At Le Castellas, to guess who else is coming for dinner is always part of fun. You can count on the goats, but we’ve also been joined by cats, dogs, sheep, and pigs.
On our last visit, a horse came to the table and a fox watched from a short distance.
Deep in the very heart of the Luberon, about 22 kilometers (a little over 12 miles) from our favorite village Lourmarin, lies the tiny village of Sivergues. With an elevation of 584 meters (1917 feet), it is the highest inhabited village in this area. Last count, there are 49 people who call Sivergues their home.
The very narrow winding road that takes you to this village is not for the faint of heart. I assure you that once you arrive and pry your fingers loose from the steering wheel, you can wrap them around a glass of rosé and step into another world. It is a magnificent setting….but do hold on to the glass—and, in fact, hold on to everything—because, as I wrote above, you never know when others may want to horn in on your dinner party!
We have enjoyed lunch and dinner at Le Castellas at least ahalf dozen times
in the past ten years. The beauty of the area always takes my breath away and the…
meal never disappoints. The mood is light and conversation inevitably flows like the wine, punctuated only by laughter and an occasional four-footed visitor.
In August, we returned to Le Castellas for dinner, taking with us two family friends who had never been. It was a perfect Provencal evening with lovely lighting that bounced off the huge rock formations and illuminated the verdant vegetation on our drive through this beloved Natural Park to our destination. As you will read, La Ferme de Chèvre certainly lived up to its reputation.
The goats are always the first to greet you. As we walked toward the cluster of buildings, the herd meandered around the five of us, probably trying to discern who would later toss some food their way or, even better, look the other way so they could get right up and take what they want!
We could see the long banquet-style tables in the distance. The number of place settings suggested a crowd (underscoring the importance of booking in advance, dear readers, as our enthusiasm for eating with the farm animals is clearly shared by many locals and travelers alike).
Le Castellas is actually a restaurant, farm (ferme), and hostel (auberge), all rolled into one. A 16th-century stone farmhouse on a 160 hectare (2000 acre) estate of gorgeous natural beauty that offers bed-and-breakfast for up to 65 people—with a low- cost that matches its rusticity. It is very popular with hikers and horseback riders or others who simply want minimal amenities with maximum escape potential. Le Castellas also accommodates special occasions such as weddings or birthdays as well as meetings and seminars.
Gianni, who oversees the property, first set eyes on it 35 years ago. Originally from Sardinia, Gianni said that, at the time, he was a “vagabond farmer.” But, he said he knew “in 30 seconds” that he wanted to stay at Le Castellas and provide accommodation and “feast food” for people. He envisioned “long tables filled with people enjoying good hearty food, outside surrounded by natural beauty.”
Gianni was there the night we came for dinner, greeting his guests and seating them at the long banquet tables he envisioned so many years ago.
Animals—goats, cats, and a horse—came and went, each hoping to score some food and thoroughly charming the guests.
Our meal began with platters of sliced ham—as flavorful as I have ever had—and roasted peppers. Of course, baskets of bread and pitchers of local rosé were strategically placed on the tables.
As the sun began to set, the main course came out the kitchen door, on a five-foot length of wood carried by two men: six roasts of pork.
The roasts were sliced with considerable precision as well as a good deal of pomp and circumstance and then heaped on a dozen or so large platters, along with einkorn and lentils, to be taken to each party. It was the stuff of feasts!
I was very surprised to see the einkorn—an ancient grain long grown in Provence that seems to be enjoying a resurgence of interest in the States now—and Gianni was pleased we recognized the grain, épeautre in French. (We became acquainted with épeautre at the market in Apt
“It’s the grain of the peasants,” he said. (Although, actually, today it is the grain of the wealthy.)
While we thoroughly enjoyed every morsel, the sky darkened into a deep blue filled with stars and a sliver of the moon. Soon the cheese course arrived: eight chèvres representing the continuum of very fresh to this-can’t-possibly-age-another-minute! I said a prayer and tried them all and, while the oldest were, shall we say “pungent,” I lived to write the post!
We lingered as long as we could, chatting with Gianni and the people dining around us, until the effects of the wine had worn off and our sweaters were no longer sufficient. We bid goodnight to all—including the animals, now tucked in for the night in their pen—and we headed back to Lourmarin.
What a memorable evening!
There is still time enjoy such a feast at Les Castellas: the restaurant now offers lunch and dinner (and accommodation) year-round. Dining services move indoors to a large room with vaulted ceilings and a big fireplace sometime around mid-November, keeping the same kind of meal. Gianni assured us the animals will be there to greet you…but, of course, aren’t allowed indoors!
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