#testkitchen at Artisanal Foods, Las Vegas NV

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#TestKitchen at Artisanal Foods

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Roasted Rainbow Radishes and Whipped Pancetta

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Early Girl Tomatoes, Peaches, Green Gazpacho and Espelette Spheres

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Tuscan Bean Soup – Cranberry Beans, Broad Beans, Zucchini, Carrots, Onion, Celery, Dehydrated Peels

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Rice Flour Frito Misto – Corn Fritters, Tomatillos, Okra, with Meyer Lemon Aioli

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Tasting of Caviars

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Pancakes and Foie Gras – Icicle Grapes, Champagne Grapes, Raisins on the Vine, Wine Glaze

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Chicken Thigh with Mushroom Bread Pudding – Black Truffle, Pan Jus

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GLT – Guanciale, Lettuce, Tomato

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Lamb Sliders – Tzatziki, Harissa Tomato Jam

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Brioche with Cherry Vanilla Compote from Le Suquet

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Recently completing his contract at MTO Cafe it was only a matter of time before Chef Johnny Church found a new outlet for the considerable skills honed at some of The Strip’s best spots, and whether the result of serendipity or plain old luck a partnership with Artisanal Foods owner Brett Ottolenghi has given way to a concept currently titled #testkitchen, the pair of Midwesterners offering up some of the city’s best ingredients cooked in tasting menu format to a lucky handful at lunch with even bigger things soon to come.

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No doubt in its early stages, the recently relocated shop on Pama a substantial upgrade in size as well as potential with live tanks, a warehouse, and a demonstration kitchen in which plans are set for everything from pop-up dinners to cooking classes in addition to a cafe set to open ‘soon,’ it was at the behest of Chef Church that myself and three local writers sat down at a long table and deferring to the chef as well as Mr. Ottolenghi for everything but booze and jam brought from our homes the resultant eight course tasting with additional caviar service proved the sort of experience that Las Vegas sorely needs, a ‘dinner party’ sort of atmosphere not unlike those offered at London’s Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs or stateside in cities like Santa Ana where concepts like Playground 2.0 continue to evolve and wow.

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At this time consisting of one table in the Artisanal Food atrium, the kitchen on one side and the rest of the store on the other, it was after a brief tour of the new store that service from John, Brett, and two-others would begin and with conversation as well as wine flowing the first bites were presented in the form of spicy radishes atop whipped pancetta, the brine and bite in perfect balance and a bold introduction to the produce that followed, the tomato and stonefruit salad served alongside a complex soup featuring the flavors of sea beans, spinach, basil, and fennel pollen with a light linger of melon on the swallow.

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Progressing with good pace, the meal soon joined by three ciders from Mr. Ottolenghi’s Pennsylvania family farm, course three saw an earthy bean soup lent levity by sweet crisps of dried peels while the followup of Gluten Free Frito Misto arrived perfectly crisp and virtually oilless, even the okra offered up as snappy little bites beneath the rice flower while a sidecar of Meyer Lemon Aioli saw little go to waste.

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Taking a break in the tasting to sample some of Artisanal Foods’ selection of fine caviar, Brett proving a fount of knowledge about everything from province to crossbreeds and indoor vs. outdoor cultivation, the menu resumed with the sort of thing seemingly made for such a venue, and pairing three types of grapes with pancakes and seared duck liver it seemed almost impossible when course six arrived featuring a pounded thigh of Mary’s Free Range chicken served crispy atop mushroom bread pudding that fared even better.

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At this point more than a little impressed by not only exemplary ingredients, but also the skills that saw each one coaxed to its utmost potential without once straying far from the boundaries of classic technique, the final savories of the afternoon featured a duo of sandwiches, the answer to which was best largely a matter of ones personal tastes as the GLT spoke to the sapor of cured pork tucked inside a buttered roll while the slider offered the grass-fed gaminess of New Zealand lamb mellowed amidst cool Tzatziki and harissa-spiced tomato jam.

