La Bastide Saint-Antoine, Grasse 5 (Truffle Market)
January 17, 2017
For over fifteen years La Bastide Saint-Antoine was one of our favorite restaurants, but it changed as it grew and the level of cuisine and inventiveness that we had enjoyed for many lunches gradually altered. We stopped going; there were many new restaurants to try. La Bastide lost one of its two Michelin stars. But La Bastide is a charming place and we know that its chef and owner, Jacques Chibois, is very talented; we have followed his career since he was in Cannes, twenty five years ago. Linda and I returned for the lunch of its 21st Truffle Market on January 7, 2017.
There were many stands of local truffle gatherers and others.
This picturesque truffle man cut us an end of a truffle to taste. It was good and so we bought it. He weighed it on his scale at 20 grams. You can see its fate in the sequel below. The pervasive truffle aroma at the stand was exquisite.
There were snacks for those who were not going to the lunch.
Rustic culinary goodies.
Near the entryway to the restaurant is a big sculpture of a truffle by Hans Hedberg, who lived in nearby Biot and specialized in giant ceramic fruit.
We were seated at a round table for ten and introduced ourselves to the other guests.
Champagne was served.
The olive branches are a signature of the restaurant, which sits in the middle of a large olive grove.
Bread was passed. Bottles of white and red wine were poured and left on the table; the bottles were replaced as needed, which was often. The white wine was refreshing, but not interesting. The red was quite nice.
This Côtes de Provence wine is made with Carignan, Mourvèdre and Syrah.
The first course was
Le velouté de cèpes secs tout en parfum,
au crémeux de truffe et céleri rave façon risotto
The thick cream soup was based on dried porcini mushrooms. It was enhanced with truffle bits. In the middle was a “risotto” of riced celery root.
Le filet de gros loup sur sa fondue de carottes,
panais, truffes, châtaignes,
coulis vert au Parmentier de poireaux citronné
A filet of sea bass was cooked with a crispy skin topped with chopped truffles. It sat on coarsely diced carrots, parsnips and chestnuts. Underneath was a sauce of potatoes, leeks and lemon. This was essential as the fish was flavorful, but quite dry.
Le gigot de porcelet confit au four sept heures,
à la truffe, sauce périgourdine au foie gras,
polenta agrémentée de poudre de café
A leg of suckling pig had been slowly cooked in the oven for seven hours, making it quite luscious. It was served on top of polenta enhanced with coffee. A butter, foie gras and truffle sauce had been poured over and around it. This was delicious, rich and to be enjoyed slowly.
La coque de chocolat tout en blanc à la truffe,
douceur de poires, glace aux pruneaux truffés
A shell of white chocolate had been filled with a truffle cream. The truffle flavor came through more strongly than it had in the savory courses. On top was a truffled prune ice cream dome. Underneath was a pear cream with chocolate dots. This was a superb dessert.
Following on from his dessert, the pastry chef had prepared excellent mignardises. I could not resist the chunky chocolate “truffles,” even though I had already eaten a lot.
Chef Chibois came around to chat.
Coffee was served.
On the way out we could look into some of the other dining rooms. 260 people were served this lunch.
Our car was parked in the olive grove which surrounds the Bastide.
We had a good time and enjoyed the cuisine. I was surprised that it was so complex; usually one shows off truffles with simple preparations that absorb and release the aromas. Perhaps the complexity makes it easier to prepare for 260 people, while last-minute simplicity would be difficult. Here the truffle effect was sometimes quite subdued. The service was smiling and efficient. The pace was surprisingly good.
To see my last blogpost on La Bastide click here.
This is an enlargement of the 20 gram truffle we bought as it sat on our kitchen counter that evening. You can see the relative size in the second photo.
I sliced it.
I lightly sautéed it in butter and crème fraîche.
I tossed in just cooked fresh fettucine.
Linda and I enjoyed it with plain veal chops.