If you want to travel to the southwest of France from Paris, you can take a train from the Gare Montparnasse. Or you can book a table and enjoy the southwestern cooking at the nearby La Cerisaie.
It’s game season, and all manner of fowl and four legged creatures are showing up on menus here. Recently spotted in the not-so-wild near the station: palombe (wood pigeon), canard sauvage (wild duck), sanglier (wild boar), grouse (um, grouse), and lievre (hare).
These are all good reasons to visit La Cerisaie, but another is that very deliberately cultivated product called foie gras, which currently appears as a terrine, sauteed, garnishing a chestnut velouté and filling ravioli served with the palombe. I had that crisp roasted bird for dinner and delicious as it was, I could have eaten a whole dish of the ravioli by themselves.
That meal started with the chestnut soup and an oeuf cocotte in porcini cream, a rich shot of earth and cholesterol with tiny buttery croutons. I ordered the palombe and my friend had the Parmentier de civiet de sanglier mijoté sept heures, also known as shepherd’s pie of stewed wild boar, simmered for seven hours. (If you like what the French do with potatoes, then give a little nod of thanks to one Antoine-Augustin Parmentier every time you take a bite of purée: It was this food scientist and PR genius who, in the late 18th century, convinced the French that potatoes were fit for human consumption.) The wine list is heavy with Cahors and Madiran, but we veered toward the Pays Basque for a red Irouleguy from Domaine Arretxea. A raw cow’s milk cheese from the Midi-Pyrenees called Bethmale followed our main courses, and a fine apple tart ended the meal. We were very, very happy.
And why shouldn’t we be? Though the tight space (and it is tight!) isn’t much to look at, the welcome is warm. The food is rich but chef Cyrill Lalanne dishes it up judiciously, opting neither to kill his diners with excess nor charge them excessively for the privilege: 30 to 40 Euros for 3 courses (before wine) is very reasonable for food this good.
I returned on a rainy day for lunch. I had the egg again, good as the time before, followed by a fricasée of wild duck with quince. I don’t know if there was a problem of execution or if wild duck is always so tough, but I’ll probably stick to its farmed cousin from now on.
Whatever disappointment I felt at that canard sauvage was soon erased by the baba a l’Armagnac I was faced with, not only because it was delicious, but because it got me drunk. Thoroughly drowned with undiluted booze and served with vanilla whipped cream and a plump, Armagnac-soaked prune, this baba is not for babies.
Coffee served with a miniature cannelé, one final southwestern souvenir, was definitely in order. The sun had come out, but this had turned into a wet lunch afterall.
La Cerisaie 70 blvd Edgar Quinet, 75014 Paris, +33 (0)1 43 20 98 98