Archive for the 'France' Category

Le Pont Aux Chats – Strasbourg

From a meal in 2008

This was one of the few restaurants that required re-confirmation one week in advance. We certainly did not know why. There were only 3 tables of 2 all night including ours.

The Chef, Valere Diochet, had been sous-chef for Antoine Westermann at Buerehiesel for 13 years … a venerable Strasbourg 3 Star that has gone downhill and now has 1 star. Diochet takes great pride in using only the freshest products. His speciality is fish and shellfish. His product is definitely good, but his execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Amuse:

1. Some sort of vegetable broth with ginger–boring!!!

amuse-pont

 

2. A rectangular cracker with a thin line of some sort of fish puree.

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1st course:

John- 4 thick slices of cold smoked salmon with a small salad of celeriac–boring, boring!!!

pont-2

 

me–4 raw slices of scallops on a bed of carrot puree and hazelnuts. This had zero flavor. I have had over 12 scallop preparations on this trip and this ranks as the worse.

pont-3

 

2nd course:

John-pan seared rouget with potatoes and chorizo–not bad, the chorizo and rouget combo was interesting.

pont-4

 

me–a thick slab of bar with shallots, ratte potatoes, garlic and chestnuts. The skin on the bar was mushy and the fish tasteless. I did like the potatoes.

pont-5

 

Mignardises – don’t have a clue

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Wine:

2004 Meursault Les Clous Domaine Javiller–we were sick of Alsatian wine by this point, back to good Burgundy, a nice treat.

 

Summary:

A chef and his wife doing their thing and trying we are sure, but the execution is very poor. There was nothing to recommend this moderately expensive little restaurant.

Stephane Derbord – Dijon

From a meal in 2006.

Stephane Derbord (Michelin 1-star) Dijon:
http://www.restaurantstephanederbord.fr/     

I had read about Derbord on a food blog and owe thanks to Chocolate and Zucchini for “discovering” this restaurant. One stars can be iffy experiences – some are good and some are horrid. This one is definitely good. 

The room is charming – well spaced tables, beautiful flower arrangements, contemporary without being stark.

dijon-room-11

dijon-room-21

 

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Amuse:
1. Croque Monsieur-a miniaturized version of the classical ham and cheese sandwich.
2. Smoked trout mousse with a sesame seed coated baton
3. Parmesan tuile with jambon (ham) 
4. Cromesqui of tomato

Excellent, inventive, not avant-garde, but well conceived and well made.

 

dijon-apps-11

Amuse # 2:
1. In a wide shot glass, beef tartar done the traditional way with capers and onions and topped with horseradish cream.

2. Warm cream of asparagus soup topped by a triangle of crisp filo.

3. Feuillete (flaky pastry) stuffed with some type of fish mixture and frise with black sesame seeds on the side. There was some type of foam, but my notes are no help.

Again each dish was quite good with the nod going to the beef tartar.

 

dijon-frogs1

1st Course:
Cannelloni de Farce Fine de Grenouilles, Veloute de chou-Fleur, Emulsion au Cresson.
The veloute of cauliflower was at the top and bottom of the plate, the watercress emulsion was at the center and a frog’s leg sat on top of both. The cannelloni was horizontally placed and stuffed with chopped frog’s legs and a traditional parsley “sauce”. The cannelloni was a bit tough, but the “stuffing” was excellent. 

 

dijon-shrimp

2nd Course:
Me – Les queses de Langoustines en carcasse, chapelure du Polenta au lard fume, puree de petits pois, mousse au saffron.

4 langoustines were presented in the shell on a beautiful blue glass rectangular plate. The langoustines sat on polenta “batons” that were studded with smoked bacon. A line of pea puree was placed across the top and bright yellow saffron foam (mousse) draped each langoustine. The langoustines were delicious, but the polenta overwhelmed the dish. I ended up deconstructing the dish to highlight the langoustines not the polenta. All in all, though, a good dish.

