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Archive for Restaurant

Restaurants in the Heart of Bordeaux, France

in Food, France, Restaurant     

September is a beautiful month in Bordeaux, and the day after we landed we went out in search of a good meal.  M de Monbadon’s menu was printed rather than handwritten and the offerings seemed uninteresting.  C’yusha, whose chef recently came from the great Table de Calvet, was closed for lunch the day we visited.

Le Loup, 66 rue Loup, was a familiar and reasonably priced alternative.  Run by the same brother-sister pair for 18 years,  the restaurant has operated in the building since 1932.  The 17 euro menu offered a salad of goat cheese lightly fried in bread crumbs with vinaigrette with verve, followed by a tender couple of pork medallions in mushroom sauce with potatoes fried in duck fat.  Dessert was simple:  fruit cocktail with lemon sorbet.  The scallops in a sauce of honey, grapefruit  and tangelos were dreamy, mopped up by rye bread we had bought at Paul bakery.  We ordered a half bottle of Chateau Falfas 2005, Cotes de Bourg.   It was tannic and needed another  5 years, since the 2005 year was very sunny and the wines strong.  We conversed with the couple next to us in their 80’s and narrowly escaped without buying either of the two properties they were selling:  a 900 square feet apartment in Old Bordeaux, and a huge country estate between Bergerac and Perigueux! 

Friday, with great pleasure, we met our friends Patricia and Daniel Bain at the new fancy Regent Hotel Brasserie for lunch.  Since we saw them 2 years ago in Martel, the beautiful stone town where Daniel had been restoring stone houses,  they had decamped to Bordeaux, where their 13 year old son Oscar is in a new school.  They now have a new project and are renting a townhouse in the center of Bordeaux, complete with beautiful wood terrace and walls painted a combination of robin’s egg blue, bright yellow and red (not their taste in colors!).  It was wonderful to see them in such good spirits, looking well.

To celebrate Catalina’s birthday, we all ordered the 22 euro 2-course menu, a heap of tiny fried smelt,  with a glass of tartar sauce for dipping.  Some in our group did not appreciate the fish’s tiny eyes looking up at them!  The main course was either a white cod with snails in parsley butter sauce, or tender chicken rolled around perfectly cooked foie gras, wrapped in a green leaf that might have been lettuce.  Several people noted that the 2001 Graves red we ordered had slightly off flavors, but we nonetheless managed to down it all.

P&D invited us to their home, and fed us delicious chocolates and macaroons.  Hopefully it won’t be long before we see them in the gite.

Claudia, Steve, Catalina

Bordeaux’s Far-Flung Satellite Restaurants

Bordeaux’s Far-Flung Satellite Restaurants
Sallying forth in the 5 passenger Opel Zafira that we had picked up at the Bordeaux St. Jean train station, we headed for the Saturday market in Bazas south of Bordeaux.  We were ecstatic to see the sausage wizard, Patrick from Aveyron, and he was equally happy to see us after a 2 year absence.  We picked up lean pork herb sausage, duck sausages, chorizo, smoked ham, smoked duck breasts and a dense wheat and seed bread.  We bought a riot of fresh fruits and vegetables, and then went to our favorite restaurant for lunch.

Les Remparts, 49 place de la Cathedrale, Bazas.  This restaurant was just sold to new owners from far away.  Who knows what cuisine they will offer…  But for today, we savored a rich lamb tajine with apricots and pistachios on couscous.  Cat, John and Trudy chose the 3 course menus for 25 euros.  The first courses, Bazas beef terrine with a small salad, or sweet melon with Bayonne ham, were delicious.  The wine was a 2008 Coquillas Pessac Leognan.  It had an intense aroma of violets and blackberries with a taste to match.  Main courses were tender white cod on braised vegetables, Madras curry chicken (mild) with pineapple and steamed white rice.  Dessert:  flat apple tart with ice cream, an assortment of sorbets (pear, cassis, mandarin orange) accompanied by dense, bitter warm chocolate sauce and a side dish of Chantilly cream.  A terra cotta dish held crème brulee, excellent.  We rated the meal an A.  We also ordered a half bottle of white Graves, Chateau Brondelle, 2010.
Clos Mirande, Montagne St. Emilion (05 57 74 50 16).  We reserved for Sunday lunch in their casual bistro.  The restaurant was opened a year and a half ago.  As an entree (the entering, or first course), Steve ordered a green salad, and we also ordered terrines of rabbit with a parsley garlic sauce and salad.  Main courses were:  perfectly cooked sole with lemon butter, fricassee of guinea fowl game bird, braised with black grapes, mushrooms and honey, or tender layers of pork stacked then wrapped in bacon, sitting on a slice of eggplant.  It was accompanied by zucchini, carrots and turnips.  We asked the lady for a recommendation as to a local wine, and it was a good one:  2006 Chateau Vieux Rocher Montagne de St Emilion.  We also ordered a glass of white to go with the fish.  This was the best meal we have had in France so far on this trip!