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Rounding out the meal with soft brioche from a local bakery topped with cherry-vanilla confiture imported from the garden of Michel and Sebastien Bras it should go without saying that rarely has a lunch of such caliber been had in the city of Las Vegas, but with the shared passion of Church and Ottolenghi one hopes this will be the first of many, that perhaps the time has finally come.

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N/A: Obviously unable to fairly assess a meal that presented more like a dinner party with friends than the sort of dining experience a typical customer is likely to find, suffice it to say that when the yet unnamed cafe at Artisinal Foods finally does open to the public there is little doubt the experience will be one to seek out.

RECOMMENDED: Trust the Chef.

AVOID: N/A.

TIP: While plans are yet to be finalized, an opening date of early September has been suggested with a fixed-price “ticketing” system and BYOB alcohol policy likely to present absolute bargain to those lucky enough to secure a seat.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.artisanalfoods.com/

Posted in #testkitchen, #testkitchen at Artisanal Foods, Artisanal Foods, Dessert, Foie, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, Tasting Menu, Truffle

Lou’s Diner, Las Vegas NV

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Lou’s Diner

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Coffee

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Housemade Cinnamon Roll

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Flapjacks

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Monte Cristo

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Banana Cream Pie

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Lemon Cake

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Located on Decatur and feeding locals for decades under the watchful eye of its eponymous owner, Lou’s Diner is the sort of place one could drive by one hundred times without even a second thought, and yet with prices a fraction of those just a few miles east plus the sort of old-timey service guaranteed to leave a smile on every face the spacious spot is perhaps the very definition of diamond in the rough.

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Certainly not upscale, and not exactly sporting much curb appeal in the back of a complex near Arizona Charlies and the Charleston Antique Mall, a visit to Lou’s Diner is the sort that starts with a bit of skepticism about what will be found inside, but greeted with warm smiles and walls decorated with every sort of nick-knack imaginable the scene unfolds much like any similar spot in middle America, though in this case several-fold cleaner with a specials board complimenting a well-culled menu of breakfasts, soups, sandwiches, and more.

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Seating perhaps sixty, and soon to reach half-capacity about thirty minutes after a 6:45am arrival, it was after short perusal that decisions were made from the all-day options, and with jokes made that “you must real hungry” from the waitress it was with the second of about thirty coffee warm-ups that she departed, a curious Lou and her spouse stopping by inquisitively to ask why pictures were being taken before offering to lead me around the and show off the map of where all their visitors had come from – the wall of mismatched mugs belonging to “regulars” an appropriate amenity as nearly every other diner was greeted by name by the staff nearly the moment they opened the front door.

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Ordering with a request for items to be brought as ready it would not be long before the Housemade Cinnamon Roll arrived beneath a ladle of of sweetened cream cheese, and with a core rife with cinnamon plus plenty of yeastiness acting to offset the richness the results spoke to old-school craftsmanship without a whole lot of fuss, a similar style employed in two desserts enjoyed later that day in the form of a moist lemon layer cake and banana cream pie that was unfortunately a bit short on fruit but still quite flavorful with a pudding base beneath a mountain of whipped cream.

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Assuredly a place with skilled line-cooks, on this particular morning a trio working at great pace with plates coming through the window every couple minutes, course two arrived shortly after the last of the frosting was scraped from the cinnamon roll plate and quickly eschewing pseudo-syrup in favor of pure maple goodness brought from home the thin flapjacks proved fluffy and full of buttermilk while the Monte Cristo finally answered the question of where to find an authentic iteration in the (702) – each deep fried bite packed with ham and turkey bursting forth with flavor beneath two gooey cheeses, a powdered sugar sprinkling and spread of strawberry jam seeing the Diner-classic complete.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Easily overlooked in favor of familiar chains, local groups slowly expanding their brand, and fanciful new spots on The Strip, Lou’s Diner is a throwback to ‘greasy spoons’ speckled across America – a place that feels familiar, friendly, and full of nostalgia with the sort of food that is at-worst straightforward, and otherwise genuinely delicious and authentic.