 

dijon-meat

John -2nd course- Filet d”Agneu deu Bourbonnais Roti a l’Ail, compote de tomatoes et courgettes confites, salad d’ herbes a l’Huile d” Argan. Lamb filet roasted with garlic accompanied by thinly sliced eggplant rolled around tomato confit, baby carrot slices, a roasted cherry tomato and a smaller “salad” with argan oil. 

Delicious subtle flavors. A good hit for John.

 

dijon-cheese

3rd Course Cheese cart:
Can’t go wrong – great selection and nice service.

 

 

dijon-dessert-4

4th Course: Dessert:

Me – Strawberries
1. Strawberry gratin
2. In a glass of strawberry juice a lollipop much like an Eskimo pie filled with strawberry mousse
3. A millefeuille of puff pastry and strawberry cream.
4. Fresh tiny strawberries in a syrup of violets.

 

dijon-dessert2

John – vanilla in 3 flavors.
1. Millefeuille of the puff pastry with vanilla cream
2. Cold soufflé with caramel
3. An ice-cream cone with vanilla ice cream

 

dijon-dessert1

Mignardises
1. A bon bon filled with vanilla cream.
2. Macaroons
3. type of yogurt
4. some type of cookie

 

dijon-last-piuc

Citron de Crème Legere. A digestif very reminiscent of lemonade.

Summary:
Stephane Derbord was a pleasant surprise-a solid 1-star with a charming chef’s wife leading and managing the competent front-of-the-house team. This plus a very committed chef and staff who demonstrate the chef’s passion on the plate made for a delicious lunch.

   

 

 

 

 


 

Michel Bras – Laguiole

From a meal in 2006

Laguiole is a magical place.  The landscape and setting of Laguiole is so much a part of the cuisine. It is just breathtaking to sit and watch the countryside change and unfold with the burning sun and then the emerging stars. 

Quoting Michel Bras:

 “Aubrac runs in our blood. We were born on the plateau, we spent our happy childhoods here, now we work here. Aubrac provides us with our inspiration, our reason for living. Aubrac is also our crucible, the place where all our creative energies converge: there where our vision is sharpened, our  hearing made more acute, our senses of taste, touch and smell formed and developed. Like the waterfalls, the lakes, the beech trees, even the cattle, we are born of Aubrac. We are formed in its image, by its texture, its build, its bouquet …. its song.”

To take Bras out of Aubrac would be liking taking the essence out of the man himself. I honestly don’t think you can separate one from the other. Would Bras have been moved to be a chef in some other place – who knows. But to speculate on that is not what Bras wants you to do. The entire experience at Michel Bras is centered on the region. To quote him again,” The buildings have all been designed around the principle of discovery and enjoyment of Aubrac……The bedrooms …. have been designed to let you feel in perfect harmony with nature’s scents, with the flowers and with the songs of the birds….. The restaurant looks out over the countryside, allowing the light to flood in.”

To say Bras is absolutely gorgeous is a massive understatement.  We were shown to # 11, our  favorite room is the last room.  It is named “Space d’Aubrac”…huge picture windows provide a breathtaking view of the country-side—absolutely magnificent.

bras1

Room #11

 

bras-11

bras-21

The view from the room

By 8:00 we were ready for deux coupes de champagne.  We were seated in the lounge with a different, but equally wonderful, view.

(unfortunately no photos of the meal)

Amuses:

Amuses were the signature Bras dishes.  A perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg served in its shell, with a bottom layer of deep brown mushrooms jus (I think),accompanied by a rectangular bread stick made with whole grains and covered with seeds.

Next up was a warm cepe tart

2nd Amuses:

1. quinoa and citrine

2.  marinated lotte on a cauliflower cream

3.  beef gelee consommé with saffron.

Our favorite was the quinoa—more for texture  than taste.

After ordering dinner and wine,we were shown to a lovely table by the window.  As the evening progresses you watch the country-side glow in the setting sun.  Later the ceiling lights up with images of wind-blown clouds.  

1st Course:

Le Gargouillou of Young Vegetables—this is a dish that has been described ad infinitum, but regardless, it is an unbelievable medley of 30/40 vegetables, each cooked separately.   Additionally, there are all manner of leaves, herbes, and flowers strewn over the plate.  Finally a thin slice of smoked ham or bacon. Then  7 vegetable purees were added, ringing the plate.  Each vegetable has its own taste and texture.  You marvel at the complexity of the dish.  

