Visiting the Vaucluse: La Maison de la Truffe et du Vin, Menerbes

by Jeanne on August 22, 2012

in Restaurants - France, Travel - France

Post image for Visiting the Vaucluse: La Maison de la Truffe et du Vin, Menerbes

 

If somebody were to ask me what driving in Provence is like I would answer as follows: Picture the rigid grid of Manhattan, near-completely flat and 99% in a neat grid pattern wuth dead-straight streets meeting each other at right-angled intersections.  Now put all thoughts of that pattern out of your mind and think of the exact opposite, and you will have a good approximation.

We had driven from Clement Ferrand that morning, stopping briefly at the Coustellet farmers’ market and by lunchtime we had wound our way through valleys and over mountains to arrive in Ménerbes, a village made famous when English author Peter Mayle wrote A Year in Provence whiule living there. On the map, it looked like a big tangle of hairpin bends, which left the little arrow on the satnav spinning in consternation as we turned each corner, and left me perplexed… until we caught sight of the village and realised it is perched on a hill like a barnacle clinging to a rock. Every road really is a harpin bend as you climb up and up to reach the little parking lot below the village; and even then you continue relentlessly up on foot. Not for nothing has Ménerbes been designated one of the most beautiful villages in France.  Narrow cobbled streets are lined with tiny artisan shops; and impossibly beautiful weathered ochre walls are punctuated with pale blue and green shutters – subtly faded colours that make you realise instantly where ersatz “Provencal-style” housing developments the world over get their colours so wrong.

 

Menerbes street collage © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

Menerbes shop signs © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

Menerbes shutters © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

Menerbes chair © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

Menerbes green gate © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

Menerbes green shutters © J Horak-Druiff 2012

Menerbes blue shutters © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

Menerbes poppies © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

Menerbes village view © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

After a wander through the lower village, we turned past Le P’tit Bouchon into a narrow alleyway that leads to the Rue du Portail that winds up towards the upper village.  Up, up and up we continued until we had reached literally the top of the whole village, with a view over the fertile Calavon valley’s cherry orchards and vineyards.  The red Ferrari parked outside indicated to me that we had arrived at the place we were looking for: a 17th century Hôtel d’Astier de Montfaucon formerly occupied by the Mayor’s office that has since 2004 been dedicated to the region’s two most famous products (wine and truffles).  Today this beautifully restored mansion houses a wine tasting venue; an exhibit featuring local truffle and wine culture; and a wine bar and restaurant.  Seeing as Nick was driving, the full wine tasting seemed like a bad idea, but after touring the courtyard and terrace and admiring the view, we were certainly up for a light lunch by the window, overlooking the valley.

 

Menerbes valley view © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

Menerbes Ferrari © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

Menerbes Maison de Truffe menu © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

Menerbes Maison de la Truffe © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

Menerbes Nick table © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

 

Unsurprisingly, the menu features truffles rather heavily – which is never a bad thing in my book! While we were making our choices, the friendly and knowledgeable waiter came to discuss our wine choices.  We opted for something local in the form of the Cotes de Luberon 2011 Quercus Blanc - a surprising white blend of 40% Ugni blanc, 20% Grenache blanc, 15% Clairette, 15% Bourboulenc and 10% Vermentino.  The blend gave it complexity and barrel-ageing in oak gave it a lovely rounded mouthfeel and seductive vanilla flavours.  It was a perfect white to match the deep, earthy flavours of the truffles without overpowering the food.  As we knew we would be having a substantial dinner that night, we opted for the very reasonably sounding 2-course menu for €26 and were treated to a fairly comprehensive explanation of the 2 different truffles they had. On the one  hand there were the tuber melanosporum black truffles, also known as Périgord black truffles which are black all the way through and have the pungent, almost human perfume that I mostly associate with truffles.  But then there were also locally-foraged tuber aestivumblack summer truffles which are black on the outside, but a pale beige on the inside and have a far milder and nuttier flavour.  Nick does not normally like the strident flavour of black truffles, but he loved these summer truffles – and he would get to eat plenty of them before we left!  For lunch, I started with the terrine de pâté maison aux truffes Melanosporum, slices of a wonderfully textured pork terrine studded with black truffles that infused the dish with their flavour.  Nick had opted for steamed green asparagus with Melanosporum truffles and some local cured ham - a classic combination which he loved. Fr mains, Nick had an egg dish that we had never seen before: oeufs de la Saint Jean on a  bed of salad and scattered with summer black truffle shavings. We had expected some variation of poached eggs – but what arrived was far more inpressive – like a giant savoury oeufs a la neige but with a lake of yolk concealed within. I suspect that the eggs were separated, and the whites beaten to stiff peaks before being lightly baked, and then the barely cooked yolks were slipped inside.  Nick absolutely loved it, and this was the dish that convinced Nick of the wisdom of truffles – hurrah! I had chosen spinach and ricotta tortellini with summer truffles Now usually when you order a dish “with truffles” that does not cost a month’s salary, you expect to need a magnifying glass to find the specks of truffles.  But when my dish arrived, you could barely see the tortellini for the masses of shaved truffles.  I don’t think I have ever seen so much truffle on one plate! The nutty flavour and slightly toothsome texture of the truffles were a perfect foil for the mildly-flavoured tortellini and I loved the dish as a whole (but gven a choice, I am still a Perigord, in-your-face-flavour truffle girl!).