Claudia, Steve, Catalina, John, Trudy

Dining in Old Bordeaux – “Vieux Bordeaux”

Report from gourmet week with friends from Clermont-Ferrand …it’s a hot and sultry week, all of a sudden.  Which made the shady courtyard behind the Vieux Bordeaux all the more inviting.  Pink tablecloths, flowers, bushes, and even a little “stream” with goldfish set the tranquil mood, right in the center of Old Bordeaux.  It’s located at 27 rue Buhan. We reserved in advance and got a choice table out of the direct sun and next to the stream.

The prices were reasonable, especially for lunch.  There was a 17 euro 3-course menu and a 26 euro 4 course menu.  We ordered the 26 euro menus, which began with a “pre” appetizer of smoked duck breast, Bayonne ham and cantaloupe melon.  The main appetizer was eggplant and pepper terrine, copper colored, a bit oily, with mesclun salad.  This menu had a fish course, consisting of St. Pierre fish with star anise, or pike perch with capers and cornichon pickles.  The meat course:  lamb filet with vegetables, a dish called parmentier, of ground meat cooked between 2 layers of mashed potatoes, or duckling sliced thin with honey and spices.  Steve ordered just a main course, the Charolais beef tenderloin, cooked to perfection with girolles mushrooms.

Michel chose a dessert of various chocolate formats ranging from gooey to liquid to melting, and the ladies a cheese course to finish.  But, as at any good restaurant, there were “after” desserts of little cherry clafouti tarts, chocolate truffles (which soon landed on our clothes), and the local molded specialty, canneles.

We were pleased with the purple velvety 2000 Lalande de Pomerol, la Fleur Chaigneau, and the half bottle of white Graves, Chateau de France 1999, dry and nutty.

We would give this restaurant a good to excellent rating, for service, setting, selection of food and wine.

Claudia & Steve

***Standard Website Disclaimer for Restaurant Reviews***
 Some restaurants have closed; check before going.

Dining in Bordeaux, Barsac and Langon “Hauterive St. James” in Bouliac

Now that we are spending months in Bordeaux , we realize what a treasure trove of fine dining the southwest of France is.  Especially in and around the city affectionately abbreviated locally as “Bdx”.

Today with friends from Clermont-Ferrand whom we had met with our friend Glenda last year in Le Puy en Velay, we hit the top restaurant in Bordeaux , the Hauterive St. James in Bouliac.  Hauterive meaning high above the eastern banks of the Garonne overlooking a spectacular view of the city.  Today was clear, sunny, cool, and tables were set out on a leafy terrace.  For starters, champagne and a glass of red.  Not just any glass of red, but a 1986 Chasse-Spleen Moulis-en Medoc , only $5 per glass, unbelievable!  Served with 3 tiny appetizers of quail egg melting into a little tart shell, basil and sardine jellied tart, and mushrooms combined with walnuts on top of a pastry base.

We ordered a 2000 Graves Chateau Seguin, recommended by our sommelier.  First courses consisted of giant green asparagus lightly fried with breadcrumbs, accompanied by fried egg and a confit of tomatoes and shallots.  A beef marrow bone was magically lifted up out of my dish by the waiter, releasing the escargots cooked with shallots and a delicate sauce.  And a vegetable and sardine tart for Michel.

