“Une soiree extraordinaire” @ Limoges

The ghost of the Domaine de la Dame de la Lauriere would have enjoyed this evening’s soiree around the dining room table in the house she once inhabited.

That was around 1793 at the time of France’s revolution and la Dame was to be beheaded, but she outwitted the executioners and married a “metayer’’, ‘the man responsible for the management of her farm.  And being a commoner, he saved her from the gallows.

Her domain, once a relais for pilgrims of the St Jacques de Compostale, is now a Chambre d’Hote and through mere chance we chose to stay here tonight above all others in the Limoge Office du Tourisme accommodation booklet.

The old 17th century building stands at the intersection of an ancient ‘pont Rompu’’,  an important bridge for centuries of pilgrims and when we arrived, fatigued and hungry, la Dame of today (whom locals believe is the original Dame reincarnated) invites us to stay for dinner with other guests.

Madame Lyseanne Monpion has been frying mushrooms in butter and the house is filling already with the aroma.

“I am offering simple omelette and Cepe,’’ she says of  the popular mushroom variety in France.

Oui, bien sur
,’’ we replied for monsieur is very tired from driving.

However, the evening unfolds more like a banquet and a wonderful lesson on how to cook a four-course dinner for five people with a dozen eggs.

Everything about the experience was exceptional – L’art de la table, the glassware, the beautiful  porcelain, the flowers and exquisite accompaniments, the napkins and candles  in the shape of eggs, to set the theme for our fare.

At one end of the table, the hostess had gathered the main pieces of china she intended to use – all exquisite pieces bearing the French Limoges porcelain brand.

Madame is a gracious, still beautiful blonde French woman of a certain age and her convivial conversation bubbles like the sweet wine she now pours for our mise en bouche (or appetiser).

She wears a long strand of pearls over a black jumper and cardigan with a faux fur collar, with patterned black and white slacks. Elle est tres chic.

Mise en bouche is mimosa (a mashed egg mix) and pureed beetroot ensemble, but separate in glass bowls with cherry tomatoes set on the bowls like strawberries on a champagne glass.

We had expected simply omelette.

A classic white plate bearing antipasto in sections – black and white tapenade, marinated squash and garlic is set before us and not long after, Madame returns with a gorgeous piece of Limoge piled with omelette and another designer piece with a salad of Witloff, drenched in tasty oil, mustard and vinegar mix.

It tastes superb and we comment on the addition of small pieces of “pomme de terre’’ in the omelette.

“It is special from this region,’’ madame says. “It is my grandmother’s recipe.’’

An accompaniment in another signature piece of Limoge –  an oblong bowl of cold ratatouille.

I am busting at the seams by  now… But she has no mercy and no more than 10 minutes has passed before Madame presents two plates of cheese – one flat dish with three varieties of fromage, decorated with a sprig of rosemary, nuts and a small cluster of grapes.

And the piece de resistance, a bowl of chevre, (goat’s cheese) marinated in olive oil, salt and rosemary.

Each piece of porcelain is a conversation piece as she explains its history. None have been bought in the expensive salons of Limoges. We talk about the fact that cheese is the piece de resistance of a meal in France, but is not important in Australia, or at best, an evolving part of the dining experience.

She tells us stories of her porcelain collection, running here and there to show us her special pieces and how she found them in Brocantes all over France.

Les assiettes’ (plates) for dessert are floral in design, dainty and pretty and perfect for the egg custard baked to a perfect golden colour and studded with prunes.

Unadorned, it is pure sweetness and yet the prunes add a dash of piquant “gout’’  (taste).

The French wines are yet another story – tomorrow.

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