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!

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