Sunday, March 20, 2005

le mas des vignes

Last night we celebrated the launch of Shifting Light officially with George and Jo, at a restaurant perched up above the emerging almond foliage of the Ventoux valley - Le Mas des Vignes.

Because it was 24 degrees, I have foolishly put away all my winter clothes and decided that now it is summer and time for the linens. Of course it is freezing in the evenings, it could still snow and the restaurant laughed when I asked for a table on the terrace, assuring me that in March, it is very dark at 8.30.

We have a varied history with the restaurant: Having possibly the most breathtaking terrace in the Vaucluse, it is often somewhere we have been drawn to for a special occasion, whether it be the descent from a long walk, a new commission or to celebrate the arrival of a friend. They have always welcomed us whether it be in shorts, walking boots, posh frocks, or paint bespattered trousers, but we have often been disappointed. The food tended towards pretentious and over-priced and the owners over-zealous - so involved in the theatre of being restauranteurs that they left little room for your own experience of the evening. This was fine if you were in the mood for:
"Voulez-vous deguster mon clafoutis avec les cerises acceuillies de mon jardin a moi?"
chirruped by the proprietress (as she aimed for the vocal range demanded of a drag queen singing Tosca and the body language of Nureyev on extacy.) But sometimes you simply want to be left alone to talk.

Until this year we have preferred 'La Colombe' - to all appearances, Le Mas' poor sister further down the route du Ventoux. There, an honest hard-working Alain cooked honest fayre at honest prices and his wife served charmingly, her north african chaleur increasing with each visit. However, like so many restaurants in the area, they were forced to sell up both the business and their house in St Pierre de Vasssols (which we considered buying). The wife reclaimed her profession as a hairdresser in Bedoin's 'Passion Coiffure' and was to be seen streaking old ladies' brittle sun-bleached wisps, whilst he got a job at a tacky seafood restaurant on the ring road in Carpentras. They were miserable.

Recently we met the wife in Shopi buying cat-food and toothpaste respectfully, and she informed us that Alain had a new job, as chef in the Mas des Vignes. So we decided, to Georges's horror ("Oh no! not their first night! That's so mean!") to book on his opening night and thus show him the gratitude we felt for the many excellent meals he had cooked for us down the road. The son had also taken over from the scary proprietress and her timid husband at Le Mas and it was time for another visit.

It's fun doing restaurants with restaurant owners, especially humorous ones, and Jo and George treat us occasionally with stories fromAl Forno . Last night's titbit was inspired by the snogging going on at the next table to ours, and was of a day when, seeing a couple in her restaurant embarrassingly close to love-making, Jo was forced to reprimand them:
"No dessert for you. Get a room".

It seems like non-attachment to beauty is the theme for spring, and throughout the evening we discussed the similarities within the professions of the cook and the musician; the ability to watch your creation disappear either orally or aurally, like the Buddhist mandala sand paintings blown away as soon as they are complete. For a visual artist this is harder. The artist is not forced to let go of his 'finished' process until it is sold. It lures him back for more tinkering or repels him towards a reactionary canvas. Though more challenging, it is still essential to move away from the objects psychically and start creating afresh. The same goes for websites and in 'launching' shifting light, Julian also has to let it go.

Apart from the weirdest 'amuse guele' (I love these because they are free, and I love the expression which translates as a dishette that 'amuses your gob') of a 'foie gras creme brulee' which tasted like sugar coated leather paste, the food started off very well. Julian had a snail open ravioli and we had scallops with curry and coconut. Both were scrummy. A nice bit of rabbit and polenta (which was enhanced because it had a ton of cream in it) followed, but the eternal fondant or moelleux de chocolat was sweet in a condensed milk kind of way and we left with a slight cloying of the bouche. However, we were still laughing.

And, while laughing, I would like to thank Ruth publicly for her comment on Julian's asparagus, linking our two blogs in one hilarious amourettoid swoop.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have been customers of the Mas des Vignes each time we were in the neighbourghood and were never dissapointed. The theater-like performance of the old Owner was an absolute must and had to be put in the frame of her personality. After they left it is their sun (who was and still is the cook of the house) that continue to serve food at the high level of gastrovomy that the Mas des Vignes always put forward. It is not only the breathtaking sunset over Les Dentelles de Montmirail that makes this place charismatic, also the cooking of the chef.

3:11 PM  

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