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.


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



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



1st course:

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



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.



2nd course:

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



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.



Mignardises – don’t have a clue




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



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:     

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.





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.



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.



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. 



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.



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.



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




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.



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



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



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

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.


Room #11




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 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

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.


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. 



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.



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


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





Third Course

My husband – Pork with Ginger



Me – Pigeon en cocotte with small French peas



The Chef – Claude Broussard


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.

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.



We had not been back to Lameloise since they lost their 3rd star. We were anxious to see what had changed. Our room was as pretty as ever with a huge bathroom and large sitting area.

We were greeted like “old friends” by one of the Maitre D’s who seem to recognize us.

Champagne in the lounge area with two amuses.

a. Marinated mackerel in a Chinese spoon.

b. On brioche, a slice of hard-boiled egg with chopped up “something”…our server was a mumbler, not exactly helpful.

At the table 5 amuses.

a. Hard boiled egg with tomato coulis and morel cream.

b. Chantilly cream with potato mousse.

c. Tomato covered in sesame seeds—chewy almost caramelized.

d. Almond cream in a cone

e. Ham fritter.

1st course: Oysters from Gillardeau, gelee d’eau de mer, caviar, agrumes acidules — 4 oysters in the shell – one with citrus; tiny (almost 1/16”) diced citrus fruit, one oyster sat in a gelee of “sea-water” and 2 oysters were presented with small (1/8” diced potato) mixed with caviar. An excellent beginning.

2nd course: Pommes de terre ratte grilles aux escargots de Bourgogne suc de vin rouge, et crème persillee. 

We have had this dish before. It is a favorite. The ratte potato is slightly hollowed out and the snails sit in the potato. There is a touch of red wine at the top of the plate with parsley cream sauce to the right. The potato adds the “butter feel” without the butter. Another very good dish, though not quite as perfectly executed as in the past.

3rd course: Grenouille simplement meuniere a la ciboulette rosace de pomme de terre doree—this dish was a disgrace. The frog’s legs were shriveled, tiny and so dry and over-cooked they should have never left the kitchen—letting them stay in the pond would have saved them for some one who knew how to cook them…awful!

4th course: Thanks to the recommendation of a friend we ordered the Pigeonneau en Vessie et ses pates fraiche au foie gras poele.

This is a Lameloise signature dish. If it is on the menu, order it! The pigeonneau is cooked in a pig’s bladder to seal in all the flavors. On the side is fresh pasta with small pieces of pan-fried foie gras. This is a decadent, over-the-top dish. I ended up calling it “one for the memory book—an important dish that should be in everyone’s dining repertoire”. To be honest, I put my analytical mind on hold, as I wanted a completely visceral experience.

5th course: Cheese Cart…

6th course: We were supposed to have a dessert –hot apple tart with granny smith apple sorbet, but 10 minutes became 20 minutes became 40…we decided to skip dessert and have coffee, mignardises and a cigar (for John) in the lounge.


Lameloise has lost a star. The question is, “Has it made a difference?” Good or bad? There is a definite sense of frustration and depression. The service is definitely not 3-star. A lot of “chiefs” are wandering around with no one in charge. There are no “eyes” watching the room or supervising. When we think about “eyes” we always think of Pascal in the early years of TFL—he seemed to see everything. Nothing slipped by. Pierre at L’Ambroisie is another great “eye” along with Jean Pierre at Taillevent.

There was a definite miss re the food – the frog’s legs. But then, I start thinking about that Pigeonneau en Vessie and all is forgiven. I just like this restaurant with all its faults. I wish they would stick with the traditional and not try to re-invent the wheel. They do need someone to be the major domo of the dining room – the eye.

Cordeillan Bages

We decided to compose our own tasting menu both days.

First Lunch 

We went to the lounge first for our customary 2 coupes de champagne. Amuses in the lounge – a spoon of presse de celery and another of “something.”

In a tall shot glass, there was basil puree topped by pink foam that turned out to be tomato.

We were escorted to the dining room that is quite contemporary with huge rectangular tables for 2. First there is a butter service – 4 different kinds – goat milk butter, sweet butter, semi-salted butter and “avant-beurre” that was served like a quenelle and shaped with 2 spoons. Then the bread service – 7 different kinds of bread are done in house and I would say that these were the best breads of the trip with the nod going to the brioche made with salty butter – outstanding.

2nd Amuse at the table – 3 “sake-type” cups of cream of foie with a crispy cracker on top, tuna tartare and something that I couldn’t identify except for the saffron component.

First Course – Huitre et caviar d”Aquitaine emulsion de pamplemousse – On a large glass plate with a shallow bowl center was a small oyster topped with caviar and grapefruit mousse/foam that hid more oysters. This was a superb pairing – inventive, but also delicious.

