Tuesday, October 4

After an early breakfast, we set out from Alba to Valence, France, a six-hour trip that we broke up with a lunch in Briancon, in the French Alps. The restaurant I chose was Le Peche Gourmande, which turned out to be fabulous.

It’s interesting to note that the chef is an Australian woman and her French husband does the serving. He was incredibly efficient handling several tables single-handedly and the timing of the dishes was perfect.

This is what we ate:

Amuse – smoked salmon. cauliflower, cauliflower cream

Foie gras terrine

Oyster tartare with sushi rice

Duck breast

Lamb shoulder


Chocolate assortment

With an excellent bottle of Crozes Hermitage, water and coffee, the bill was 135.

We arrived at the Atrium Hotel in Valence in the early evening. The location was excellent, just a few blocks from the old center, and parking was free. The rate of 90 euros a day was a steal.

The room was quite large and very quiet, with a kitchenette, and a bathroom with a big walk-in shower.

Dinner in Valence was at Flaveurs, which has a Michelin star. I’m not sure it was deserved.

Everything was very good, but there is no printed menu and everyone gets the same dishes. This place seems a bit too serious for its own good. The 58 euro menu includes two starters, a main dish and two desserts. Everything they served us was fish or seafood, i.e. shrimp, squid and trout. With a 32 euro bottle of Ardeche wine, and water, the bill was 173.

Wednesday, 10/5

In the morning, we took a walk around Valence and attempted to see the cathedral, but it was closed.

Then off to lunch in Montelimar. I had two restaurants in mind, and after checking out the menus we chose Cafe de l’Ardeche, which was quite elegant and had a nice lunch deal for 30 euros.

Stanley started with a poached egg with coco beans, then had the pork belly, and a lemon tart topped with granny smith apple slices. I had veal tartare to start, then tuna in a phyllo crust with a carrot and orange terrine, and chocolate millefeuille.

With wine, water and coffee, the bill was 114.

After lunch we took a brief stroll in the old quarter.

Back to the car, we headed out on scenic country roads to Grignan and Nyons, cited as among the most charming villages in the Drome.

After Nyons we took a faster route back to Valence, where we had dinner at La Cachette. This is another Michelin starred restaurant, and though it was expensive, it was a pretty much flawless experience.

The unassuming entry and sparsely decorated room give little indication of the superb food to come. As at Flaveurs, there is no choice of dishes. The chef is Japanese and the dishes show that influence. The menu lists the courses and the prix-fixe is 98 euros. Here is a photo of the menu:

We chose an unusual but very good wine from the Languedoc for 55 euros, one of the lowest priced on the list. With aperitifs and water, the total was 276. This was our most expensive meal so far on this trip, but though it may seem high, if it were in New York it would have been multiples of that. Dinner took nearly three hours and was a most enjoyable evening.

Thursday, 10/6

Getting an early start, we again drove on some challenging roads to Saint Romain de Lerps, which turned out to be rather disappointing. It has a commanding view but the town itself was dull. Continuing on, we reached Aubenas, a charming small city with some good restaurants.

We had lunch at Notes de Saveurs, which has a lovely terrace with beautiful views.

Here is the lunch menu:

We had both choices for the first two courses, and one dessert, the poached pear and chocolate. The food was delicious, and we had an excellent bottle of Ardeche wine for 26.

With coffees, the total was 99.

After lunch, we went to Alba-la-Romaine, which was cute, but the Roman ruins were not very interesting.

Chateau of Alba-la-Romaine, much of it a ruin.

Back in Valence, we had dinner at Andre Bistrot, which is adjacent to and associated with Maison Pic, a Michelin 3-star where dinner costs 380 euros (!).

Stanley ordered the prix-fixe at 43 and had the guinea hen terrine, braised beef and poached pear (which we shared). I ordered a la carte, the grilled octopus and seafood sausage. We had a very nice bottle of Crozes Hermitage for 50. While it may seem inexpensive compared with its sister restaurant, this was good bistro cooking, but nothing particularly creative or exciting. I’m sure there are other local bistros that would be as good and a lot cheaper. With aperitifs and water, the total was 171.

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