Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Le Moulin de Mougins: Like God in France

Roger Vergé's obituary was in this morning's paper.   He was an early celebrity chef at a perfect restaurant in a tiny town in the hills above the French Riviera.  Back in the day, we spent an idyllic afternoon having lunch at Le Moulin de Mougins, a memorable meal that made one feel, well, like God in France.  It is impossible to feel better than that.
We had a reservation by mail, and on a sunny August day, we drove the rental car up, up, up into the hills until we finally arrived in Mougins, a tiny somnolent town.  We followed a sign to the restaurant.  I was all dolled up in a dress that came from France,  Rodier of Paris, a dress still hanging in my closet, a dress that went to the main event at Burning Man Festival and was last worn to a banquet at the New England Crime Bake.
After the Burn and swigging champagne from a bottle.  Weird outfit which fit right in.
 We walked through a breathtakingly lovely restaurant with a big hearth that just screamed, "Provence," into an incredible garden.  I told myself I absolutely must come back in late fall someday when the indoor room would have a roaring fire in the hearth and hot soup and hearty fare would be served.

Seated in the garden, reeling from where I was, an honest-to-god three star French restaurant, we began to peruse the menu.  Many pages, and overwhelming choices.  Que faire?  The waiter took pity and suggested the table d'hote  selection of (can you believe this?) seventeen items.  OMG!   I read the selections and wasn't sure I liked the sound of the curried fish  (I like fish prepared as plain as possible in a sauté pan.)  The main entree, "duck cooked in its own blood" sounded gross.   Again que faire?  We said fine, we'll have the table d'hote.

The amuse bouche arrived followed by one incredibly delicious item after another.  The fish was scrumptious.  How could I have doubted it?   A small dish of potatoes arrived, so tasty I wanted to tell the waiter, "never mind the rest of the meal.  Just bring a big plate of those potatoes."

More food, but no rush between courses.  The duck was served, with no trace of blood but plenty of mouth-watering flavor.  And more courses.  And wine, delicious wine.  We probably drank a bottle.  Oh God!  It had to be sinful to eat like this.

Between courses I looked around the garden.  Interesting clientele.  Hans, who faced another direction, remarked on how many men seemed to be having lunch with their daughters.  Yeah, sure.  I saw a table of Arabs, the women svelt in summer dresses, and everyone smoking and drinking to beat the band. Next to us was a table, we guessed of three families of Alsatians.  With four or so kids.  The children were served big honking pieces of filet, which they picked at.  No matter what, you just can't ask strangers to give you their leftovers.  The children were seen and not heard and sat quietly at the table as good French children do.  When the adults had finished, dusty bottles of Cognac were brought for the table's inspection.  More cobwebby bottles.  Glasses poured,  everyone sipped. 

In the meantime we were sated with food and wine and feeling more and more like God in France.  It could not get any better than this.  Except for maybe a nap, but we had a half-hour journey back to our hotel.  No cognac for us.  Somehow, in spite of the heady wine, we arrived at our lodgings.  Everything had been perfect, and how often can you say that?  Roger Vergés kitchen had outdone itself, and tonight I will raise a glass to his memory.

The Garden at Le Moulin de Mougins


Roger Verge, chef extraordinaire

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