Monday, October 03, 2011

Miam miam Michelin!

I had my first experience dining out in a Michelin-star restaurant in Reims at Le Foch restaurant. This is definitely not the sort of dining experience I'm used to, but our parents had very kindly sent some money for us to have a special night out together, and my sister generously pitched a bit in as well. As for me, I mostly shut my eyes because I wouldn't have dared order anything otherwise! Jess wanted to go for the dégustation menu - she's a pescatarian (fish-eating but otherwise vegetarian) and it was her lucky day since there was only one non-fish course of all the seven on the dégustation menu. We had read a review saying they were very unwelcoming and rude to vegetarians, but while I imagine there were few options if you didn't eat fish, they were actually very accommodating in swapping the meat course for us. In general, I was a bit nervous of rude waiters and having to be very formal, but it was absolutely fine. The waiters were all nice and helpful, and we even had a laugh and joke with some of them, and got them to take photos for us, so there was really no standing on ceremony. As for the meal - amazing! It was really a memorable and unique experience for me - who knows when if ever I'll be eating in a Michelin-star restaurant again - and great to share that with my sister! I don't know if taking pictures of all your courses is the classy thing to do in a fine dining establishment, but what the heck, I did it anyway!

All good things start with champagne! We went with Taittinger, in honour of our visit the day before. I'm clearly sitting up straight on my best behaviour here!

Before our official 7 courses even began, there was the amuse bouches. 1) Cold cauliflower velouté. I'm not generally big on cold soup, but this had a really nice flavour and smooth texture and wasn't ice cold. 2) Cheese with ham. We had already explained that Jess was a vegetarian before this turned up, but I suppose the message didn't get through to the amusing department. They made her a new plate with no fuss though. I'm not big on ham but this had that strong cured flavour and was very nice. 3) Mini brown shrimp tart. Seafood is not really my thing, so this was my least favourite of the three, but still not bad at all.

Not a bad photo except for THE CLAW which has taken up residence in my lap.

First course: Carpaccio de langoustine avec caviar d'Aquitaine. Langoustine carpaccio with Aquitaine caviar.

Sorry, I forgot to take a photo before I started eating. I assure you it turned up in a perfect circle looking much prettier! As I said, seafood isn't my favourite, so raw langoustines weren't going to be the biggest hit ever with me. The flavour was okay, but the texture was a bit weird to my taste. This was the only one of the 7 I didn't finish, but Jess took care of that.

Second course: Galette de légumes croquants, homard bleu, parmesan. A galette (in this context, basically a fancy way of saying "round thing") of crunchy vegetables, blue lobster and parmesan.

This definitely looked very visually appealing, although Jess and I tut-tutted (not seriously) that our plates didn't look identical, which Top Chef and the like has taught me should be the goal. I'm not sure whether I've had lobster before or only crayfish, but either way, this was nice and there was a generous amount of lobster too! In fact, all the way through the dishes were a good size without of course being huge (and trust me, with 7 courses you do not need huge!) I think we all have the concept that you will get a millimeter-sized cube of food at these fancy places, but it was not the case this time. I think this was virtually the only vegetables all night though!

Course the third: Saint Pierre roti, haricot cocos de Paimpol, émulsion de crustacés. Roast John Dory with beans that I can't find a translation for but I think we thought at the time were butter beans and a shellfish emulsion. I actually thought while eating this that it was a tomato foam, guess I don't have a great palate. Anyway, this doesn't look that special on the photo, but it was definitely my favourite course and I think Jess's as well. The emulsion was full of flavour, the beans were meltingly soft, and the fish was fresh, firm and delicious! Total foodgasm!

We've moved on to some yummy Sancerre rosé.

Fourth course: This was the only course we had to swap on the menu to suit Jess. It was meant to be veal, but instead we got monkfish with crispy leeks and I think a tomato compote. I'm not vegetarian, but I liked the sound of monkfish better than veal as well. If they had been serving chicken or something, I would have been all over it though! This was also very nice, again great texture to the fish, nice and flaky. Oh and in that little copper pot is potato purée. Very cute!

