Sometimes, there are moments and meals that remain memorable years later. This evening, in particular this meal, at a tiny little town in the French Alps, is one of those. Early June 2011, Le Percy, France, in the Trieves region of France…
When we travel, we mostly like just to wander. We have a loose itinerary in our heads- “Maybe we’ll head to the beach if we get a sunny day,”- but often, we just pick places, read a little about them, usually in the car on the way there, and go. Yesterday was one of those sort of days. We wanted to see Lyon, and it was only about an hour and a half away from where we were staying, so off we went. We thought we’d come through Grenoble on the way back, and intended to find dinner somewhere within that town. Lyon was a nice enough city, and we saw a beautiful cathedral and had a delicious pastry at a salon de the in the old part of the city. We left town during the 5:00 rush hour, a bit of poor planning on our part, and were thankful to be out of the city environment and back into the more rural areas of France. Then we came to Grenoble, and, well, it just wasn’t good. You know those depressing looking multi-story tenement sort of apartment buildings? They were everywhere. Despite the fact that we were entering the French Alps and that the scenery had become pretty incredible, we took the first roundabout to turn back around and ditched (though we later found out that we simply took the wrong exit into Grenoble, that it is actually quite lovely, but that is another tale). We pulled over and picked a new route, a small road that would wind us through the Alps back towards Provence. We figured we’d find a small town and head towards the center at around 7 pm and hope for a decent restaurant. At the very least, we’d have a good view.
What we came across was well beyond what we had hoped for.
The first town we decided to stop in was closed. Yes, I do mean that the town was closed. After all, it was Wednesday, as the lady at the gas station explained… Yet another mysterious French way, I guess? Anyway, we continued on to the next town, a little place called Le Percy, where a hand-lettered wooden sign promised that there was in fact a restaurant. And just maybe it would be open.
So, into Le Percy we went. Imagine a tiny town- no, a hamlet, perhaps, because there couldn’t have been more than ten houses and a church. The restaurant turned out to be in the same place as the library, back behind the church. Naturally, everything was made of stone, though not in the Provence way- I suppose more in the way that is appropriate to Le Trieves , which is where we apparently were. We had to stop and ask where the place was- it was so tucked away and hidden. And there, in a low, arched-ceilinged building, was Le Café de la Page, and immediately, I could tell that it was going to do just fine: the day’s menus were written on chalkboards, along with the wine list and the desserts, including a crème brulee du moment– I love that- “of the moment!” As though the chef just looked to see what was the tastiest flavor he could toss in with some crème and cook it up…
And so we began. A demi-pichet of red wine, which turned out, of course, to be delicious. The menu du jour for 22 euros, consisting of a salad with octopus ceviche on greens with chopped peppers, started us out. It was amazing. This is not a favorite of mine, octopus, but still, it was amazing.
And then. And then, there was the second course. The young waitress told us that the chef had just, umm, well, shall we say, retrieved the pigs from the farm that morning to make that course- a roti de porc with tiny baby potatoes, carrots, and tiny zucchinis in a delicate sauce. And crusty, brown, flavorful bread to mop up that delicious sauce with.
And though I hate to leave the thought of that pork, I must go on to dessert, because it deserves its own page: the aforementioned crème brûlée du moment, flavored with vanilla and studded with fresh raspberries.
Finished off with those tiny little bitter coffees that the French adore (and so do I). It was perfect.
We were surrounded by people who very clearly knew each other and had for a while (two bises here instead of the Provencal three), but we felt welcomed. We stepped out of this lovely little place after a mere 2 and a half hours, and the cool evening air of the Alps felt refreshing after so much sitting (and feasting!). Cows with bells around their necks looked at us with disinterest from behind their stone fences, and we listened to and absorbed these peaceful sounds for as long as we could before we had to hit the road again.
And what a journey it was, through the Alps in a magical part of France where tourists really don’t often go. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend that you do. I’ll give you the address if you’d like.