Les Temps des Vendages, Toulouse France
If you leave the old center of Toulouse, crossing the Garonne via the pont Saint-Pierre, you will arrive in the left bank quarter of Saint-Cyprian. Less picturesque and with fewer sites to attract visitors, this side of the river offers instead the charm the of a French town quietly going about its daily routines.
Located on the pocket sized Place de l’Estrapade at the center of the Saint-Cyprian, Les Temps des Vendages is at heart a cave or wine shop. The walls of the tiny front room are lined with bottles that reflect owner Eric Cuestas’ passion for organic, biodynamic and natural wines, what he calls Vins d’Artisans. By virtue of a tiny kitchen at the back and 10 small tables tucked in between the cases of wine, the cave becomes cave a manger at lunch time. Each day, the kitchen offers a short menu of seasonal dishes that look simple but surprise with their depth of flavor and technical accomplishment.
On a day in late May, one starter was a golden-yolked farm egg baked en cocotte with cream, raclette cheese , parsley and peas. A main course featured half a roasted chicken served with a salad of red feuille de chêne lettuce and potato puree. Very simple dishes both but perfectly executed. As each plate was delivered, the server chatted amiably about the various farms from which came the eggs, chicken and raw milk raclette,
A cheese course we ordered was composed of a drippingly ripe Brie de Meaux, a cow’s milk tome from the Ariege hamlet of Bethmale and a herb crusted sheep’s milk cheese from Corsica. The owner selected these from a small but very packed display case full of cheese and charcuterie at the back of the room. Are these today’s cheeses, I asked? No, he selected these to match the bottle of red wine from the Clos de Tue Bouef in the Touraine that we had been drinking.
By the time that a dessert of goat’s milk panna cotta with gariguette strawberries (a specialty of the region) arrived, it had become clear that this simple little cafe and wine shop is anything but. Instead, it offers something that is rare these days. Impeccably sourced food and wine, prepared and served with skill and an amazingly humble sense of the virtues of a job well done.
Afternoons finds the pleasant terrace out front filled with tables of friends sharing a bottle of wine and a plate of charcuterie or cheese. Neighbors pass by to purchase a bottle and some cheese or rillettes to take home. Just another day in paradise.
Lest Temps des Vendages
Address: 9 Place de l’Estrapade, 31300 Toulouse, France
Tel: o5 61 42 94 66
Reservations: Lots of space on the terrace, but if the weather is bad, reserve on of the 10 tables inside.