Very nice photo of Jess

The amazing cornucopia of cheese on offer!

Fifth course: My selection of cheeses, half eaten again. The big bit in front is Brie - I wouldn't have gone for something as "boring" as Brie, but the waitress told me it was very good, and it turned out to be incredibly different from the supermarket version, this actually had strong flavour and character. It was also practically oozing out of its skin, which doesn't sound appealing at all when I put it like that, but it was just ripe and lovely. I forget what the others are, not sure if the one on the right is a Port Salut or just something like a Port Salut, and I think on the left is a goat's cheese. All very tasty though, and served with different condiments selected to complement them.

Course Six: Macaron rhubarbe-framboise avec barbe à papa: Rhubarb-raspberry macaron with candyfloss. This was divine! Unusually for me, I think I liked it better than the chocolate dessert that followed. I ate the candyfloss separately, not too teeth-achingly sweet like a fairground version, and then underneath was a raspberry sorbet, rhubarb compote, fresh raspberries, a touch of cream, and finally the macaron. It really tasted like raspberries, which I adore, and the macaron was really soft, not chewy like they often are (I enjoy a chewy macaron too though). The cream was just right as well - I don't like too much, but it just added an extra softness to it all.

Another view of the macaroon minus its candyfloss hat. Looks kind of like a crimescene photo with the raspberry coulis escaping!

Sugar rush!

Concentrating - this is serious stuff!
As you can see, everyone else in the room (we weren't in the main dining room) has left by this stage, including people who arrived after us! No-one else was doing a dégustation, and our meal took a total of around three and a half hours to munch through!

Wahey - I managed!

Seventh course: Moelleux au chocolat de Saint Domingue, Paris Brest à boire. Chocolate fondant pudding (I assume the chocolate comes from Santo Domingo and is not associated with an actual saint?) with a liquid Paris Brest. A Paris Brest is a kind of doughnut-shaped dessert (it was made in honour of the Paris-Brest cycle race, so it's wheel shaped) made of choux pastry and praline cream. So basically it was a sort of praline milkshake. I don't really remember how it tasted, but despite preferring the macaron, I can tell you that the moelleux was very rich, cocoa-y and delicious. I even finished off Jess's! That's a real testament to my determination to hoover up any chocolate on offer, since as you can imagine, our intestinal fortitude was being severely tested by this stage of the evening!

Me and my Paris-Brest

We started off with an unheralded amuse-bouche, and I can only assume this was to really really make sure our bouche had been amused. I actually said to the waiter "you're going to kill us" when he brought this out, as I think both of us were full to bursting! We took one for the team though, and enjoyed the soft little cake at right (I think it was just a plain madeleine or something, not too sure, but it was light and pleasant), the wee little tarts and of course the chocolate, which again, was really cocoa-tasting rather than being just all fat and sugar.


One last photo, well and truly stuffed and ready to stagger home to bed!

5 comments:

  1. Groan - I feel soooo full just reading about it!!! I think you probably ate for six!

    Glad you had a fabulous night together. Don't think you'll forget that in a hurry!

    M xxx

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  2. We were very full, but a much nicer full than gorging on fatty fried stuff or whatever! Plus the 3 1/2 hours gave us some chance to digest!

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  3. OMG. That looks like such an amazing meal!

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  4. Amazing - is it just me or did those dishes resemble a)dog vomit, b) cat spew, c) cuckoo spit (in no particular order).

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  5. Oh my goodness. That is a lot of food! Thanks for telling me about this restaurant! Unfortunately (or fortunately for our wallets and our waistbands) I didn't have internet access during most of the weekend so I wasn't able to read this post until after our trip to Reims (pronounced Reemz since I'm talking with you!). The champagne glass in the first photo is definitely more flute-y than the glasses at the champagne tastings.

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