As many of you know now, I was given the honor of being named Master Chef of France in late 2011. The induction ceremony took place in France on March 24, 2012. This event coincided perfectly with my Mom’s birthday and since I wanted to take my sous-Chef, Manuel, to France for some culinary inspiration, I booked my trip right away. This is the account of my week-long trip to France, adventure by culinary adventure. To start from the beginning, click here. Enjoy!
Manuel and I met up just outside my hotel after our already full day of food, shopping and sightseeing. Now we were back to the eating part again. This time we had 2 restaurants reserved back to back. The idea was to have the starter course at one and then the main course and dessert at the second one. It did not quite happen like that…
We started off by arranging to meet up with Philippe Pantoli at 39 V (one of the new restaurants from Ducasse’s empire). It is located at number 39, avenue George V… As we searched for the entrance, Philippe walked up. He said to follow him around the corner. We walked into the archway of what looked like a residential building on rue Quentin-Bauchart!
From there, we went through a side door where we were greeted by a hostess. She showed us to a small door that was actually an elevator. So far, this experience seemed like we were walking into a dream world. Well, it was almost the case because when we stepped out of the elevator into the restaurant on the building’s top floor, we were met by an attentive staff and a warm and welcoming décor. We decided to first have a cocktail on the terrace where we ended up staying for a while before moving to the adjacent dining room that was separated from the patio by a wall of transparent glass doors. From there we could see that the restaurant circled around the building as we could make out tall white hats scurrying around back and forth. That is when we realized that the windowed area in front of us was actually the kitchen!
Sitting on the patio with a drink in hand, this was another one of those few moments that I actually felt relaxed. I tried to take it in while we sipped our cocktails and sampled some of the delicious cured Spanish ham that Philippe Pantoli sells to them. Philippe explained that this ham is like “caviar with 4 legs” and that you must show a lot of respect in how it is presented and served. Fortunately he was happy with the presentation!
We did not take long to decide on our first dishes of the evening. There were eggs poached with asparagus (asparagus was all over Paris by the way), lobster with pearl vegetables and endive 3 ways. I was surprised to still see endive on the menu since it is more of a winter vegetable. All the dishes were precise and well executed (Ducasse style of course).
At one point in the dinner, the chef came to greet us at our table. His name is Frederic Vardon, he was one of the soldiers of Ducasse for 14 years, traveling and working in some of the best restaurants around the world.
We ended up eating an appetizer and a main course. We avoided the dessert but forced ourselves to taste the cheese. The restaurant had the only female sommelier that we saw on our trip. She was really good and suggested a lovely wine. You could tell that she knew her stuff but our Vanessa Trevino-Boyd is still the best!
At 9:30 we finally left to go to Le Diane that was literally right across the street. That is right, we like to strike while the iron is hot! Le Diane is the gastronomic restaurant of the hotel Fouquet’s where Nicolas Sarkozy had his infamous celebration party after winning the French presidential elections in May 2007. Well, we shared the dining room with some similar high-rolling guests although I could tell they were neither French nor American. I am not sure what language they spoke but they were having a good time we could tell and it did not look like they were so concerned with the cost of the menu, unlike me.
I was a little shocked when I saw the details of the small but very expensive menu. And I was a little disappointed, probably because we had already stuffed our faces at 39 V! The amuses bouches, such as tartare with avocado were not really my style; but the appetizers were great and the salmon mi-cuit was well executed. The desserts were nicely presented but the flavor was very “traditional”.
The Chef was very nice to stop by our table and say hello although he had to leave quickly for personal reasons. After the meal, the sous-Chef came by and we talked about our trip. We told him that we were looking for places to try new cocktails and he indicated 2 new “Meilleurs Ouvriers de France” barmen that worked in the area. One actually worked at the bar of Fouquet’s and the other at George V hotel.
We decided to have a drink after dinner in the lounge which was located on a beautiful outdoor patio that wrapped partway around the building. After just one drink, we decided to try the Buddha Bar back near my hotel. You have probably heard of Buddha Bar, it has been around for a while but I know they always have new cocktails and I really thought that Manuel would like it, which he did as he ended up going back several times!
There, we had some great cocktails and met a young girl that had studied at the Ecole Hoteliere in Bordeaux and was doing an internship in Paris. This is very common of people who work in the restaurant and hospitality industry to go to Paris for work. I will share more on this in a later post.
After our long discussion with the server at Buddha Bar we decided it was time to head back to our hotels and get ready for another day of activities. Instead, once I arrived at my hotel I got back on my computer to document my trip. Again I did not go to bed until 3 am…
Check back for tomorrow’s post. Our routine of eating, eating and eating gets shaken up as bit as we do some sightseeing. Do not worry, we get back to the eating after that!
French lesson of the day: Battre le fer tant qu’il est chaud.
Translation: Strike while the iron is hot.