RECOMMENDED: Monte Cristo, Lemon Cake, Cinnamon Roll.

AVOID: The Banana Cream Pie was a bit of a letdown given the lack of fruit, but still quite the slice for a mere $3.55.

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TIP: Open at 5:30am daily with specials announced by dry-erase boards over the counter.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Lou's Diner, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork

Japeneiro Asian Infusion, Las Vegas NV

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Japaneiro

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Rock Shrimp Tempura

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Japaneiro Special Fried Rice

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Baby Octopus

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Truffle Marrow Filet

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Japanese Uni Chawamushi

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6oz Nigerian Prawn with Yuzu-Wasabi

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6oz Nigerian Prawn with Uni Butter

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6oz Nigerian Prawn with Truffle Butter

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Yuzu Coconut Mochi with Genmacha Ice Cream

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Tiramisu

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Banana Harumaki

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Hoji Cha Ice Cream

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Designated as an Asian “Fusion” restaurant, and tucked inside an out-of-the-way strip mall with a former chef from Nobu manning the small kitchen, Japaneiro has received quite a bit of praise since opening earlier this year and sitting down with two friends in the small space where Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, and Kanye West boomed overhead the results proved an underwhelming mixed bag – the Strip-side pricing rarely in step with the quality of the product served across nearly a dozen plates.

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Admittedly a ‘locals-only’ sort of spot, and removed from Spring Mountain a bit of a novelty considering the locale, entry to Japaneiro sees the diner face-to-face with the kitchen and flanked with enough seating for a total of just thirty the service trends friendly without really being transparent, a limited laminated menu joined by several chalkboard specials that are detailed with limited explanation while costs are even more obscured – several numbers written next the name of an ingredient with the staff not really going out of their way to describe the upcharges or price per serving.

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Sipping water and iced green tea, both provided with copious refills at no cost throughout the course of a ninety minute stay, it was in three rounds that orders were placed after asking a few questions and beginning with two modestly priced menu items the first bites of lightly battered shrimp in spicy cream sauce offered a brief glimmer of hope, the house ‘special’ fried rice tossed with beef, shrimp, and pork a competent rendition, but certainly nothing to write home about.

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Moving next to several specials, three baby octopi were next presented with a good char and snappy flesh beneath light citrus at a cost of $4 each and although the nicely seared filet dramatically draped over a delicious charred marrow bone was indeed a dramatic presentation, the $34 surcharge for flavors marred in cheap truffle oil were still quite excessive – the use of the oil additionally making one wonder what other shortcuts the kitchen may be willing to take.

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Thoroughly underwhelmed by watery Chawanmushi carrying an upcharge of $13 from the five dollar base due to the addition of one meager tongue of Japanese Uni, it was onward to prawns that the meal progressed, and with confusing menu pricing seemingly the rule than the exception each “6oz” Nigerian specimen carried a unique charge ranging $23-$28, all but the yuzu and wasabi-tinged cheapest featuring the crustacean overcooked and more than a little tricky to liberate from its shell with the use of only chopsticks, spoon, and fork.

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Seemingly offering a bargain with desserts, and at this point certainly nowhere near full despite the eventual tab of $75 per person, suffice it to say that neither the tiramisu or mochi are particularly memorable save for the high price per bite, and although the Banana Harumaki with $3 ice-cream supplement was admittedly well made with creamy fruit tinged in sweet cheese beneath the lightest of shells it still was not enough to save the meal from regrets of not going elsewhere, a situation admittedly unexpected and leaving one to wonder what others see in this place that the group clearly missed.

TWO STARS: Priced on par with Raku, or even some places located within casinos on South Las Vegas Boulevard, Japaneiro would have proven a better experience at half the volume and 2/3 the cost, marred by slipshod execution and the sort of ambiance that almost instantly makes one want to get up and leave even the assumption that the group may have “ordered wrong” or “suffered an off night” provides little impetus to give the space a second chance to shine.