Knife instructions:

When the first dish was presented, the younger Mrs.Bras also advised that the beautiful, custom Laguoile knives would not be replaced with the removal of the used dishes. 
They wanted us to utilize the special notch for resting the knife to the side of the plate as we ate and them put the knife (dirty or not) into its position in the special sterling
silver holder provided for the knife (dirty) and a clean spoon and fork. Actually ,a beautiful, rich presentation of utensils that are fine art.

2nd Course:

Turbot from Be’ganton poached and pan-fried with “lactee acide” (milky acid) and coriander.  This was just a perfect piece of turbot.  As a side-note, I was tired of so much note-taking and decided to rely on menu descriptions—big mistake!!  Each course had multiple vegetables and I don’t have a clue what they were in this
dish. 

3rd Course:

Duck foie gras pan-fried in a bullion of “pomme de terre” (potato) garlic and sorrel.  The foie gras was like nothing we have ever tasted.  In some respects it resembled the warm Tourchon of Foie at The French Laundry—but it was so compact that you could cut the foie into 1/16” thin slices.  As for texture, it was firm yet creamy and soft and it melted in your mouth.  The accompaniments were lost in a blur of flavors.

4th Course:

This course was billed as “from the North and the South”.  Four green asparagus spears from Roussillon were served with a black truffle butter.  Good, but by this point we were feeling veggie overload.

5th Course:

Roasted saddle of Lamb on the bone from Allaito served with vinaigrette of mache and vegetables l’agastache.  

6th course:

Cheese—not a large variety, mostly local cheeses, but served perfectly.

7th course:

We wimped out on desserts.

Summary:

Over-all impression—Bras is becoming more “corporate”.  It does not have the intimate, country inn feeling we remembered.  It is
absolutely a beautiful place and the Gargouillou worth the price of admission.  The younger Mrs. Bras could not be more cordial.  We had a long conversation about children and the restaurant business.

Next day we ordered breakfast in the room – an absolute must. 

bras-3

bras-4

Michel Bras sends a wooden basket decorated with flowers, a thermos of coffee, juice, creme caramel, honey, jam, bread, pastries, another basket of specialities of Laguiole, a cake filled with fruit, yogurt with strawberries and cheese.

Le St Julien – Beychevelle

We were not able to get a reservation at Cordeillan-Bages for dinner, but they recommended in Beychevelle the Restaurant Le St. Julien, a little restaurant about 10 minutes away. It is small and cozy with country-type cuisine.

st-j-2

 

A number of photos didn’t come out so I won’t post them.

Not pictured – An amuse of mousse de champignons on the bottom of a shot glass, then a layer of some type of herb mousse with bacon on top. Nice, with no bells and whistles.

First Course 
Not pictured – my husband – Ravioli of mushrooms – good, well made

Me – Marinated Salmon with creme fraiche and salmon eggs

st-salmon

 
Second Course Parfait of Artichoke and Foie Gras served cold- this was excellent once I deconstructed the dish and moved the greens to the side

st-j-artichoke

 

Wine

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Third Course

My husband – Pork with Ginger

st-j-meat2

 

Me – Pigeon en cocotte with small French peas

st-j-pigeon

 

The Chef – Claude Broussard

chef-st-j

This wasn’t fancy cooking; it was more reminiscent of grand-mere cuisine. But it was much better than some of the other non-starred restaurants we tried.

http://www.le-saint-julien.fr/

Decoret – Vichy

A caveat – this is not a recent meal, but I still thought it might be a relevant post.

Decoret – lunch

We were really looking forward to this dining experience as Decoret was billed as one of the chefs to really watch and that his blend of avant-garde cuisine was fun as well as delicious. We decided on the “menu confiance JD” – in other words we put our faith on the chef.

 

Outside the restaurant

 

1st Course – A lunch tray or T.V. snack plate is presented with 4 small tastes. In a cellophane packet, a bunch of dried ‘petals” of vegetables, on a potato used for support only, 2 potato chips flecked with some sort of herb, in a small mason jar, deep-fried tiny fish (seemed like a type of smelt) and a millefeuille of red and black radish with diced salmon seasoned with sesame seeds and sesame oil between the radish slices.

