Michel Trama, Puymirol
November 6, 2012
Michel Trama was kicking around in little jobs until he met and married Maryse. Together, in 1974, they took over management of a bistro on the rue Mouffetard in Paris where he learned how to cook on the job. But they tired of city life and, in 1978, moved to Puymirol and opened Restaurant Michel Trama in a 13th century bastide, the former residence of Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse. Puymirol was a thriving, defensible hilltop city in the 13th century. Now it is a small village in which many of the stone houses have been redone, but there are many more to redo. There are superb views in all directions over the rolling countryside of Acquitaine. Achieving his first Michelin star in 1981, Trama gained his third star in 2004, but was downgraded to two stars in March 2011. The stars are very important to bring diners to this out of the way place. Gault & Millau named Trama “Cook of the Year” in 1991 with a score of 19.5. Linda and I stayed and dined at this Relais & Château inn on September 14, 2012.
On sitting down in the old, but redecorated, dining room we started with glasses of Billecart-salmon extra brut Champagne.
The Champagne was eventually followed by glasses of 2009 AOC Côtes de Duras, “Sélection M. Trama.” This local sauvignon blanc was quite substantial and was right with the early courses. It was followed by a bottle of red wine from the sommelier’s recommended list of 2006 Vin de Pays de l’Hérault, Domaine Avéla, “Cuvée Théodore.”
This was blended from 50% of very old Carignan planted in 1911, 30% of 25 years old Syrah, 10% of Grenache and 10% of 80 years old Cinsault. The ten acre Avéla vineyard in the Languedoc has no appelation, but is highly regarded. We really enjoyed it.
We had reserved the Escapade Gourmand, which included our room, breakfasts and the Menu Gourmand.
The amuse-gueules were a blue potato chip, confit pied de cochon on a wafer and a croustillant de saumon tartare.
The first menu course was
Les rouleaux de homard au combawa
Lobster meat flavored with kaffir lime was served in little rolls decorated with Trama’s signature cristalline vegetable slices. He discovered this technique after having forgotten some thin pineapple slices in the oven. He now uses it extensively on many fruits and vegetables and has written a book on it. You will see cristallines in most of the courses below.
L’œuf « bio » en gaspacho de green zébra
caramel de tomate
A gazpacho made from tart, spicy green tomatoes was topped by a cold poached egg, a tomato cristalline and a borage flower. There are dabs of densly caramelized red tomato. Tasty and refreshing.
La Tarte fine aux tomates confites
roquette du jardin
Continuing the seasonal vegetables, fresh braised cherry tomatoes were served on a wafer topped with arugula with an eggplant cristalline alongside. Trama has a kitchen garden below the walls of Puymirol.
La raviole de crevettes aux saveurs d’orient
Shrimp were served in coconut milk flavored with turmeric and too much freshly chopped ginger. The decorative “raviolo” top was made with squid ink and agar agar.
Comme un risotto, du chou fleur
Granulated cauliflower was prepared with a lot of top quality parmesan. On top were some golden chanterelle mushrooms which added some more nice earthiness. Very good.
Le pigeonneau rôti aux épices
carottes à l’orange
The squab had been roasted with spices and served with a thick glaze of its spiced juices. The gadget on the right was designed to hold the bone of a leg of lamb for carving; it worked well here for holding the half bird.
No cheese was offered.
L’assiette de tous les sens
The dessert plate included two dark chocolate concoctions and a raspberry cream glass. Most spectacular was the cristalline apple with its green apple sorbet. To see the recipe for this (in French) click here.
The mignardises included a canalé ; a little grape tarte; a red fruit macaron and a mini crème brulée.
Finally there was a glass of verveine citronelle glacée.
We enjoyed our meal, but it was clear why Trama had lost his third Michelin star. There was a lack of the necessary inspiration and precision. The service was always excellent and the pace right. The chef came around the dining room at the start of the meal to greet everyone. The well spaced tables in the big dining room created a good ambience, but the choice of twangy American country music was strange.
We retired to our comfortable room upstairs. In the morning there was an excellent breakfast. Then we went on down the hill towards Albi and then our evening flight back to Nice from Toulouse.