Lost In Limoges

From the sheep-dotted pastures of France's underpopulated Southwest, Limoges rises in all its grey glory. The city's claim to fame: fine porcelain. The half-timbered houses of the Medieval center are surrounded by strip malls and McDo. Land-hungry Brits descend with flailing pocketbooks (thanks, RyanAir). The weather is remarkably cool year-round. Sure, I live on rue de Nice, but this is NOT the Cote d'Azur. Welcome to Limoges, "the middle of nowhere"-- or as Pierre says "everywhere"-- France.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Fish and Chips in the Limousin

The newscaster announced a bizarre phenomenon in a small town called La Porcherie, just outside Limoges. On Friday evenings, a star chef from England takes over the kitchen at a nondescript bar/restaurant in the Limounsin. The rotund, red-haired chap, shown poised over the vat of oil, battered fish in hand, has won some important Fish N Chips tasting contests in England.

I ran out of the kitchen and stared at the TV. Could it be? The most delicious, wonderful platter that I've enjoyed at The Ramp (San Francisco), London pubs, and on the wharf in Nelson, New Zealand? My favorite fried fish, smothered in malt vinegar and tartar sauce, in the middle of nowhere France? Pierre and I quickly turned off the nightly news and hopped into the car to make the trek to find out. But not five minutes later, the heavens opened and we were stopped by a deluge of rainwater on the highway, so had to settle for Chinese food in Limoges.

All week I anticipated Friday's Fish N Chips. We invited our friends, Vincent and Marielle, to join us, and set out on Friday at 8 pm. We were not disappointed. The little bar had been transformed by the news publicity; the owner had bought a bunch of plastic tables and scrawled the name of the reservation on white paper on top of it. (Reservations were a new thing for this joint, where the intoxicated regulars sat at the bar and eyed the crowds in wonder.)

When the chef came out to talk to some of the patrons, we raved about the food and the publicity on the news and he just beamed. A little dog followed him back into the kitchen. (In the picture, notice the napkins counting down to the year 2000 celebration, and the enormous bottle of bad Spanish table wine.) The owner insisted on our comments in his guestbook.

This place was a trip.


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