The main courses: a perfectly cooked lamb filet with vegetables and caramelized shallots filled with melting goat cheese, vs. the crispy sautéed fish and long beans, and young veal with spring vegetables.  We laughed at the idea of 3 dessert courses:  the pre-dessert of crystallized coriander with curry ice cream and ginger (scrumptious and refreshing), the real dessert of spun angel hair, strawberries or raspberries on either a sand tart cookie or puff pastry layers.  Two of us passed on dessert (we won’t say who).  Finally, there was the “after” dessert, a glass arch with sunken coinlike slots holding chocolate and hazelnut candies, little raspberries on pastries, and miniature lemon meringue pies, doll-like.

We did have coffee, and after about 3 hours managed to tear ourselves away from the absolute heaven of this restaurant (we were the first to arrive and the last to leave), the service, the view over Bdx, the shady patio with the nets overhead containing a hundred tiny lights for summer evenings to come, and the refined (but expensive) cuisine.

Tomorrow we’ll go into Bdx for a lunch at another good place, le Vieux Bordeaux , where the cooking is reputed to be more traditional.  Followed by Jean Ramet in Bdx Thursday and then we really have to stop for the rest of the trip!

Dining in Bordeaux, Barsac and Langon “Le Chapon Fin” Bordeaux’s oldest restaurant

Our Mephisto shoes were not back from being repaired, but this gave us a good excuse to shoot into Bordeaux (a 14 minute train ride from Cestas), and dine at Le Chapon Fin, (05 56 79 10 10) at 5 rue Montesquieu, near the round covered market, les Grands Hommes.  It has one Michelin star. 2008: chef Nicolas Frion.

This is Bordeaux’s oldest restaurant, having been established in 1825.  On the Belle Epoque capitals overlooking the skylit dining room, are engraved the names of famous patrons:  Toulouse-Lautrec, Alphonse, Edward II, Curnowsky, the gourmet, and others.  Owned for 15 years by the Garcias, this September it was sold to Chateau Cordeillan-Bages.  The backdrop as you walk in consists of a screen of real rock formations, placed there at the beginning of the 20th century.  The rocks had been used as ballast for the ships returning to the port of Bordeaux .  The grey carpet, white tablecloths and burnt orange velvet chairs offer a stark, modern contrast to the architectural details of the structure.

We had 3 course menus for 160F ($22).  Since we had enjoyed the Graves red wines so much, we ordered a 1996 Chantegrive.  The tiny dish that arrived first was a rabbit terrine, topped by a basil garlic cream that rated as one of the most intense flavors we had ever experienced in France !  For the first course, we each chose different starters:  either a salad with packets of smoked salmon wrapped around eggplant caviar, or puff pastries containing bleu cheese and fish.  One main dish, osso bucco with vegetables, was tender and flavorful, with the bone served vertically beside the meat, permitting enjoyment of the marrow.  The mackerel with Indian spices and vegetables tasted much better than it sounds!  For dessert, banana tarte, a tiny scoop of coconut ice cream, or a vanilla cream dish were offered. 

Even with the change in owner, we were very impressed with the personal service, knowledge and kindness of the owner, chef Thierry Marx, waiter and female wine steward, all of whom came to greet us.  And the food still rates an “A”.

Claudia & Steve

***Standard Website Disclaimer for Restaurant Reviews***
 Some restaurants have closed; check before going.

Dining in Bordeaux, Barsac and Langon “La Chamade”

in France, Restaurant     

We are averaging 3 lunches out in restaurants per week, since we like to fix our own breakfast and eat lightly at dinner.  We had never eaten in any of Bordeaux’s best restaurants, which we vowed to correct on this long visit to the area.  (Editor’s Note: Please check before visiting any restaurant to ensure that they are still in business. Restaurants that have closed still have wonderful travel memories, wine information and menu pairings that can stir the soul and whet the appetite.)

