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La Charcuterie

51 Rue des Arènes
Arles , Provence , France
011 33 49 096-5696

Located on a narrow street opening onto the Place du Forum in the heart of old Arles, this former charcuterie dates from 1942. The tiny space is now a winsome bistro with a modest décor of red velvet banquettes and pig figurines. The enterprise is fueled by the passion of François Colcombet, originally from Lyon, and his Arlesian wife, Regouya. Inspired by the tradition of the bouchons lyonnais—tiny bistros with hearty, sausage-based cuisine—François wanted to create a bistro des copains (bistro for friends), as he puts it. Regouya does all the cooking behind the original marble counter, in a space the size of a large sofa. The menu is a carnivore's dream, with main courses that feature Charolais beef, rack of lamb, and grilled duck breast. (For vegetarians stranded here, Regouya is happy to whip up a platter of grilled Mediterranean vegetables, along with a crisp and garlicky mixed green salad.) Make a meal of the charcuterie platter, called the assiette anglaise, a lavish spread of cold cuts and a warm saucisson de Lyon aux pistaches, a mild sausage with chopped pistachio nuts in the filling. A dish this rich needs a dynamic red wine, splurge on the 2000 Côte Rôtie. The pleasures of the inconspicuous Charcuterie have drawn many fans, among them the great foodie Jim Harrison, who chronicled his experience here in his memoir Off to the Side. Harrison might be amused to know that the Colcombets' chocolate Labrador retriever, Lanvin, has gnawed their copy of his book to shreds.

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