Instants Magazine: Contagious joie de vivre at Les Prés d’Eugénie
This summer as I traveled through France, I had the privilege of visiting and writing about several Relais & Chateaux properties for Relais & Chateaux’s Instants Magazine. I am sharing that work here.
Les Pres d’Eugenie, is the fairytale village in a forest named for the empress, where all food is thanks to Michel Guérard, the creator of Cuisine de Santé, or the French version of “health food.”
Indeed on the grounds I felt as though I’d traveled back in time a century, so quiet were the paths. I wouldn’t have been surprised to have seen a horse drawn carriage with gilded ladies and wigged men coming down the road—the town is a relic of another era. Sculpted hedgerows and ferns that whispered in gentle dusky rain led me to pockets of wild flowers besides little streams and a statue of Venus, on the patio of the hotel and spa.
I met my gang for apero in Loulou’s Lounge, where Old Master paintings and Chinoiserie glowed warm around quiet fires. To our delight, the room shone suddenly brighter as chef Guérard himself—who with his wife Christine has helmed the establishment since 1974—greeted us with contagious joie de vivre (this light was reflected also in his chic and oh-so-French green patent leather Repetto dance shoes—which I have never and will never see another chef wear. I hope are his signature).
Champagne “cocktails” and a trio of amuses-bouches—tomato tartes, quail eggs in mushroom caps & salmon fume with radish & spring pea—appeared before we could make our way to La Ferme aux Grives for dinner. This cozy tavern, with legs of ham hanging from chandeliers and a tableau of vegetables that a still life master would envy, serves the cuisine of Gascogne. Raspberry Gazpacho, Herb-Buttered Snails and Shrimp, Young Grilled Coquerel with spiced gravy and Apple Crustade with Armagnac & Crème would follow, all sourced from the on-premises gardens or purveyors nearby.
It was a meal that certainly defied what I consider of when I think of “diet cuisine,” though admittedly as a food writer, I don’t seek diet food out. It did fit, however, into exactly what I consider to be essential food: sourced locally; cooked carefully; sumptuous; rich in flavor and full of pleasure…which indeed, makes it healthy.