Second Course – Saucisson virtuel, craquant de lentilles au lard. I am not sure I can describe this dish accurately. Lucy, our server, who was delightful, wheeled a large serving cart to our table. In a large glass bowl was what looked like a sausage. From what I could gather (and here is where notes and memory are a mess) chopped raw rabbit is encased in a thin membrane and cooked sous-vide. As it cooks, the rabbit coagulates. Lucy breaks the skin and the rabbit mixes with a delicate oyster bouillon. Other components of the dish include oyster foam, garlic and leeks. Served on the side is an amazing cracker of lentils and bacon. This is imaginative cuisine done with the utmost finesse.




Third Course- Turbot à l’huile de l’ostal et croque au sel, épices et lie de vin.

A perfect, thick piece of turbot is cooked in a salt crust and I am not sure what Lucy meant by this but my notes read a confit of olive oil. We were told that olive oil is 38 years old. The turbot sat on a gelee made from the salt of wine – merlot. The sauce was an olive oil emulsion that had the mouth-feel and texture of a mousseline. On top was a long, thin baton of “spicy” bread. This was just an OH MY dish – exquisite in each detail.


Fourth Course –

a gift from the chef

Risotto de soja, jus d’huître et truffes. Presented in a small glass bowl, the soybean sprouts are cut like grains of rice and then cooked like risotto with oyster juice, parmesan, butter and topped with a small slice of black truffle


Fourth Course- John

Agneau de lait de Monsieur Reyes cuisiné de 3 façons, legumes prepares en cocotte The lamb comes from a small producer, Monsieur Reyes. There is no way I am going to be able to describe this dish. One I didn’t get to taste anything – John was being a hog and two my notes are a mess with just the words lamb confit, lamb sausage, filet, chop. Hopefully, you will be able to deduce the dish from the photo.

The vegetable side dish served with the lamb.


Fourth Course – Me

-Spaghetti au ris de veau, cèpes et truffes.

This was exceptional. You are presented with spaghetti that has been wound into something resembling a sphere. The spaghetti ball encases a mixture of cepes, sweetbreads and black truffles. I also thought Lucy mentioned something about farcie de volaille (chicken), but again my memory is hazy and my notes a mess.  This was just a great dish – visually exciting as well as delicious.


First Dessert

A chocolate ball infused with passion fruit and a caramel sorbet in an infusion of citronnelle.

 Crystallized eggplant millefeuille with a rich, intense basil sorbet.


Baba a la broche, gros bonbon glace rhumn raisin


 We stayed at Cordellian Bages and itt is beautiful at night.

Second Lunch at Cordellian Bages

Again, we went to the lounge and had our customary 2 coupes de champagne.


In the two spoons cantal cheese with ginger and candied pressed celery. In the glaass a bottom layer of goat cheese topped by spinach “foam.”

Amuses at the table.

Again 3 “sake-like” cups

Smoked sturgeon tartare topped by ?, Strawberry Cream and Basil, and a Sweet Cloud of something with ssweet red pepper oil

First Course – Presse d’anguille fumee terre et estuaire, toasts de cereales et pomme acidulees – On the bottom was more or less a foie gras pate, then a thin layer of smoked eel and topped with an apple and port gelee. It was accompanied by toast studded with black and white sesame seeds. The combination of the eel with the foie was just wondrous – a definite “fatty mouth feel.”

Cracker Bread


Second Course – Pate de concombre au caviar/galette d’epeautre –

The bottom layer was cucumber gelee, then a layer of onion cream and finally a layer of caviar. The wheat galette was perfect.

Third Course – Huitre/petits pois, opaline de cacahuete – At first glance, this looks like a green pea mousse topped with a cracker and oyster foam. Deconstructing the dish a plump, briny oyster is enclosed in the pea mousse with the “cracker” addding the crunch.


Fourth Course – Sardines, pomme a l’huile

The sardine sat on a crisp, rectangular potato chip and was rolled around itself. My notes say something about pommade and fish bouillon, but I don’t have a clue what I meant. To the right of the sardine was potato encased in a gelee square.


Fifth Course – Raviole bras croises, pomme verte et hareng fume – The ravioli was filled with green apple and smoked herring, sauce was based on a mozzarella and cream.


Sixth Course –

My husband – Filet de boeuf Blonde d’aquitaine fume aux sarments, pomme de terrre confites au jus a quintessence

I just can’t do this dish justice.  The smoky aroma of this dish when the cellophane was unwrapped was absolutely intoxicating. More importantly, the aroma equalled the taste so this wasn’t theater but food. Again, I am doing a complete unjustice to Chef’s Marx’s food. I do remember some sort of burning mixture and from horrible notes I do know that cabernet sauvignon vine shoots were used for the smoking in this package. My husband was literally intoxicated with the aroma and had no intention of sharing. The meat itself was juicy and infused with this smoky flavor.

Me- Caille prete a deguster, arome tagine

The quail resembled a pyramide and the taste a mimic of a Moroccan dish. Next to it was a cold gelee with peas – each pea had been skinned and halved exactly and perfectly. Someone is spending a lot of time in the kitchen doing prep. 


Cheese (not pictured)



Two perfect meals and I would go back in a heart beat.