RECOMMENDED: Banana Harumaki with Hoji Cha Ice Cream, Rock Shrimp Tempura.

AVOID: Prawns, Upcharges.

TIP: Open at 4pm with Happy Hour until 6. No liquor license as yet, so byo may present good savings to some.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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Posted in Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Japaneiro, Japaneiro Asian Infusion, Las Vegas, Nevada, Octopus, Tiramisu, Truffle

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar [8,] Las Vegas NV

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Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

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Fried Green Tomato BLT – Pork Belly, Greens, Tomato Jam, Pimento Cheese

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Deviled Eggs with Redneck Caviar, Fresh Dill, Smoked Trout Roe

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Mama’s Ham n’ Cheese Biscuits – Virginia Country Ham, Vermont Sharp Cheddar, House Pickles

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Mama’s Brisket Biscuits – House Smoked Brisket, BBQ Sauce

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Wedge Salad – House Cured Bacon, Avocado, Corn, Yogurt Dressing

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Shrimp n’ Grits – Florida shrimp, crisp Virginia ham, Nora Mill Granary grits

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Chicken n’ Watermelon n’ Waffles – Fried Chicken, Hot Sauce Honey, Spiced Watermelon, Cheddar Cheese Chow Chow Waffle, Bourbon Maple Syrup

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Short Rib n’ Grits – 18oz Bone-In Short Rib, Nora Mill Granary Corn Grits, Charred Corn, Haricot Vert, Sweet Garlic Bordelaise

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Buttermilk Biscuits – Honey Butter, Apple Butter

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Charred Green Beans – Hickory Smoked Yogurt and Almond Vinaigrette

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Heirloom Tomatoes – House Made Ricotta

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Carrots – Brown Butter and Cumin

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Maple Glazed Bacon Brioche Donuts – Bacon Bits, Butterscotch Sauce

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Bacon-Butterscotch Cake with Bacon Frosting, Pecan Pie Filling, and Bourbon Bacon Ice Cream

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Crunch n’ Munch Bread Pudding, Popcorn Ice Cream

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Cornmeal Chess Pie – Sorghum Chantilly, Caramel Sauce, Caramel Pretzel, Popcorn

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Deep Fried Oreos – Rice Crispy Doughnut Dough Fried Oreos, Oreo Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce

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Yardbird Banana Split – Caramel Popcorn Ice Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream, Banana Brulee, Banana Curd, Chocolate Sauce

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Chocolate Chess Pie – Chocolate Chips, Orange Blossom Ice Cream, Citrus Marmalade, Chocolate Sauce

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Hummingbird Cake – Cream Cheese Icing, Caramelized Pineapple, Banana Pecan Ice Cream

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Strawberry Shortcake – Vanilla Cake, Strawberry Ice Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream, Sorgum Chantilly, Orange Strawberry Sauce

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S’mores brownie – Charred Marshmallow, Graham Cracker Ice Cream, Hot Chocolate Sauce

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At this point averaging a meal a month since Yardbird opened up, it was with five friends in town from Los Angeles plus a trio of locals that I sat down in the private room once again for brunch, and treated to a Chef’s tasting including several items from the upcoming menu update the results once again spoke to a passionate team utilizing the very best proteins and produce to turn out Southern staples amongst the country’s very best.

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Having already detailed much about the scene, décor, along with service in past reviews, and undeniably a known entity to the staff even with Chef Melvin Johnson looking after us as Todd Harrington enjoyed some well deserved time off, the decision to defer entirely to the team came at the admittedly low cost of $50 per person and starting off with a few signature bites before a duo of biscuits arrived the menu’s first new bites were both quite excellent, the former featuring paper thin ham laced with aged cheddar and a housemade pickle while the later trended a touch sweet from the housemade sauce, the brisket itself epitomizing the effect of slow smoking on beef lightly rimmed in fat.