La Chamade, 20 Rue des Pilliers de Tutelle, Bordeaux.  Down a curving white stone staircase, a tranquil, modern environment, with palm trees and apricot colored tablecloths.  Great English speaking service by a young chic woman named Sabrina, who had trained in San Francisco .  To awaken the palate, she served us small tureens of gazpacho with chunks of seafood submerged in the velvety liquid.  There were no more whole bottles of the 1998 Graves, Chateau Teigney, so we persuaded her to find 2 half bottles, which like most other 1998 Graves , was like velvet.  One main course was lamb chops carefully removed from the bone, the 7 herb-crusted medallions arranged artistically radially around the plate.  On the 3 course menu were seafood salad, rabbit and prunes and a light and airy apple tart.  No longer in business as of 2003.

Our list of other fine dining possibilities in Bordeaux includes:  Le Chapon Fin, le Vieux Bordeaux, Chez Philippe, Didier Gelineau, A Thibeaud, Les Plaisirs d’Ausone, or La Tupina.  Stay tuned during the next 27 weeks!

Claudia & Steve

***Standard Website Disclaimer for Restaurant Reviews***
 Some restaurants have closed; check before going.

La Table Calvet – Fine Bordeaux Restaurant

Bordeaux has been a construction nightmare for some 10 years, with the creation of a streetcar “tramway” service.  The tram is nearly complete, and the city peaceful and beautiful now.  However, a pleasant side effect has been the restoration and improvement of the wharves.   For hundreds of years, barrels of Bordeaux were rolled down to tall-masted ships on their way to England and points beyond.  The entire waterfront on the left bank (west side) of the Garonne river now houses bike paths, grass, playgrounds, organic markets and storage warehouses turned into cafes and restaurants.  Last year we explored the Chartrons area, with its antique shops.  Today, we went further north to the Cours du Medoc tram stop, and were impressed.

But our real objective for today was the fine restaurant associated with the giant wine merchant Calvet.  They were founded here in 1818, and the building constructed around 1880 at 81, cours du Medoc.  We reserved at La Table Calvet for noon, and they were unlocking the doors as we arrived.  The room has dark hardwood floors, golden stone walls, exposed and glowing in this elegant, spacious 19th century townhouse.  The ceiling is composed of wavy white panels drilled with holes, and this quiets the room.  The back wall is all burgundy and black, very modern and beautiful.  The service was very experienced and nuanced.  We relied on the expertise of the sommelier in choosing the 2001 Calvet Combles de Canon-Fronsac red.  It was full of fruit, but with a distinct backbone.  We diluted its effects with a bottle of Badoit mineral water.

As we gazed out over the white tablecloths, we noticed the sommelier decanting a fine bottle of Leoville las Cases costing hundreds of dollars.  The central table was used to stage all the bottles of water and wine being poured for the entire room.  The table was unusual, in that, down the central pillar bounded 4 hounds carved in wood.  The businessmen ordering the Leoville had drunk the entire bottle before their first course had even arrived.  They called for another.  Thus is business lubricated in the city of Bordeaux.

The breads were made by the restaurant, and we tried cider bread, and a dense poppyseed loaf, neither of which even came close to “Frank’s bread”, with its abundance of whole grains, lentils and seeds.

Steve went for the tender Aquitaine tenderloin of beef, which was served with a delicious fried marrow, girolles mushrooms, tiny green beans, onions, purple cauliflower, orange cauliflower and a bizarre tender green vegetable sounding like celestus.

I choose the 28 euro menu.  It started with a parfait glass with a savory avocado mousse on top of shrimp served to both of us.  My first course was a flat pastry topped by green, yellow, and different types of sweet red tomatoes.   Arugula salad perched at the side of the square plate, and dabs of anchovy dip, tapenade olive dip and basil pesto completed the first course.  The main course was especially decorative.  5 medallions of chicken rolled in perfectly cooked quinoa, with 2 other colors of quinoa on the side.  Various vegetables dotted the plate. 

Then, a wooden rack with six places for glass tubes arrived. Two of the places were filled with six inch long tubes that are reminiscent of laboratory glass test tubes, complete with corks and filled with a light, delicate “violet water”, for cleansing the palate.

