June 19, 2013
During our recent trip to Corsica, we chanced upon U Salognu -- "the sunny place," in Corsican -- as we do many of our happiest discoveries: by following a roadside sign.
"Traditional Corsican cuisine," the sign promised from a grassy shoulder off the road that leads from Cargese to Piana. We hadn't had lunch yet, the hour was creeping dangerously into mid-afternoon territory, and we pulled over hopefully.
It was an old sheep pen made of stone, like there are thousands of abandoned ones across the island, but this one had been restored and turned into a tiny restaurant: six tables inside, and maybe twice more on a terrace outside, overlooking a deep, untouched valley with a waterfall in the far distance.
On the door, another sign announced, "Our menu is composed of ingredients from local sheep breeders and our own farm." We looked at each other with mirror twinkles in our eyes.
Luckily, it was still time to get lunch. We settled at an outside table, and opted for the twenty-euro, three-course menu. What followed was an unforgettable meal: an exercise in simplicity and the perfect use of perfect ingredients.
It started with a plate of charcuterie, made by the owner with pigs he raises, slaughters*, and butchers: from left to right, saucisson (dried sausage), lonzu (made with tenderloin meat), and coppa (made with sirloin meat).
Next up was a lamb chop from a nearby farm, served with potatoes roasted in olive oil, tender nuggets specked with dried herbs.
Finally, Maxence had the sheep's milk cheese, made by the owner's brother and served with housemade fig jam...
... while I sighed my way through a small bowl of soft candied clementines, tangy and sweet.
Over the course of this, and then two subsequent lunches -- we just couldn't stay away -- we spent some time chatting with the Albertinis, the couple who run U Salognu. It was early in the season and the restaurant wasn't very busy, so we lingered on the terrace with them over cups of coffee.
They were generous with their stories, and we loved hearing about their militant approach to animal breeding and food production -- how they have to resist European regulations in order to stick to the traditional ways, and how they strive to revive an agricultural activity that was all but abandoned when so many of their parents' generation left Corsica to find work on the mainland. We also delighted in the contrast between their laid-back attitude and their uncompromising standards.
There is a tiny storefront attached to the restaurant, and from there we bought a bit of charcuterie (boar saucisson made with a boar that had plowed its way into their pig pen), a couple of jars of candied clementines (they will be perfect with vanilla ice cream this summer), and two bags of chestnut flour from their own chestnut grove, unlike any I've ever tasted -- so sweet and cookie-like you want to eat it with a spoon.
U Salognu is on the D81 road that leads from Cargese to Piana -- closer to Piana than Cargese, on your right-hand side when coming from Cargese. The phone number is +33 (0)6 72 89 38 84.
* According to French regulation, he should bring the animals to a central slaughterhouse. He explained to us that he did once, and it was such a revolting experience that he would rather do the slaughtering on his own farm and be fined for it.
[Hungry for more Corsican eats and sights? Check the highlights from my previous trip.]
Stratford and Toronto Recommendations