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Attempting to graze lightly on a wedge salad that sees house-cured lardons mellowed by avocado, sweet corn, and tangy yogurt dressing, the follow-ups of Shrimp and Grits, Chicken and Waffles, plus Las Vegas’ best Shortribs would present a similar trio to the meal in March, and joined by three new sides plus eight more biscuits the seasonal influences were readily apparent, each bursting tomato nicely accented with light acid beneath house-made ricotta while smoked yogurt proved absolutely brilliant atop snappy green beans, the cumin scented carrots a favorite of most as light spices highlighted the natural sweetness of the produce, though bites were admittedly limited considering the promise of several desserts to come.

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At this point convinced that Vivian Lee and her pastry team are the hardest working crew in all of the 702, it was to a thorough degustation of items old and new that the table was treated to end the day, and with three new items joining seven experienced prior the only real questions were where to start and how full one wanted to end up, the Chess Pie still absolutely dazzling while the Hummingbird Cake was a perfect update on the pineapple laced favorite, a shortcake riffing on an ice cream sandwich wowing the palates of many while the dark chocolate brownie topped in house-smoked marshmallows was entirely indulgent even before being gilded with molten hot chocolate.

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Unable to Fairly Rate, though Five Stars Sounds Right: Unabashedly a fan of almost everything tasted at Yardbird to date, and excited to see what is to come when the new menu is finally hatched, there is little doubt that a ninth meal is just around the corner…and likely a tenth, eleventh, and twelfth after that.

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RECOMMENDED: Mama’s Ham n’ Cheese Biscuits, Fried Green Tomato BLT, Chicken n’ Watermelon n’ Waffles, Short Rib n’ Grits, Carrots, Cornmeal Chess Pie, Hummingbird Cake, Strawberry Shortcake.

AVOID: If one were to nitpick, I guess the tomatoes may have benefitted from a bit of finishing salt while the brisket biscuits could have a touch less sweet to let natural smokiness shine.

TIP: As yet awaiting print, new lunch, brunch, dinner, and dessert menus are due any day.

http://runchickenrun.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Waffles, Yardbird, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Yardbird Southern Table and Bar

Mothership Coffee Roasters, Henderson NV

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Mothership Coffee Roasters

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Nitrous Coffee

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Strawberry Balsamic Tart

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Concord Grape and Almond Galette

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Blueberry Glaze Cinnamon Roll

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Coconut Pineapple Scone

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Chocolate Chip and Rye Cookie

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Gluten Free Oatmeal Cranberry Cookie

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Peach and Oat Crumble Pie

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Chocolate Brownie Cake

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Owned by Juanny Romero and Joshua Walter of Sunrise Coffee fame, with organic fair-trade beans roasted on premises and the sort of baked goods that reference the quality of spots from Brooklyn to PDX, Mothership Coffee Roasters represents a paradigm shift in the ‘Las Vegas’ java landscape…even if the Green Valley Parkway address is in fact located in Henderson, the results already justifying the praise and even a trip from the far reaches of the valley’s more fanciful Northwest ‘burbs.

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Already making a name for themselves since 2008 with a seasonal lineup of espresso shots and brews served at Sunrise while their beans also form the base of cups served at restaurants including Natalie Young’s eat. downtown, it would seem fair to say that Romero and Walter have succeeded where several others have failed in trying to make Las Vegas an independent sort of coffee town and with the new shop offering a full view of roasters as well as the kitchen the experience itself is perhaps even more ‘craft’ than that at Four Barrel, Stumptown, or La Colombe – all of which outsource their pastry to local bakeries with far less creativity despite beans that are equally well sourced.

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Small in size, but cozy in décor with baristas that know more than a thing or two about not only pulling shots but the diversity of products on the shelves, a visit to Mothership no doubt begins with the coffee and offering several basics plus a locally sourced chocolate mocha those interested in something truly unique are encouraged to order up a nitro-infused cold brew, the market-price item based on whatever is best from the single origin selections without only the slightest acidity and mouthfeel bolstered by light carbonation, each 10oz cup pulled from a tap complete with a creamy head.