The dessert was a pastry packet tied with string, filled with a dense, sweet plum compote, dusted with powdered sugar and walnuts.  Walnut ice cream on the side.  Even though we didn’t order the coffee course, the nice wait staff brought us 2 miniature canneles (molded cinnamon fluted cake, specialty of Bordeaux ), two tiny tarts with jam, and two wrapped dark chocolates.  Since Steve is on the grizzly bear diet consisting of meat, fish, vegetables and fruits, he did not partake.  No need for any food tonight!

We rated the restaurant an A, for food, décor and atmosphere (tranquil, with only 2 other tables full of business men and women, and excellent, friendly and knowledgeable service.  Also, to our delight, as of January of 2008, there is no more smoking in any restaurant interior.  Hooray!

Claudia and Steve

First Lunches in Bordeaux

In the 10 years we’ve been coming to the Bordeaux region, we have sought out many of the good restaurants.  However, new ones are always cropping up, and there are some we have missed.
Including one in our own little village of Cestas-Gazinet. 
Clos Tassigny.  N250.  Old golden stone house with crinkled peach tablecloths, candles, stone floors, and a relaxed atmosphere.  We had just arrived from the airport hotel.  Due to jet lag, we limited the wine to a half bottle of 1998 Chateau Malleprat Pessac Leognan.  The first course included chicken pate studded with foie gras and chopped raisins, as well as a puff pastry with foie gras.  The main courses were pave of beef, cooked perfectly, and a delicate salmon steak with a light cream sauce.  Both dishes included excellently seasoned potatoes au gratin and finely chopped eggplant and squash cooked with Provencal spices and garlic.  No dessert was necessary, but a small cheese plate of goat cheese, Brie de Meaux  and a mild St. Nectaire complemented the meal.  We would rate the meal a B+.  We spoke with the older couple sitting next to us, and picked their brains for other good restaurants.  For some reason, all the new targets are near the seacoast and the Arcachon basin:
a.  La Gueriniere, Gujan Mestras.
b.  Le Patio, Arcachon
c.  La Cote du Sud, Pyla sur Mer
d.  Restaurant Gerard Tissier, Pyla sur Mer
In the city of Bordeaux on Tuesday, around the corner from the House of Japan, we found a quiet haven:
Restaurant du Loup.  66 Rue du Loup.  It’s been a restaurant since 1932, and has art deco furnishings, columns, old dark wood, pink double tablecloths, and a very warm welcome by Martine, the owner.  We considered the inexpensive 11 and 16 euro lunch menus, but finally chose the 23 euro 4-course menus.  The first courses included cubes of tomatoes and cucumbers strewn with dill, and little toasts with tapenade.  My first course was several triangles of shrimps deep fried with a spicy dipping sauce.  The wine:  a 2004 Chateau Coquillas Pessac Leognan.  We both ordered the delicious pork tenderloin with potatoes, all of which just melted in the mouth.  The third course consisted of a single slice of Brie de Meaux at room temperature.  Desserts were light because of the intense heat.  There was a apricot sorbet with fresh fruit, and Steve had a brick of almond ice cream with fresh strawberries.  The chef was big on decorating the edges of all the plates with ribbons of red and yellow sauces.  We rated the meal an A and would return.
Lastly, on Wednesday, after a long bicycle ride on some rather bumpy bike paths through the spicy resinous pine forest, we settled down at a pizzeria in the beach town of Porges.  It was so hot that we just ordered salads.   Three of us liked the salad with smoked duck breast, foie gras melted on toast (greasy), with peppers, lettuce, tomatoes and corn.  I had the Nordic salad of little pink shrimps, smoked salmon,corn, tomatoes and creme fraiche.  It was served up by a 25 year old law and business grad who has shucked it all to go constantly traveling – to India, to Bangkok, Indonesia and South America. 
To work off the salad and the bottle of wine, we climbed the white dune and plunged into the 75 degree Atlantic, strolling along its pristine, deep golden sands.  The temperatures outside reached 90 degrees and as we returned to the gite, a long line of cars was still en route to the beach for relief.
During the past week, it has become perfectly clear to us that French food is still delicious, and that nothing can compare!
Claudia and Steve