Even though the small village of Quillan was essentially closed for Ascension Thursday on that cold gray day in mid-May, Janice discovered a truly delightful family-run restaurant that was open. Contre-Courante, Le Portail des Terroirs is both a store for local products and a restaurant featuring only local foods, cheeses and wines. What's more, they are very willing to tell you all about these local products. Throughout rural France there is a very strong movement promoting local foods, much like the so-called Hundred Mile Diet in North America, only using a much smaller radius. As Julia Child learned while in France decades ago, fresh local foods are by far the best.
As you approach the restaurant, you immediately sense its intimacy. Through the front door you get a glimpse of the colours in the shop.
The inside seating has perhaps five or six tables, hardly more. Local wines are proudly displayed on the fireplace mantle and the prices are given on the blackboard above cupboard for the wine glasses and plates.
Notice that the fireplace is working, in mid May at noon. Our table was close to it, which was great.
We selected a wine recommended by the husband/waiter and then studied its labels for further information about grape types, exact location, terroir, etc.
They also bring cool water to the tables, using former wine bottles.
The day's specialty featured escargots (snails) grown locally. Some Irish gentlemen at a nearby table feasted only on snails, bread and wine. The snails are carefully cleaned, taken out of the shells, gently tossed in butter, wine and garlic, then returned individually to shells. These little fellows can transform a gloomy cold Thursday noon into something absolutely exotic.
After our first appetizer (snails, but a smaller portion than Sean's), we ordered a selection of local cheeses. Each was described, most were goat cheeses, and a small jar of raspberry jam was available to go with the bread and cheeses.
Our main course was pork roast (done to perfection in the home kitchen) served with grilled tomatoes and potatoes tossed in butter.
At one point I caught a glimpse of some of the family seated in their kitchen just a few meters from the dining room.
The mens restroom was decorated with progressive (usually leftist) cartoons from newspapers, all of which made delightful reading.
Perhaps two or three hours later, well-filled, we returned to the wet streets to see more of Quillan. When I return, this restaurant will be absolutely tops on my list. Its food surpassed anything else we enjoyed eating in the south of France this year.