 

2nd Course – In a plastic glass, small 1/8 inch dice of asparagus on the bottom, the “milk” of green asparagus, then a parmesan foam layer topped with a parmesan slice. To the right was a clever delivery system – a cone, printed like a crossword puzzle with parmesan crisps. (Photo is out-of-focus – blame John)

 

3rd Course – Foie Gras de canard poele en choucroute imaginaire, assaisonne au sel de lard Alsacien. This had as much to do with a choucroute as a pile of white beans resembles cassoulet. The sauteed foie sat on a cabbage leaf with a line of cabbage gelee topped with a small piece of bacon. To the right was some pool of purple that I couldn’t identify.

Now, if you want to see what a great chef can do to re-create an imaginary choucroute see what I said about Ludo’s dish.

 

Veal, Imaginary Choucroute – cumin and mustard sauce, coleslaw gelee, braised red cabbage with lard, frankfurt sausage, braised bok choy, steamed fingerling potato. I loved the imagination, the taste and the conception of this dish. The veal chops are first presented on the bone and placed on a serving cart. The veal is then carved, then plated with the “choucroute” and enrobed with the sauce. Delicious

 

4th Course – Un feuille de sucrine cru et tiede, les escargot pris dans un coque de pain et les copeaux de chevre. On cold lettuce (sucrine) sat what resembled a cromesquis of snails with traditional snail saucing – butter, garlic and parsley. To the right was the “warm” lettuce leaf and 2 shavings of goat cheese. Actually, I enjoyed this dish as I thought the delivery system was imaginative and the snails not at all rubbery.

 

5th Course – Oyster – A balloon is presented in an oyster shell with a purple type string at the top of the balloon. You are instructed to place the ball in your mouth, and then bite down while pulling on the string. There is an explosion in your mouth of thick oyster bouillon (more milky and thick than a thin bouillon). OK, everyone’s description of this dish as the ultimate blowjob is descriptive and approximates the experience. Clever, fun and tasty.

 

6th Course – Crusted grilled mackerel topped by long, thin spirals off beets that I am guessing was done with that Japanese cutter for daikon. Saucing was what the menu described as a “marinade” —- obviously this meant a seasoned liquid in which the fish had been steeped, but no hints were given as to what the liquid was. The quality of the fish was poor.

 

7th Course – European bass (bar sauvage du Finistere) confit at 50 degrees with a sauce of jus de navets Parisien (turnips). At the top of the plate was a rectangular log of cooked and raw cauliflower that was awful. Also on top of the bass was the turnip sauce. The bass itself can only be described as ordinary.

 

8th Course – On a bed of spinach sat a poor quality lamb chop – 71 poele that I assume means pan-fried at 71 degrees. At the top right was a mound of horseradish cream, then a pile of capers and finally a quenelle of chorizo. To the left of the chop a croustillant with capers. The lamb was inedible.

 

9th Course – Fromage Blanc with Honey

 

10th Course – Cheese Plate

 

11th Course – Strawberries with Rhubarb Foam

 

12th Course – The Palate Destroyer – Placed on a battery was a small flower that you were suppose to place in your mouth. Well, it definitely shocks your mouth and there is a sensation of intense heat plus numbness and your palate is destroyed for the rest of the meal.

 

13th and 14th Course – I don’t have a clue – I couldn’t taste anything after number 12.

Somehow we had pissed off the sommelier as he completely ignored us. The lamb was served and our untouched red wine sat on a table yards away. Madame Decoret was busy with paperwork and had her back to the restaurant most of the time. Our waitress was cordial enough, but not exactly knowledgeable about the ingredients that the chef was using.

We were unimpressed with Decoret. Ingredient quality was poor, especially noticeable when the “special effects” were absent. Sometimes the hype was more on the menu descriptions i.e. the imaginary choucroute than the actual dish, Decoret is not a restaurant that I would go out off my way for and given the choice, I would avoid.

 


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