We took the train from Antibes to Nîmes (a 3-hour trip with a connection in Marseilles), where we rented a car and headed off to Les Demeures du Ranquet on the D982 just before Tornac in the Département du Gard (30). The hotel grounds were lovely, with fountains and sculptures scattered all around in a wooded area, and walkways which lead to the individual rooms, each with its own terrace with table and chairs where breakfast is served when the weather is warmer.
After settling into our room, which was named Cannelle (Cinnamon), we raided the room’s minibar, and indulged ourselves in a glass of champagne on our sun-filled, but chilly, terrace. We had heard that the hotel was out in the middle of nowhere, and it was. We decided we had time for a short hike before dinner, but it wasn’t obvious where we could find the hiking trails from the hotel, although I’m certain that they do exist – maybe this just isn’t the time of year for hiking in this area. So, instead, we set out for a drive to the village of Anduze, which was only about ten minutes away by car.
With a population of about 3,000 inhabitants, Anduze is situated in the rocky foothills of the Cévennes mountains, and serves as the Porte des Cévennes – the entrance to the Cévennes mountain range. It has been known since the 17th century for its unique pottery, in the shape of a large urn-like vase on a short pedestal base, decorated with insignias and draped garlands. Even the Sun King (Louis XIV) had orange trees planted in the Italian-style Vases d’Anduze on the grounds of the royal residence at le Château de Versailles.
We returned to our hotel in time to get ready for the real reason for this trip. We came here to stay at Les Demeures du Ranquet so that we could partake in the monthly Winemaker’s Dinner served at their restaurant, “Le Ranquet”, headed by one of the few women chefs in the area, Anne Marjourel. We lucked out on this month’s dinner in the middle of truffle season, because it was also a Truffle Feast, with truffles served with every course. This month’s featured winemaker was Monsieur Thierry Hasard of Domaine de la Marfée in Murviel les Montpellier. We started the evening nibbling hors d’oeuvres and mingling with the other guests in a large reception area of the hotel surrounded by art work. The hotel also serves as the Contemporary Art Foundation, providing temporary art exhibitions throughout the year, and sometimes organizing dinners with the artists. We felt like we were at a private party, and Jean-Luc Marjourel (the proprietor and husband of the chef) made us feel very welcome by making small talk and telling us about some of the art work. Monsieur Hasard, tonight’s winemaker, also spoke to us and explained to us how he got into the winemaking business. After hors d’oeuvres and our first wine tasting, we were seated at large tables. Our table included seven other dinner guests from the local region, who were gracious enough to engage us in conversation throughout the dinner, and were very patient with our French. Between each course, Monsieur Hasard described each wine and included many anecdotes from his winemaking experience, most of which went over our heads because his French was spoken so quickly. But, it was a very enjoyable evening, and the dinner was stupendous. It was also a long evening, with the festivities beginning at 7:45pm. When they asked us what time we would like to have breakfast delivered to our room, we didn’t realize that it was already past 1:00am.
M. et Mme Hasard
Domaine de la Marfée
Murviel les Montpellier
Chef de Cuisine
Dîner de Vin & Festin de Truffe
Chips de Truffes, Douceur au Coing Rôti, Brouillade et Saumon
Vin Blanc 2004 “Frissons d’Ombelles”
Le Velouté de Cresson, Boudin Croustillant, Crème Fouettée Truffée
L’Escalope de Foie Gras Poêlée,
Purée de Châtaigne au Citron, Jus Truffé
Vin Rouge 2004 “Les Gamines”
La Brandade Demi-Deuil
avec le Pavé de la Mer lardé de Truffe
Vin Blanc 2004 “Frissons d’Ombelles”
L’Onglet de Boeuf Juste Saisi, Jus Corsé au Romarin,
écrasée de Pomme de Terre à la Truffe
La Salade de Mâche du Jardin,
Le Bouillon de Navet Parfumé
Vin Rouge 2004 “Les Champs Murmurés”
Le Service des Fromages
Vin Rouge 2004 “Les Vignes Qu’on Abat”
La Coupe de Fruits Pochés, Sabayon à la Truffe