 

Menerbes Maison de la Truffe Quercus © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

Menerbes Maison de Truffe glass © J Horak-Druiff

 

Menerbes Maison de Truffe asparagus © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

Menerbes Maison de Truffe eggs © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

Menerbes Maison de Truffe Tortellini © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

This was one of my favourite meals of the entire trip, because it was an unexpected place to find such a wonderful restaurant; because the view as we sat by the window was breathtaking; because the service was outstanding; and because the food was not only delicious but also good value for money.  When we left, I felt as if I had stepped onto a movie set for a while and now had to return to harsh reality, and I can’t recommend it highly enough if you are touring the region.

La Maison de la Truffe et du Vin, Menerbes
Place de l’Horloge
84560
MENERBES
France 

 

Visitor info: On the lower floor of the building you can taste Luberon wines from about 50 vineyards, and the wine shop sells bottles at the same price as you would pay at the winery. On the main floor where you enter, there is another shop offering olive oil and delicacies of the region. Lunch and dinner (two nights a week) are served in the sculpture garden and the restaurant. The wine bar, restaurant and shop are open daily from 12:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Monday and Friday evenings (but double check opening times in winter before you visit).  In the truffle season (November to March), truffle-digging with a truffle-hunter and his dog, followed by a special truffle lunch is also available (fixed dates for individuals, or on request for groups). Rooms are also available for meetings and special celebrations such as weddings. 

The Vaucluse Tourist Board has more information on Menerbes and other hilltop villages in the Vaucluse available on their website. 

DISCLOSURE: I visited this restaurant as part of a self-drive trip that was partially funded by the Vaucluse Tourist Board, but all meals mentioned in this post were paid for by me.  

Other Vaucluse trip posts:


Stay tuned for our intriguing visit to the Ochre Conservancy in nearby Rousillon which I will be posting about shortly!

 

 

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Kit November 28, 2012 at 12:30 am

Oh too cruel – my mouth is salivating at the thought of those truffle laden dishes!

Reply

Solange November 28, 2012 at 12:31 am

I’ll be back for more, never heard of Menerbes before- Got to say have a strong aversion to Peter Mayles- I think he spoiled it for me, good thing you are here.

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Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen November 28, 2012 at 12:32 am

My husband and I took a trip through Provence on our 10th Anniversary (oh, my gosh, I just realized that was 10 years ago!!) clearly it’s time we went back. I’m certain I have photos of the same windows and doors. I just loved being there. In fact, that is where I think I’ve eaten my favorite meal of my lifetime to date. You must have made so many wonderful memories there!! xx

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Krista November 28, 2012 at 12:33 am

What a gorgeous, gorgeous place!! I’d love to visit one day and eat luxuriously. :-)

Reply

Firefly November 28, 2012 at 12:33 am

A friend of mine just came back from a trip through France and suddenly I want to go too. You just adding fuel to that fire.

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Corrie November 28, 2012 at 12:34 am

I can just smell those truffles! There is a farmers market 15 mins from my parents house that sell black perigord truffles. First Saturday of every month….guess where I am going to be?! :-)

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Lisa Jey November 28, 2012 at 12:34 am

What a delicious and inspiring post. On my travel list now! Wonderful images.

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Rosa November 28, 2012 at 12:35 am

Thanks for the lovely pictures and post! What a beautiful region. The food looks amazing and so does the restaurant.

cheers,

Rosa

Reply

Andrew November 28, 2012 at 12:36 am

crumbs… those photos are rather decent. Particularly taken with the 7th one down and the chair in the fireplace

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Leigh November 28, 2012 at 12:36 am

Lovely pictures, wonderful. Must have been lovely.

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Rooth November 28, 2012 at 12:37 am

Oh this is wonderful and looks just like how Peter Mayle described it – I can almost smell the truffles

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Margaret November 28, 2012 at 12:38 am

I love the photos with the shutters. So beautiful!

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BB Kuett December 4, 2012 at 11:52 pm

Bonjour
You mention the Pet’t Bouchon in your reportage from Menerbes.

Alas, the sad tale
http://provenceventouxblog.com/2012/menerbes-wait-goes-on-for-buyer-of-iconic-cafe-owned-by-new-yorker-food-maven-eli-zabar/

Cheers
BB KUETT

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