Friday was Tim’s birthday. We have spent 37 of his birthdays together, and although I can’t remember each one, this one was pretty special.
The main event was a huge lunch at L’Escale, a restaurant in Digoin. Happy birthday was combined with farewell toasts to Richard & Johanna, who were leaving to go back to London. The restaurant was a simple affair, filled with local folks enjoying, as we were, a large mid-day meal.
First course was a choice of charcuterie, poisson or crudité. Second course was a choice between 3 different cuts of steak or tripe, served with fried potatoes. (They were kind enough to make an omelet for Johanna) Third course was either fromage blanc or a cheese platter. This was followed by dessert of either ice cream, flan or fruit plate and finished off with coffee. Wine throughout – white, red and rose. The price worked out to about 16 euros each, which included a large tip. Eating to excess at a minimum of expense!
There were many new things for me to learn. The different words for the rareness of your steak (bleu, saignant, en pointe). The fact that crudité does not mean raw vegetables — in this case it was rice and tuna salad and a couscous salad (when I was dying for a bit of lettuce). And then there is the peculiarity of fromage blanc. I don’t really get fromage blanc. It doesn’t have much taste on its own, so you are supposed to do something to it to make it exciting. Matt on one side of me covered his in sugar, the most typical treatment. Bryan on the other side asked the waitress if there was any garlic, and she brought him a bowl of 5 large buds. He ground fresh black pepper onto the fromage blanc, then proceeded to carve off thin slices of one of the buds of garlic and blend them into the cheese. An acquired taste, perhaps, but an equally acceptable treatment.
We rolled out of the restaurant several hours later. Tim & I walked back from Digoin, while Bryan & Peta drove Richard and Johanna to Le Creusot to catch a train to take them to London via Paris. Our afternoon was spent cleaning – there is a family coming to rent the gite that we have been staying in, so we moved out and into the main part of the house.
There were many toasts to Tim later in the day, in the sunshine, in the sunset, by the moon rise.
Peta got him a lovely local Pinot Noir that was exquisite to drink under the stars. I made a Chocolate Almond Torte to sing Happy Birthday over.
Happy Birthday, dear Tim. You get more wonderful with each passing year.