|Once in a while, you want to go to a restaurant where the food will be spectacular and elegantly presented, where you’ll be left to eat at your leisure and not asked incessantly how each and every course tastes. A restaurant where you know you’ll spend a lot of money because you’ve decided that you want a food event. Nothing against good everyday eateries, but there are times when nothing less than a destination restaurant will do. If you happen to be in the neighborhood and need an evening of food bliss, try Le Moulin à Huile in Vaison la Romaine in northern Provence.
You know us — we’re not prone to unqualified rhapsodies, so let’s say right away that Le Moulin is not an absolute, unequivocal success. The interior is bland and too brightly lit. (When we sat inside, we noticed a painting of a scary yet maudlin clown on the wall.) Try to get a seat in the garden overlooking the river instead, weather permitting, even though you’ll be seated on a plastic chair. And on our second visit, the service was a bit indifferent. But these things were far overshadowed by the food, which was inventive yet still traditional, to be savored the way you would a good glass of wine – enticing aroma, a burst of flavor, and a long finish.
And then there were the offerings between courses, none listed on the menu, but every bit as wonderful as any of the expected dishes. The most memorable of them looked like a jelly doughnut, but was filled with melting, oozing, Camenbert cheese, had a sprinkling of coarse salt on the top, and was served with a carrot-ginger puree on the side. We were pretty much stuffed to the gills by then, but after the first couple of bites we had to finish it. This is our attempt to recreate it at home.
The recipe is made over two days and has three things that usually scare people off: making a yeast dough, rolling it out, and deep frying. You will need a stand mixer, a 2.5-inch round cutter, a candy/deep fry thermometer, some time, and as Julia Child used to say, the courage of your convictions. On the plus side, though, it contains two of our major food groups – deep fried (fill in the blank here) and cheese. Needless to say, you should buy the best Camenbert you can find. You can freeze the doughnuts after you’ve formed them, and then let them thaw and rise before frying, so you may want to consider doubling the recipe and freezing half. Make the puree ahead of time and reheat it to serve with the doughnuts. And, of course, serve a spectacular wine – like Les Terrasses du Belvédère Cuvée Prestige. You’ve gone through all the trouble to deep fry, for heaven’s sake, so reward yourself!
And what’s more – to challenge someone to actually *make* these – bring one over to either of our houses and you’ll receive a free bottle of wine, compliments of First Vine. Yes, we love fried cheese *that* much. Oh and we love you too, of course.
Dare & Tom