While visiting friends in the Enclave des Papes in France recently, we had the good fortune to be invited with our hostess to a luncheon party to enjoy the local truffles on the day before the "Truffle Mass" that I described in this blog after we attended it last year. Click on "Truffles" in the column to the right to read that post if you like.
The party was instigated by an energetic member of the circle of friends that included our hostess, and the venue was moved from one home to another as the group grew to twelve. We ended up at Domaine de Méas, a charming, charming country place that has been called home by many generations of the family who welcomed us with a warming fire and champagne and, of course, truffles on toast as hors d'oeuvres.
An amazing stand of two-hundred year old trees line the approach to the house, and our host told me that the trees within the forecourt were three hundred years old.
After we parked along the drive and gathered our little contribution to the luncheon we were greeted by the friendly family dog as we passed through the arched entryway. The three-story house has a central block with a salon that is the full depth of it, and there are wings on each end where siblings of the "eldest son" and their families also live. Primogeniture is the law of the land in France.
The table was set and waiting for us in the dining room just off the foyer to the left, the kitchen being further to the left through the big arch, a clever architectural device that accommodated a door at each end, one to the kitchen, the other to parts unknown.
The foyer is a big space and very welcoming. We doffed coats, scarves and hats there and were then drawn to the fire in the salon where we were offered champagne and hors d'oeuvres while we greeted friends we'd met last year and also got to know new friends and family of our host.
Early-arriving guests are joined by a host as they warm themselves at the fire. Portraits of family members hang on all four walls of this room.
One of the hostesses provided truffles that were sliced and served on small toast rounds that were lightly drizzled with good olive oil, the finishing touch being a dusting of sea salt "Fleur de Sel". Radishes are the perfect accompaniment for all these tastes. The serving table in the photo to the left is ready for action as friends chat in the background in anticipation of the meal and lively conversation that will follow.
Henri, our host and a charming and most entertaining friend, waits for a drop more champagne. Very soon we will all be called to table to tuck into the truffle dishes that some of the friends have been stirring up in the kitchen.
After the eggs came small potatoes that had been boiled and then dressed with truffles and butter.
A red Bordeaux accompanied the meal, and we were fortunate to have a wine expert at table, several actually, so the conversation at times rose to the merits of one wine over the other.
A cheese course followed the truffle dishes, and the Italian in the crowd served a light and fluffy "Pandoro Veronese" that looked a bit like the panetone that we buy around Christmastime. It was delicious.
We returned to the salon and the fire for coffee, where Tinou, a charmer and intellectual delight and friend to all, regaled us with her evocation of the Muse of the Brotherhood of the Black Diamond (truffles).
Shortly after we were entertained by Tinou, Henri appeared, dressed for the cold outdoors, and took us on a tour of the house and the property. We saw room after room after room upstairs and about and then headed to the former stables, where Maryvonne, a wonderfully talented and versatile artist, has her studio.
The forecourt with one of the centuries-old trees on the right.
Henri leads the way and we follow to visit one of the family apartments.
On seeing the view, below right, from the kitchen window, I thought of the scores of times clients had told me when I practiced as an architect that they wanted to have the sink at a window. This view, if it were ours, would draw me to the sink time and time again.
The house is wide but not very deep. I found it interesting from all perspectives, even from this relaxed and informal aspect.
Maryvonne, an artist whose origins are in Britany (as is her name) in the studio with her paintings. More of her paintings can be seen on her blog: http://maryvonnevollant.over-blog.com/categorie-10895185.html
As we gathered our coats and scarves, we caught a view of the arched entry to the forecourt and the allée of trees beyond. We left with the fondest memories of a gray day that was brightened to the fullest by wonderful hospitality, interesting conversation and graciousness, and of course by good food and friends.