During the holidays, the medieval Cité de Carcassonne quiets down a lot. The best restaurants stay open year-round because they cater to local clients and can stay open even during the slowed down winter months. We had a marvelous dinner a few nights ago at La Barbacane, the Michelin starred restaurant in l’Hotel de la Cité.
Hotel de la Cité – La Barbacane
We got there a little early (typical Americans) and chilled out in the Piano Lounge / Library area (where the bar is). They started me off with a nice glass of sparkling rosé from Castelmaure while we waited for our hosts, the Lablaudes. We nibbled on lucques (local olives) and a few exotic tidbits to start us (e.g. endives, anchovies, radishes, trout egg). Everything was light and fun and made us hungry for more as we lounged about in the piano bar enjoying the live music.
Jérome Ryon, the chef, and Georges Gracia, the manager and sommelier, guided us through a wonderful and surprising meal.
We started with a shrimp-stuffed jack be little, a small yellow-orange gourd. It looks like a tiny pumpkin (think bell pepper-sized). It was a hefty appetizer but I can deal with a little heft. And it paired wonderfully with a surprising Chenin blanc from Saumur that really cut through the fattier elements of the jack be little. Truly tasty. Next up, scallops on a thin pastry garnished in some sort of wonderful sauces and paired with a blend from Rives Blanques. The dish was garnered with some cabbage and quince confit. And then duck as the plat de resistance paired with a robust Minervois from Chateau Oupia.
And we finished off with a nice citron sorbet and a startling white from Maury.
Everything was fresh and top notch.
La Barbacane sometimes gets pigeonholed as the more conservative fine dining destination in Carcassonne, with a greater focus on traditional haute cuisine. But this meal showed that Jérome is very creative when you give him room to breathe.
The wine list
We started off with a sparkling rosé from Castelmaure.
- AOC Saumur Domaine du Collier 2005 “A Foucault” à Chacé
- AOC Limoux Chateau Rives-Blanques 2009 Cuvée “La Trilogie” à Cépie
- AOC Minervois Chateau Oupia 2007 Cuvée Mémoire d’André Famille André Iché
And we finished off with a surprising white from Maury.
Of course, as a wine nerd, one of the coolest parts of the meal is to see how Georges Gracia pairs the various courses with wines. He chose a lot from the region because he knows how I roll, but he also gave me at least one surprise from the Loire. And what a surprise! We started and ended with whites from regions that are much more known for their red wines: Saumur and Maury. And I have to say I’m very pleased with both. The Saumur was Chenin although I wouldn’t have guessed that blind. It had sort of a burnt pear nose that was pretty restrained and then a really intereting body. I think it was perfect to start off the meal and cut through some of the fat on the pumpkin. The Maury at the end was a real shocker too. Delicious sweet wine that could compete with this very tart citron sorbet. Any wine lovers who eat at the Cité should try to get one of the very talented sommeliers to guide them through a meal. It’s a real experience for any foodie.
I toured the restaurant and cellar at La Barbacane, the main restaurant in l’Hotel de la Cité. This is one of the big attractions at the medieval castle of Carcassonne. It’s a huge treat because this Michelin-starred restaurant is a landmark in one of France’s most visited monuments!
Georges Gracia, the sommelier and restaurant manager showed me how everything gets done at the restaurant and we took a moment to talk a little about Languedoc wines and O’Vineyards’ place amongst them. If you speak French, you should just check out the video footage. Otherwise, the summary is that the Languedoc is going places and winemakers like us hope to be a pretty big part of this future.