La Ferme offers French-style dining |

La Ferme offers French-style dining

by Sheila Gardner

They have fed the famous in Los Angeles and the upscale of Incline Village. Now it’s time for the more “laid-back” palates of the Carson Valley to experience the country French cooking of Gilles LaGourgue and his chef Yves Gigot.

Here’s the question: Will La Ferme (The Farm) succeed in Genoa, a community better known for its arguing than its arugula? So far, so good.

LaGourgue was on his way back to California from Incline Village when he discovered the Pink House in Genoa.

The historic building, which has housed several restaurants in the past few years, was empty. LaGourgue had just given up his lease in Incline Village where he successfully operated La Ferme for five years.

He opened La Ferme in Genoa just before Christmas.

“I grew up on a farm myself,” he said, referring to his boyhood home in Helette, France, in the Basque country. “When I opened my restaurant, I called it ‘La Ferme.’ I tried to create a little farm.”

LaGourgue knows he’s dealing with more “meat and potatoes” tastes in Carson Valley than he did at his prior locations. So, he put meat and potatoes on La Ferme’s menu. Only, it’s called entrecote grillee bernaise pomme frites (ribeye and French-fried potatoes). There is also pasta (it’s pasta in French, too) and filet mignon along with venison, duck, chicken, snails and salmon.

“I try to make people feel comfortable with our food. I don’t want them to be scared to try different things,” he said.

“People here (in Carson Valley) like to eat a lot of meat and potatoes. Their idea of French cooking is small portions, lots of cream and very sophisticated, but we use the freshest ingredients – garlic, tomatoes, vegetables and herbs. The portions are good-sized, but when you leave, you don’t feel heavy,” LaGourgue said.

“Ours is a very Provenal style,” he said, referring to the area of France from where the cooking comes, “no cream, butter or sauces.”

In other words, LaGourgue hopes you’ll come for the French fries and stay for the salade de langue d’agneaux vinaigrette (lamb tongue salad vinaigrette) or lapin moutarde (rabbit with mustard sauce).

Then, there are the desserts, all made to order. Favorites include a flourless chocolate cake, apple tart and apricot tart.

La Ferme is the kind of restaurant where diners are encouraged to ask questions. Education is as much of the experience as the wine list. The meal is an event not to be rushed through. Patrons – LaGourgue calls them “clients” – can expect to spend two or three hours over dinner.

LaGourgue seats patrons, clears tables and answers questions about the food. The menu is in French and English.

“I like to get my hands on everything,” he said, explaining why he deals directly with the clientele. “I can get my feet in the kitchen, too, if I have to.”

He has high praise for Gigot, with whom he has worked for 10 years.

“He has a big heart,” LaGourgue said. “He is a very fine man. A lot of chefs would throw knives at you when you go in the kitchen, but not Yves.”

The chef works the kitchen by himself, cooking everything as it is ordered. That means a little time between courses, but those breaks allow LaGourgue the opportunity he loves to interact with the patrons.

“I love people. I love to be with people,” he said. “When I open the restaurant door, the show starts. For me, it’s a show.”

If the restaurant has a mascot, it’s the rooster. Its image is all over the place, on the tablecloths, the curtains, even the stuffed roosters behind the bar. Patrons of LaGourgue from Incline Village gave him a pair of live chickens – the rooster is Albert, the hen, Linda. LaGourgue is building a huge chicken coop for them behind the Pink House.

“My neighbors think I am crazy,” he said.

He said La Ferme attracted a loyal clientele during his five years at Incline Village. People from New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles were regulars when they were in the area.

“People were crying when I left,” LaGourgue said.

The restaurant at the Pink House displays autographed photographs of actors he served in Los Angles and at Incline Village, including Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Sidney Poitier, and Bo Derek.

La Ferme is building up a steady clientele, as well as continuing to serve the faithful who followed LaGourgue from Incline Village to Genoa.

“I want people to give me a chance,” LaGourgue said. “We’re here, come see us.”

All items are a la carte with salads and appetizers priced from $5 to $9.50 and entrees from $15 to $25. La Ferme also offers a wine list featuring a house wine.

The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday with a special opening for Valentine’s Day on Sunday, Feb. 14. Reservations can be made by calling 783-1004.

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