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Speaking next to pastries, and definitely the sort of goods that are likely to garner conversation in a city long lacking for any sort of artisan movement, Mothership features the work of not one but two young chefs, and with one woman working on reinterpreted classics while the other focuses on Vegan and gluten free items the selections run the gamut from sweet to savory with nearly every item tasted nothing short of impressive – even a snappy gluten free Oatmeal Cranberry Cookie proving quite boldly flavored despite the intrinsic limitations of its ingredients rendering it a touch dry.

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Stated as being ‘farm to table’ by the barista, and attempting as best as possible to focus on locally sourced organic goods whenever they can, all Mothership baking is done on premises and with muffins shipped to Sunrise the seasonal selections behind glass show the sort of flavors far more likely to intrigue, the Strawberry Balsamic Tart and Concord Grape with Almond Galette both breathing new life into timeless classics with all-natural fruit purees atop flaky golden crusts while a supple blueberry cinnamon roll offered an equally fruity flavor, though perhaps not showing quite as well as it may have had it been served warm.

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Functioning almost as an atelier, where staff members opinions are sought in crafting new items based on ingredients and whims, further tastes of item including a fruit and butter-pocketed Coconut Pineapple Scone and chewy Chocolate Chip and Rye Cooke showed an adept hand for spinning convention into something new without compromising texture or taste, and although perhaps a bit more ‘traditional’ than the rest both the Peach and Oat Crumble Pie as well as the Chocolate Brownie Cake were absolute steals at $4/each, the former the very picture of summer with near super-saturation of stonefruit while the later walked a tightrope between brownie and fudge, each rich bite the sort of thing that will no doubt see those dining in ordering up another freshly brewed cup of joe.

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Opening in a similar timeframe to DTLV’s PublicUS, but doing on-site roasting and offering far more baked goods at a similar pricepoint with equal or more impressive results, it seems as though Sin City is on the cusp of an artisan coffee revolution some have long desired, and if early bites of Mothership are any indication it seems as though the competition will be fun to watch while best may be yet to come.

RECOMMENED: Nitro Cold Brew, Concord Grape and Almond Galette, Coconut Pineapple Scone, Peach and Oat Crumble Pie.

AVOID: Though good for a gluten-free product, the oatmeal cranberry cookie is best saved for those harboring an allergy, or those choosing to adhere to that lifestyle considering the quality of everything else.

TIP: Tucked next to Trader Joes and open 8am to 6pm weekdays while closing at 4pm on weekends, Mothership features most items fresh on shelves just shortly after opening with a few more added throughout the day. Those interested in specific selections are encouraged to call in advance given the menu’s seasonal focus as well as the small batch baking which often sees more popular items sell out before noon.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://mothershipcoffee.com/

Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Henderson, Las Vegas, Mothership, Mothership Coffee, Mothership Coffee Roasters, Motheship, Nevada

Pink Box Doughnuts, Henderson NV

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Pink Box Henderson

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Date with a Nutty Pig

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Orange Marmalade

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Apple Pie Fritter

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Buttermilk Bar

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Maple Old Fashioned

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Blueberry Cronut

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Dropping a friend off early at McCarran and finding Flour & Grounds Bakery apparently already shuttered it was to Las Vegas favorite Pink Box’s Henderson location that I turned for breakfast and arriving just after 7:40 with the kitchen still baking the results proved to be the best experienced from the doughnuttery since my first visit to the Lake Meade location just weeks after its original opening.

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Ever a pleasant operation, the young female staff here as smiley and polite as the other locations decorating the valley, Pink Box Henderson offers the same large selection of flavors and styles as that which is found Northwest, and having already sampled much of the stores wares on my last three visits it was in a few new items as well as old favorites that appetite was invested, the $9 tab proving quite fair.

