Thursday was Kathy and Ron’s last day with us. BooHoo!!!! We’ve had so much fun with them, and it’s just been so good to spend time and catch up…we’re REALLY going to miss them.

Ron and Kathy wanted to take us out to a country restaurant that serves a simple, local cuisine for lunch. We’d asked at the Tourist Office, and they’d seemed somewhat stymied by the idea of such a restaurant. They did, finally, come up with the name of a town nearby where they said we might find such a restaurant: Ollioules.

Back home at the computer, we searched and found what seemed like it must be what they were talking about: a beautiful restaurant surrounded by vinyards outside of Ollioules. So I called Thursday morning and made reservations for lunch, and verified the address.

Although lunch wasn’t until 1:00, we left around noon so that we could poke around a bit, after we’d located the restaurant, until it was time for lunch. According to both Google Maps and Jeeves, the ride would take about 15 minutes – although we have been fooled before by optimistic estimates…they don’t take into account getting off at the wrong exit in a roundabout, etc…

It was another spectacular day: not a cloud in the sky, and around 60 degrees. Clear, bright sunshine. Beautiful! The ride took us onto a very narrow road, bounded by stone walls (sort of reminded us of England), where we had to find a place to pull over if there was a car coming in the opposite direction, or they did the same. There was simply no passing each other while driving on the road!

We apparently drove past the restaurant, as we got to the end of the road and hadn’t found it yet. We turned around and came back, checking numbers carefully, as I had some confidence about the address, having verified it when I made the reservation. This time we found it! No wonder we’d missed it the first time: the building itself was way down a long driveway, and the main feature we saw was vinyards, not building. No wonder this restaurant is called La Table du Vigneron.

We drove in the driveway, having decided not to do any more poking around than we’d already done just finding it, and followed the signs to the parking. What a gorgeous place this was!! We walked around a bit after parking the car, listning to the spring songs of all the birds, and admiring the surroundings. Here’s a photo of the restaurant as you approach from the parking lot:

La Table du Vigneron

 What a place!!!

We went in and were warmly greeted and taken to a lovely corner table that had windows on both sides. Our, mâitre d’ (also the owner and one of our waiters) was full of personality: charming, funny, and also very helpful. The place was gorgeous inside as well as out, with linen tablecloths, lovely flatware and china, and a calm, warm ambiance. The table had both rolls and a plate of gougères on it. I had a gougère right away, and what a delicious, light treat it was!

The menu had a couple of choices for “prix fixe” lunches, and Christophe (our host) told us about the “market” choice, which I translated for Roy, and we then looked over the printed choices. Kathy, Ron, and I all chose the “market” menu, and Roy chose one of the combinations on the printed menu. Christophe gave some help with the dessert selection for Roy(profiterols), and Ron chose a wine to go with the lunch (aren’t we glad we have our “designated driver”, Roy, with us at these affairs!).

After the menus were removed, we were brought a little “amuse bouche” of…wait for it…foie gras crème brulée! Who ever heard of such a thing? But is was light, creamy, mild, and totally, awesomely, delicious! Just about a thimbleful, but it certainly did whet my appetite!

What followed was probably the best lunch I have ever had! The “market” menu was carpaccio of salmon, marinated in delicious olive oil with some chopped aromatics, and a lovely mesclun salad; next was pork tenderloin with a mild, creamy, slightly cheesy sauce; dessert was rhubarb ice cream in a sauce made with kiwi coulis and what I think was a kumquat on top. Roy’s menu was wild mushrooms on toast in a creamy sauce; next was tournedos of beef in a delicious, creamy sauce; the dessert was the profiterols on a bed of ice cream, surrounded by large dabs of whipped cream, all smothered in chocolate sauce poured by our waiter until Roy said “stop”. Wow!! I just realized how many times I wrote the word “cream” in the last couple of sentences! Well, we are in France…

Every bite of all of our lunches was magnificent! We passed forks around (well, between Roy and the rest of us) and sampled each others’ dishes, and enjoyed the excellent bottle of wine, and had a truly supurb time! The service was impeccable –  this wasn’t quite the “simple country” restaurant that Ron had been looking for, but it was out of this world!! Thanks to Kathy and Ron for proposing it and for treating us to it!!

The interesting thing, after eating all that food, is that we were certainly full, but didn’t feel stuffed afterwards. Perhaps because we’d eaten slowly, savoring the flavors of each delicious bite, and weren’t rushed in any way, with pauses between courses, so that the whole meal took maybe the better part of two hours. I’m not sure, but it was a winning combination!

Our plan for after lunch was to do a bit more exploring of our area. Kathy had found a little peninsula south of Toulon with a small, sleepy fishing village called St. Mandrier-sur-Mer. We set Jeeves on a trajectory, and we were off. We basically had to drive through Toulon to get there, but it wasn’t a long ride, and was certainly worth it!

This is a charming little village, with lots of fishermen working on their nets, and lots of interesting boats to look at. The weather was just so perfect, and the views across the harbor to the mountains beyond were stunning. See for yourself:

St. Mondrier-sur-Mer

 We had a lovely time wandering along the quai and chatting and taking in the beautiful day. What a perfect post-lunch afternoon!

Home, then, and we each ate dinner when/if we had the urge, as lunch had pretty much done most of us in! We spent the evening, after Ron and Kathy finished packing, just chatting and enjoying each other’s company. Bittersweet knowing that Kathy and Ron would be leaving the next day…