Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Haute Cuisine

Last night was a lesson in French gastonomie as we dined at L’Auberge la Feniere. There were so many hints at why this was a multi-star restaurant, in addition to the food itself.

We were ushered into a rustic but beautiful dining room which exuded warmth and were shown to a fairly secluded table. When offered menus in French or English, David said “French” – probably not the right response since there is still so much food vocabulary that I haven’t learned. After the sticker shock wore off, three of us decided on the less expensive of the fixed price menus and David went for two courses: duck and chocolate. He has his priorities straight.

While we perused the menu and asked a few questions, we were served a plate of scrumptious one-bite appetizers: a single shrimp on a spoon of curry sauce, a little piece of toast topped with something like a tapenade, and a puffed pastry bite with who knows what inside.

The wine stewardess gave a good demonstration of how to serve red wine. She skillfully opened the bottle, smelled the cork, tasted a small amount, and then poured it into a wide-bottomed decanter. Only then did she offer it to us to taste and accept. The wine was a local full-body red produced just down the road from us.

Our bread plates were filled and re-filled every time we finished off a piece of bread. The bread was accompanied by fragrent olive oil.

Course #1 was a duck confit with some sort of delicious chutney (pictured above). The confit was creamy and melt in your mouth good. The chutney was tart and just right as an accompaniment.

The next course was a parmesan crisp topped with a mixture of sautéed wild mushrooms. You have to imagine this one because I was too anxious to taste it to take a picture first.

The main course was sliced roast lamb tenderloin, cooked to a perfect pink, with a puree of a white vegetable. We could never figure out the vegetable, even when the waiter brought out the uncooked root vegetable in a small bowl.

David’s duck was just as beautiful in its presentation. It was adorned by plump purple figs.

The cheese course featured 4 varieties of goat cheese with a salad topped with some sort of red berries.

At this point we were served a rosemary sorbet to cleanse our pallets in preparation for dessert. I would never have imagined rosemary as a flavor for dessert, but it worked quite well.

The final course was pineapple topped with marinated cooked apples, with a small serving of passion fruit ice cream at the other end of the plate. David’s dessert was a decadent chocolate log that ressembled a bouche de Noel.

A large part of the beauty of this approach to food is in the presentation of it. Each plate is decorated with sauces, oils, and garnishes appropriate to its content. The colors are perfect. Even the plate itself is selected to best display the food it contains. Artistic design plays a large role in French cooking.

After 5 courses of the best food I have ever eaten, we felt satisfied but not overly full. We walked out into the starry, starry night for the 5-minute ride home to Lourmarin.

This is a night when I appreciated the fact that I was not wealthy enough to do this on a regular basis, but I had enough money to occasionally splurge. It was definitely worth every euro!


Blogger steve said...

Reading all of this really makes me miss the Kitchen- what nice China they had to work with... my guess on the Vege would be you know Salsify?
(it was the picture of the Osso Bucco a few days ago that really made me groan)

2:07 PM  
Blogger wharman said...

Um, yum!

6:38 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

I'm learning to NOT eat dinner until I've come here to read. My cooking becomes more inspired by the day!

Putting pennies in a jar against next year...

Trade you my jar of lavendar oil for a plate of lamb!

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When everything looks that good it is well worth the price!

11:22 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- You might be right on the veggie. It looked like a tiny parsnip. They said the greenery is also used in cooking.

Wendy -- Exactly!

Pauline -- You are on for next year and then you can experience all this for yourself. We discovered the BEST bike trip yesterday.

OL -- I could not agree more!

3:25 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

You are getting entirely too spoiled! I'm thinkin' they had better check your bags for the hidden chef you're hiding ti bring home!

8:33 PM  

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