Friday, June 25, 2010

Dinner at La Cotte de Mailles

Carcasonne is a “medieval” city in France. In fact, if you want to get to La Cité, or inside the fortress walls, you can't even take a car. You have to park outside and hull your luggage in yourself, up the steep cobblestone path, a fact which we learned for ourselves the hard way.

We chose to live inside the fortress because we wanted to really experience Carcassonne. And part of the experience of visiting a medieval city has to be eating medieval food, right? So this is what we did.

We stopped in La Cotte de Mailles at around 5:30pm to ask for a reservation for a party of four, and then came back to the restaurant for our reservation two hours later, at 7:30pm. It wasn’t crowded, but the little place was cozy, decorated with art depicting the fortress itself, as well as some medieval weaponary.

We ordered two apperatifs or drinks, the first being a cup of Hypocras (4€20), the famous medieval wine mix, which was made in house. It had a very pleasant, strong clove smell, and was deliciously warming. On the cool summer night that we sat down, it was very enjoyable, but I imagine it would be especially enjoyable in the winter.

We also ordered a cup of Elixir Cotte de Maille, also called the Elixir Rose (4€20), which was so good we ended up calling another glass. The scent of the rose was so incredibly beautiful. Based in red wine, it was sweet and pleasant to drink. Both this drink and the other had hints of honey and spices.

The restaurant is actually owned and run by a grandmother, mother, and daughter team. The two older women do the cooking, and the daughter runs tables. She was a fantastic waitress—very friendly and talkative—and was happy to answer all of our questions and to help us choose our dishes when we couldn’t decide among the many delicious sounding choices.

Above is the porcelet au miel et à la lavande (21€90) that we ordered. It was very unique and interesting—have you ever had pork marinated in honey and lavender?— but a little sweet for meat. The fragrance of the lavender was strong, which we enjoyed, but after a while (one or two whole slices of pork), the taste became a bit one dimentional. Nevertheless, it was a very creative dish, and I will never forget the taste and scent of the meat. Perhaps someday soon I shall experiment with honey and lavender marinades, and I shall report back to you.

The Cassoulet des Troubadours (16€50) was another dish we ordered. I’m not posting a picture of this because, honestly, all cassoulets look the same, and I think I have already put up three or four pictures on this blog, so refer to those if you forget what this dish looks like. This cassoulet, like the others we’d ordered before, was very good.
But, unlike the other cassoulets, this one came with a cheesy potato gratin, in its own little pot. It was deliciously rich and creamy, with a crunchy top, as it had probably been put under a broiler so that the cheese could melt and then caramelized a bit. A very nice addition.
Even without this addition though, this cassoulet was definitely the best one we'd eaten. The portion was so huge, it didn’t really looked like we’d touched it when we were done eating, but I’m telling you, we sincerely enjoyed it. It was perfectly seasoned and had variety, and was rich and warm, with soft white beans that popped in your mouth. I would be happy to order it again.

I ordered a Salade des Délices, which was also called Foie Gras au Chocolat (19€80). Despite, I believe, being an appetizer, it was a huge portion. It was also delicious. The chocolat foie gras was a discovery. It wasn’t sweet chocolate, but rather cacao, and the bitterness of it (if you’ve never had it before) can be compared to coffee grounds, but more mellow, with hints of caramel. There was also chocolate sorbet (in the tiny little mis en place type of dish you see on top of the plate, to the right), foie gras mi-cuit, stewed figues, and some duck gizzard. It was delicious. The cherries, orange slices, tomatoes, and lettuce provided some relief from the protein overload, but I would have been happy even if they hadn’t been there. Both of the foie gras (the chocolate and the mi-cuit) were amazing and the taste of those mixed with a little bit of figue and chocolat sorbet was delicious. A definite 9.5 out of 10. And the only reason why it’s not a 10 out of 10 is because I hesitate to declare perfection when I haven’t tasted every foie gras in the world. But I assure you, this was pretty damn perfect.

Our last dish was the ambroisine de caille et sa garniture (18€90) that you see above. It was delicious quail—succulent meat and slightly crispy skin—and also came with the cheese potato gratin that I mentioned when I talked about the cassoulet. You can see it in the bottom right. All good.

We were very full afterwards (do you see the size of those portions?) but it was a great meal, and should you ever find yourself in Carcasonne, I suggest you come with an appetite and sit down at this restaurant.

La Cotte de Mailles
2 rue St Jean
La Cité
11000 Carcassonne, France

04 68 72 36 24

Overall rating for the price: 9 out of 10

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