At 20:00, we began our meal by ordering the charcuterie as a starter. I ordered the duck as my main, and, for the life of me, I cannot remember what everyone else ordered – while they were ordering, I was led away to the vinotheque to choose what we would be drinking. Because L’Epicerie Gourmande is actually a teahouse/restaurant/wineshop with local foodstuffs and the occasional local handicraft, they’ve got a great selection of Loire wines. The wineshop part acts as the walk-in cellar for diners. You choose your wine(s), drink them and pay the same price as if you’d bought it in the store. Awesome.
To complement our charcuterie, we’d ordered a local rose. It went down extremely well with the local meats. The Finn (an afficianado for all things cured, smoked, etc.) pronounced the plate excellent, so we ordered a refill of all of the above.
As we had our meal, drank the wine, ordered more, commenting to one another on how incredibly good everything was, how pretty the presentation, how nice the service, and reviewing the day, the whole repast became a too-loud, too-much-fun, too much wine experience. At some point, I noticed that the loudness wasn’t just us. The whole restaurant (it’s not big – maybe like a medium-sized living room) was buzzing. The one pair of American?/Canadian? Tourists (they all look the same, non?) had left, and I realized that the rest of the crowd was honestly local. Most of the space was taken up by a group of families and friends – clearly friends with the other hippie-chick owner who was tending the bar. They were having a great time, we were having a great time, and when it came time to (naturally) move from wine to digestifs, they were happy to raucously recommend what we needed to drink. We took their recommendations more than once, toasting to their health, while they toasted to ours.
We stayed until closing, enjoying the atmosphere, the drink and the friendliness of strangers. And people wonder why I do these trips...