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Starting first with classics, a buttermilk bar and sourcream old fashioned topped with maple glaze that trends far more natural than other places around, time seems to have improved Pink Box’s cook times and with far less grease than average both items were amongst the best to be found in the city, the Apple Fritter unfortunately still less crisp than one would prefer though certainly not oily and absolutely rife with both fruit and spice.

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Generally excelling at filled offerings while simple yeasted and frosted versions have, in the past, seemed a bit doughy as a result of the brioche-style base, it was with the celebrated “Nutty Pig” that the tasting continued and with the blue cheese and balsamic even more poignant this time around the Pink Box signature remains one of those ‘destination’ items, the weekly special of Orange Marmalade offering another complex taste with the slightly bitter jam offset by custard filling and piped stars of cream.

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Previously disappointed by ‘cronuts’ that were flaccid, oily, and almost inedible despite people actually waiting in line for a taste at 9am, it was with some surprise that display versions on this visit appeared far more fanciful amidst a variety of toppings, and opting to give blueberry a sampling the results were admittedly quite shocking, the layers featuring an unprecedented degree of separation with a crisp exterior and plenty of butter beneath subdued sweetness provided by the natural fruit glaze.

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FOUR STARS: Perhaps a result of arriving just after opening, while all items were still fresh, or maybe a sign of improved recipes and craftsmanship as the Pink Box brand expands, suffice it to say that as far as “artisan” donuts go there are few better than those being offered by Pink Box Henderson today, particularly considering the cost – a repeat trip to the flagship soon warranted to see if similar can be find much closer to home.

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RECOMMENDED: Date with a Nutty Pig, Buttermilk Bar, Blueberry Cronut.

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AVOID: The Apple Fritter is fine, particularly for those who find more traditional versions to be ‘oily,’ but still won’t satisfy those looking for a crispy old school classic.

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TIP: Not 24/7 like the Lake Meade Original, those looking for their fix are welcomed as early as 6am Seven-Days a week with shop doors closing at 6pm weekdays, 7pm weekends, or earlier depending on supply and demand.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.pinkboxdoughnuts.com/

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Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Henderson, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pink Box Doughnuts, Pink Box Doughnuts Hendeson, Pork

Therapy., Las Vegas NV

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Therapy.

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Sangria Sampler: Classic Red (Hennessy cognac, Grand Marnier, almond syrup, cinnamon with fresh orange, strawberry, lemon, & green apple), Elder-Melon (Grey Goose Le Melon, Marie Brizard watermelon, Prosecco, with fresh watermelon, lemon, lime, & orange), Berry Good (Amaretto, cranberry, fresh blackberry, & sweet citrus flavors)

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Frozen Mango & Lychee Sangria (Don q cristal rum, Grand Marnier raspberry peach, mango & lychee puree with fresh raspberry, orange, lemon, & lime)

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Oxtail empanadas (Delicious oxtail filled pastry served with a harissa lime crème fraîche)

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Soft pretzel bread (with spicy beer mustard)

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In the “gnudi” (Baked ricotta, truffle honey, fig jam, roasted almonds & cranberry & walnut crostini)

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Roasted Mexican street corn (Perfectly seasoned corn on the cobb with a lime aioli chili pepper & Parmesan cheese)

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Mixed mushroom flatbread (Mushrooms, smoked bacon, carmelized onion & a soft poached egg)

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Chicken and red velvet waffle sliders (Belgium red velvet waffle, chicken breast with a red pepper remoulade slaw)

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Hangar steak tartar (Topped with confit egg yolk & Parmesan. Served with pickles & grilled bread)

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Crispy fried pig ears (Seasoned & breaded, deep fried to perfection with a truffle honey mustard)

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Roasted cauliflower (china ranch dates & yellow curry)

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Cast iron s’mores (Graham cracker crust with dark semi-sweet chocolate & toasted mallows bacon)

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Crumbled carrot cake (Brown Butter Ice Cream, Carrot cake layered on a cream cheese frosting schmear)

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Recently opened in the white-hot Fremont East district, an interesting decision given the established gastro-pub offerings of Park, Glutton, Carson Kitchen and more, it was at the suggestion of two trusted palates that dinner at “Therapy.” was booked, the menu seemingly featuring all the right words with execution left to Chef Daniel Ontiveros in his debut role as head toque in a restaurant off The Strip.

