Tell Luc Besson I was here

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!

The morning started off slow, thanks to the cocktails from the night before. While I did not have a hangover (that is not my style!), I am still not used to drinking even small amounts of alcohol. Therefore, the main side effect for me is fatigue. Despite being tired, I could not afford to slow down the pace, so Manuel and I met up in the lobby of my hotel where we picked up our tickets to the Louvre from the concierge who had already ordered our tickets.

From there, we took a taxi to the museum. We discreetly made our way past the lines and under the glass pyramids as we watched the scene of CGT (General Confederation of Labor) strikers march down the rue de Rivoli.

Once inside, we went straight to the Mona Lisa. The people at the museum were really nice and they gave us lots of information. When we went to the other side of the museum to see the temporary exposition, they even gave me permission to film and take photos! I had been looking forward to the exposition about the discoveries from the underwater excavations of the Rhone River. I was excited to see the only bust of Caesar that was done during his lifetime!

The Louvre

After our speed tourism was finished, we made our way to the Metro station. This was Manuel’s first encounter with the Paris Metro. Having lived in New York for long time, Manuel did not need any help understanding the way the system worked. He did say it was quite a bit cleaner!

We took the metro to the George V station. From there we walked to our next gastronomic adventure, Apicius.

This, by far, was my favorite meal. First of all, the setting was magical. From the street you just see a large rock wall, but once you see the gated entrance, you can see a lush green lawn leading up to a large manor house in the background.  When we arrived, a guest was sitting out on the patio enjoying the nice spring weather.

The “hotel particulier“ where Apicius is located on the ground floor is owned by the film producer Luc Besson (The Professional, The Fifth Element, The Big Blue, etc). The renowned chef, Jean-Pierre Vigato, moved his restaurant to rue Artois just 2 years ago. The building and design were elegant and modern. Even the bathroom had an interesting décor! The atmosphere was sophisticated but not stuffy. The dishes were a little bourgeois but they had character.  From the amuses bouches to the dessert (even the wine cellar), everything was well executed for the restaurant’s clientele that was probably 70% Parisien.

The only inconvenience was the price – that was another bill that was difficult to digest!

amuses bouches
light seafood soup with toast
crusted paté
carpaccio of scallops and oysters with purified sea water
spring vegetables with mascarpone and parmesan
foie gras
frog legs
John Dory
pigeon napoleon with filo dough, ginger-quince chutney
tete de veau
serious butter and knife – look how huge this is!
peach melba
citrus terrine with sorbet mandarin
chocolate trio
petits fours

After Apicius, we made our way to the Galerie Lafayette and Beau Brumel. I was amazed at the number of tourists there despite the bad economy. I guess Paris is always packed whatever the world economic situation – even all the hotels in the area we stayed were booked solid! At the department store, we found some dishes, spices, photos and some souvenirs. After our shopping spree, it was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for an evening at the long awaited restaurant of Jean-Francois Piege.  Check back tomorrow to hear if it was worth the wait!

French lesson of the day: Avoir la gueule du bois.

Translation (Figurative): To have a hangover.

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