whole appetizer. Well, I think I had like 10 because I ate most of my cousin's plate too.

foie gras duo, one confit, one sauteed, with green tomato jam and caramelized jus au Ratafia de Pin Sylvestre - 43 euros For those of you who are like me and can't decide if you like foie gras hot or cold, Loubet suggests the simplest answer: do both! These two pieces were both delicious, the hot one silky smooth, the cold one rich and flavorful. I love foie gras.

soufflé of spinach "like a flan" with basil leaves, sauteed girolles with thyme flower, light jus of morels spiced with flavors of the earth, summer truffles - 41 euros My grand-aunt got this lovely spinach dish that was flavored with 3 different kinds of mushrooms. The spinach flan was smooth and tasty, and those slices of truffles aren't just for show. The aroma was intense! Great dish - I nearly ordered it myself, but couldn't say no to the foie gras...

boudin blanc of truffled chicken breast, spaghetti of bulbous celery, jus a la Rabasse du Luberon and olive pearls - 36 euros Despite those other great apps, my older cousin got the best one. This chicken sausage was sublime - tender, smooth, and again intensely truffly. This was a little more unusual than the foie gras so I regret not ordering it myself. My one bite sure was good!

tomato sorbet with basil inside a courgette with olive oil Between our apps and our mains came this neat little freebie, a definite finalist for most interesting dish of the trip. This was simply tomato sorbet with olive oil stuffed inside a courgette (which is French for squash, if I haven't said that yet). As soon as I cut this thing open a bit, the olive oil started to spill out - a surprising amount of it at that! It was certainly not what I expected from a sorbet. Eating the sorbet together with the courgette and the olive oil made this taste like some kind of caprese salad, minus the cheese! Very refreshing. I've definitely never had anything like it. Despite the weirdness it really tasted great.

rack of lamb roasted and smoked with wild thyme, lamb thyme jus - 43 euros I got the rack of lamb - perhaps the best rack of lamb I've tasted. The meat was so perfectly cooked and had just the right amount of gamey lamb flavor. Simple, but truly delicious.

grandma's potato gratin This side of potatoes came with my lamb and was also great. The gratin was cheesy and buttery, with a nice crisp browned top. I do admit that it was pretty damn big and I couldn't finish it...

jasmine creme brulee Next came an onslaught of sweets. Of them all, this freebie jasmine creme brulee was definitely the best. It was light and creamy with an extremely pure tea flavor, with a perfect singe on top. A very nice spin on the classic dessert.

chartreuse ice cream with a ball of snow Another freebie. The ball of snow was I believe some kind of fluffy egg white thing, with a chocolate-based sauce - pretty good but a bit sweet. The ice cream had a nice subtle flavor, though to be honest I'm not sure what chartreuse should taste like.

praline tart with almond milk mousse, "Souvenir d'Alain Chapel," apple of love and pistachio ice cream - 22 euros Unfortunately, what was otherwise an excellent meal really stumbled with this dessert. The tart thing was overwhelmingly sweet - I could barely take it. The pistachios buried in sugariness didn't help too much. The ice cream was alright, but not enough to dull the sweetness of everything else on the plate.

millefeuille of white and dark chocolate, morello cherry sorbet, amarena cherry popcorn, chicory powder - 26 euros My dad got this which was a bit better. This pastryless millefeuille had thin layers of dark chocolate separating white chocolate. As a result, it was also a bit sweet - no pastry to soak up the chocolate, I guess - but not bad. Sort of different from what you expect though.

petitfours Another night, another set of beautiful petitfours: banana cake, coffee macaroons, chocolate-dipped strawberries, chocolate pecan cake, and some kind of jelly. I thought the strawberries were just okay, but Godiva ones are better. The chocolate pecan was a bit sweet. The coffee macaroon was nice, with a very strong coffee taste.

At this point I was starting to try and gauge what Michelin stars mean. The service at Capelongue was great, minus one order mixup, but it didn't quite have the feel of Baumanière's army of uniformed waiters. But I loved how Chef Loubet came out to talk with us; he seems to very genuinely enjoy serving his customers. The food, minus my dessert, was excellent, and I should also add that we really got a ton of amuses and freebies for this meal. We were served about 10 courses total, although we ordered a la carte and only got an app, main, and dessert each. The clincher for this place though is the location. The setting is simply amazing, and needs to be seen to be believed. I doubt there is a more beautiful place to eat anywhere.

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Reader Comments (9)

For Pierre's interest, we had for this dinner another Chateaneuf du Pape, a '97 Beaucastel (at 94Euros). I was at Michael Mina last night and they have a large collection of Beaucastel. And I think they have a '97 at over $200!

All of us had a Cocktail de la Bastide as aperitif. I could not remember what it was, perhaps Arthur could. I also want to mention the two waters we had. The sparkling is a bottle available only in fancy restaurants in France, called Chateldon. It was voted the best sparkling water in some silly water review I read. I actually like it a lot as it has just the right amount of gas, though I am pretty happy with Badoit too. The still was a brand called Saint George, which I have never seen before, but very good. The bottle design was also very simple and elegant. Ah, the French! I don't think anyone else would care as much about something like water!
Tuesday, August 30, 2005 at 12:10PM | Unregistered CommenterRaphael
Ahh, I completely forgot to mention the aperitif. It was a truffle-flavored champagne, and you could actually taste the truffle! It sounds weird, but somehow it worked.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005 at 12:12PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Che
The food looks amazing. I'm a big dessert fan so I really enjoyed those pix/descriptions. Keep it up!
Tuesday, August 30, 2005 at 12:13PM | Unregistered Commenterlisa
Thank you for the notes. I also appreciate a good Ch�teauneuf-du-Pape, unfortunately I don't drink it often. The comment on the sparkling water is very interesting. It seems to me, that sparkling water, with a meal, is not a common practice in the US and Canada. I think its something that would be good if it caught up on this side of the Atlantic.

Cheers!
Tuesday, August 30, 2005 at 12:14PM | Unregistered CommenterPierre
Each dish looks amazing. Must have the lamb ...
Tuesday, August 30, 2005 at 12:15PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn D.
I'm putting the final details on my upcoming trip to Burgundy and Provence. I'd like to make dinner reservations at La Bastide de Capelongue, but you mentioned a drive of 1 1/2 hrs to get there. We're staying in Gordes and I hope the drive is no where near that distance. We don't mind the drive getting there, but the drive home after multiple courses of food and wine...never! Do you have any idea the travel time from Gordes to Bonnieux? Also, I sure hope they're open Monday night!Thanks and merci.
Sunday, September 18, 2005 at 10:59AM | Unregistered CommenterJanet M
Janet - I have no idea where Gordes is, but according to http://www.viamichelin.co.uk you'll be just 18 minutes away from Bonnieux. The site is quite useful for driving around. You can type in just any town and get driving directions that give distance and approximate time required. We used it a lot while we were there.

I'm not sure if they're open on Monday, but I'd think so. Can't find it on the website; I'm sure you can just give them a call.
Sunday, September 18, 2005 at 5:39PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Che
You asshole. You pig. TWO fois gras? Poor little gooses.
Wednesday, November 2, 2005 at 12:31PM | Unregistered CommenterBobo
Hi! I am from Japan.I�m going to visit this restaurant on this summer.All these dishes are very beautiful and looks very delicious.By your favor , My trip became the enjoyment more and more.Thank you!

Monday, April 10, 2006 at 4:29PM | Unregistered Commenterisawo

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