Bras, Laguiole

June 13, 2017

We had been to Bras twice before, but that was before this blog started.  We liked it so much the first visit that we returned the next year for a three-day package deal of a room, dinner and breakfast. The second visit was excellent, also, and was long enough that we could explore some of this beautiful Aubrac region. But Laguiole is not on the way to anywhere so it was more than 10 years later when Linda and I returned for the night of May 18, 2017.

In the meantime Chef Michel Bras had turned over the kitchen to his son, Sébastien, and the Bras group had expanded, even as far as Hokkaido. So we were curious what we would find. We drove into Laguiole from the north, past beautiful pastures with the picturesque, handsome Aubrac cattle.  We stopped to admire one herd.

It was raining lightly when we arrived at Bras, and shortly afterward clouds blew right up to our windows and we completely lost the view from our room for a few hours.  Views emerging from the fog were lovely. Patches of sun came out the next morning and I was able to take these photos from our picture window.


In the second photo you can see the town of Laguiole in the center-right distance. You can also see the end of the lower row of rooms which open directly onto the meadow.

When we presented ourselves for dinner, we were escorted into a tour of the kitchen by the chef’s wife, Véronique. Sébastien joined us for some conversation and a photo.


 

We were then seated in the modern dining room facing the long window wall looking out into the rain and fog this evening.  Two pretty pieces of the crust of a loaf of spice bread were on the table.
Excellent butter arrived to eat with them.


Many of the pastures in the area are filled in mid-May with little narcissus like the ones in the right of this photo.

We started with glasses of Roederer Grand Cru Champagne. An eggshell filled with herbed lightly scrambled egg along with two warm breadsticks was the first hors d’œuvre.

Then a little bowl of bears’ garlic soup topped with a wafer and three mounds of artichoke purée and dried beef.

Three menus are offered; we selected the most ambitious, the Menu Balade. We ordered a bottle of 2011 Henri Boillot “1er Cru – Les Chevrets” Volnay.

Very good.

The first menu course was
Aujourd’hui « classique »,
Le gargouillou de jeunes légumes, herbes & graines germées,
jus de volaille réduit,

This dish is “classic” because it was created by Michel Bras in 1980. It includes whatever vegetables, herbs, seeds and flowers that can be found wild in the area or in the Bras’ garden at that moment. They are dressed with chicken and ham stocks so lightly that the stocks are not evident. Lovely in many ways.

De ligne,
Le filet de turbot poêlé à l’olive,
beurre mousseux au citron confit et pois mange tout sautés à cru,
les anisés du moment et ciboule Saint Jacques.

A turbot filet had been coated in a black olive purée and sautéed. It was dressed with a foamy butter flavored with preserved lemon. On top were shards of pea pods, scallions and dill. The olives brought in a bit too much salt, but the dish was enjoyable.

Rôti/poché,
Le foie gras de canard & feuilles de peucedanum ciselées,
les premières cerises burlat de Yannick pochées au vinaigre,
purée de chou fleur relevée d’huile d’amandon.

The duck foie gras had been poached, giving it a soft, uniform texture. It was dressed with a cauliflower purée flavored with a fruit pit oil. There were three early cherries which had been poached lightly in vinegar. This was interesting, but for me poaching foie gras will not replace sautéing.

Biscuit moelleux,
Le gâteau tendre aux céréales garni de fenouil,
jus aux truffes de Comprégnac.

A little whole-grain cake was filled with fennel shards. Underneath was a truffled sauce. Unusual and nice.

Boeuf Aubrac,
La pièce roulée à l’ail des ours du Suquet,
sauce acidulée & bourgeon d’ail des ours,
grillons de lard de pays.

Aubrac cattle are the local breed around Laguiole. They are sturdy and withstand the harsh winters, which make them the only viable form of agriculture (besides hay production) on the rocky hillsides. A flavorful cut from an Aubrac steer was rolled around leaves of bear’s garlic picked nearby and seared. Young bear’s garlic leaves and coarse salt were on top. The sauce was like a Béarnaise. A few chanterelle mushrooms and a little cabbage roll were alongside.

After we had started enjoying this course, our always affable and helpful waiter arrived with a pot of aligot. Aligot is not on the menu, but is always served. It is a regional specialty of the Aubrac. It is made with puréed potatoes combined with Tomme de Laguiole cheese until it gains an elastic consistency.


My serving.

D’ici et d’à côté,
Les fromages de l’Aveyron.



The cheese trolley had a varied selection of local and regional cheeses. You can see my selection along with a piece of excellent raisin bread. A small fresh salad was served alongside, which was a good contrast to the rich cheeses.

Sur une interprétation du coulant originel de 81,
Le biscuit tiède de chocolat coulant aux épices torréfiées ;
crème glacée au yaourt de brebis.

One of Michel Bras’ creations in 1981 was a chocolate biscuit with a warm, runny chocolate center. This is his son’s updating with a sphere of sheep’s milk yoghurt ice cream on top.

De Lagardelle,
La tige de rhubarbe confite et sorbet à l’oseille.

Rhubarb and strawberries were accompanied by a sorrel ice cream.

Mémoire de fouace,
Fleur d’oranger/cédrat.

This little bowl of an orange flower cream and a center of coarse cédrat lemon recalls the circular fouace de Laguiole, a pastry served on festive occasions. 

Canailleries,
Des cornets garnis au gré de nos envies.


Finally, an ice cream cart was wheeled up to our table with five different flavors. I chose salty caramel, which was topped with a bit of chocolate.

We had a lovely time and an excellent meal. All the dishes were interesting and brought out the flavors of the top-quality ingredients, usually local and seasonal. Sometimes the combinations seemed imperfect, but they were always an interesting discovery. The service, pace and ambiance were excellent.

http://www.bras.fr/en

 

One Response to “Bras, Laguiole”

  1. sue girdwood Says:

    Michael — was intrigued by this post, as I have been curious about Bras since friends returned to Sydney after their thoroughly enjoyable experience — on both sybarritic and gastronomic levels — a couple of years ago. Sounds lovely. And those beautiful cows!!


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