Going to France this year, given the euro to the dollar ratio, was punishing. The right side of the menu became very important and the wines we chose were modest. We devised a system of splits – one for two. First of all portion size was huge and splitting dishes allowed us to taste many more dishes plus keep the price somewhat reasonable. Below are our favorite dishes from our March trip. Our favorite restaurant, outside of Paris, was L’Arnsbourg in Baerenthal. It is an inspirational place in a magical setting. The chef, Jean-Georges Klein takes you on a seductive culinary voyage. Cathy, his sister guarantees superlative service. Actually, I am doing an injustice to the restaurant to only mention 3 dishes as the experience must be the full tasting menu. See my post on this site for the full experience.
Troisgros - Mezaluna of potatoes, artichoke and black truffle. This was the dish of the night—absolutely off the charts perfect. The potato was very thinly sliced, encasing a black truffle…think of potato ravioli. It floated in a vinegar and boullion broth made from onions and artichokes with a touch of hazelnut oil. A++++
Guy Savoy (Paris) - Colours of Caviar—we did not know what to expect—picture a small round glass layered with green bean puree, caviar, caviar cream, sabayon—the look was layers of white, green, black, white. The amazing thing was that the caviar portion was so generous and delicious with pearls of caviar in every bite.
Guy Savoy - Breton grilled lobster with carrot puree and strips of carrots + lobster coral, white wine stock—absolutely superb.
Ledoyen (Paris) - Potato soufflé gnocchi served cold. There is no way to describe how good this was. The Gnocchi were as light as air. The dish was served with olive oil, basil and tomatoes.
Ledoyen - Oursins de roche au gout, iode/vegetal—sea urchin served in the shell, one cold the other hot. The cold preparation was a sea urchin mousse on top of an avocado puree. The hot preparation included tongues of the urchin with an urchin sabayon and some urchin foam. Absolutely wonderful!!
Ledoyen - Feuillete brioche de truffes noires en gros morceaux. Encased in brioche “flaky pastry” were huge pieces of black truffles. This was seriously dangerous dining—exquisite. I was so taken with this dish I totally forgot to write down the sauce—but it was fabulous!!
Arpege (Paris) - Scallop Carpaccio with sliced black truffles, olive oil and arugula. The scallops were extraordinary and the black truffles, which have been iffy in most places this year, were excellent. A real winner dish.
Arpege – Ravioli filled with leeks, onions, and pistachio in a carrot broth. We were astonished by the great flavor of the intense broth. It was the essence of the best carrots.
Arpege - Grilled foie gras with dates—the menu lists the foie being from Madeleine de Nonancourt. We don’t think we have ever had grilled foie before [the grille marks were clear on the foie]. The foie melted in your mouth. It was served with a small salad of veggies, radish, and lettuces from Passard’s garden.
L’Arnsbourg (Baerenthal) - langoustine carpaccio with raisins, small cubes of feta cheese and chardonnay vinegar. Light, perfect and delicious.
L’Arnsbourg - Cappuccino of potato and truffles – beyond extraordinary
L’Arnsbourg – Emulsion of pommes de terre et truffes–absolutely decadent, light as air potato emulsion toped with lots of black truffles.
L’Ambroisie (Paris) - Poulette de Bresse rotie au beurre de truffe, charlotte de pomme de terre. The chicken is presented whole with glistening skin in a shiny copper pan. It is then taken back to the kitchen for plating.
A gorgeous breast with black truffle butter underneath the skin is presented with rich chicken jus. In addition, a part of the drumstick plus a vegetable [ignored in the notes--all focus was on the chicken!!] with bits of black truffle.
Citrus Etoile (Paris) – Foie Gras Beignet – absolutely decadent.
Auberge de I’ll (Illhaeusern) - A mosaic of Goose foie gras–the bottom layer a crisp of some sort, then a layer of terrine, a layer of mousse and topped with Sauterne gelee. Underneath the mosaic was a strip of reduced Arabian coffee [moka] sauce. To the side was a confit of white grapes and in a small rye crisp, shaped like a small bowl, a small salad. A real winner.
Gagnaire (Paris) - Duck foie gras with a thin layer of apple cider gelee on top. Underneath the foie were small dice of smoked eel, parsnips, leeks, with a touch of parsnip cream. Perfect.
L’Astrance (Paris) - Pan-fried foie gras with white beans and a deep fried lettuce leaf. There is no way to convey how perfect a match this was…the beans added perfect accompanying flavor to the perfectly cooked foie…it was spectacular.
Most gracious host - JC Annonay-Alex at Auberge de l’lle (Lyon)
We had confirmed reservations at Auberge de l’lle on Tuesday, March 11. I had spent over an hour talking on the phone to his delightful assistant, Alexandra. She also wrote to me that she looked forward to meeting me in March.
We arrived at the restaurant and the staff at the door [3 people] looked at us and basically said “What are you doing here?” “You do not have a reservation. The restaurant is sold out for a private event.”
We asked to talk to JC and was told that JC was hosting a private dinner party for his friends in his apartment (the third floor of the restaurant).
Long story short, JC insisted we join his private dinner party in his apartment. The table was quickly reset from 4 to 6 – not an easy feat in his tiny apartment.
We loved our trip to France, but given the state of the economy, who knows when we will go back? I hope before 2012.