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Long in layout and two-stories tall, the space formerly inhabited by a Dollar Store completely renovated with a sexy bar and exposed ceilings as an open kitchen operates towards the back, it was at the hostess stand that we met General Manager Chuck Scimeca and swiftly led to a tidy four-top at the center of the restaurant the option of dining a la carte or letting the Chef cook for the table was offered, the later obviously accepted with a few special requests.

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Admittedly allowing a friend of the house to arrange the reservation, and unexpectedly presented with no check at night’s end, it was with service proving not only friendly but exceedingly well-informed and efficient that the meal began; a plate of soft pretzels set beside a quartet of oxtail empanadas, the former unequivocally buttery and luscious while the latter found surprising levity when dipped in peppery crème fraîche.

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Sipping a stiff yet fruity frozen drink, and later treated to a tasting of signature sangrias from which the Elder-Melon iteration proved an on-point summer refresher, it was with good pacing that round two arrived a few minutes after opening plates were finished and although the citrus kissed street corn was certainly no slouch there is little sense arguing that the star of the show was in fact the absolutely irresistible ricotta dumplings entitled “in the gnudi,” a gooey bite both sweet and savory that wows equally when eaten like gnocchi or spread on crostini, an item already rivaling the best appetizers in the city and a midpoint contender for the year’s ten best bites.

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At this point seeing lights lowered as a pop-heavy soundtrack switched to Taylor Swift at a volume that seemed a bit unnecessary given the growing din of the crowd, it was onward to a flaky puff-pastry ‘flatbread’ topped with mushrooms and a soft-poached egg that the savories marched on, and with a shocking degree of smoke imbued in the crust given the use of an electric oven each slice was slowly savored, a follow-up jar of silky steak tartar on par with what should be expected while the whimsical red-velvet sliders were unfortunately a bit muddled by all the accoutrements, a bit less slaw or more brine to the bird needed to add balance while the ‘bun’ would have been better off crisp.

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At this point a bit full, but unable to resist tasting a few more savories before moving onto dessert, it was with good fortune that a request was made to sample the meatiest pig’s ears tasted to date, and yet as delicious as the indulgent strips were it was perhaps a bit of a surprise that the charred yellow cauliflower presented even bolder, the use of curry, dates, as well as nuts offering a great degree of balance and giving one hope of great things to come when Ontiveros launches a market-driven blackboard in the months to come.

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Told that sweets at Therapy. are something not to be missed it was after a short visit from the Chef that the meal would reach its end, and again treated to a duo one would be hard pressed to decide whether the cast iron s’mores or deconstructed carrot cake was better, each creamy spoonful of the first exceptionally decadent despite being nicely anchored by a graham cracker base while the crumbled semicircle of spice cake was unquestionably more elegant, each bite offering something slightly different when paired to ice cream and airy cream cheese.

FOUR STARS: Still new, but already executing at a high level from the kitchen to the front of house staff, Therapy. marks yet another success for East Fremont, an area where things may indeed seem ‘same-same’ on the surface, while a deeper shows Chefs like Ontiveros instead pushing new concepts in an attempt to evolve the scene, and perhaps even swing the pendulum away from the strip and thereby change the game.

RECOMMENDED: “In the Gnudi,” Roasted Cauliflower, Mixed Mushroom Flatbread, Crumbled Carrot Cake.

AVOID: Chicken and Waffle Sliders.

TIP: Open for both lunch and dinner, 7 days a week, with the whole menu offered throughout service and specials soon to come.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.therapylv.com

Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Therapy, Truffle, Waffles

Crown Bakery, Las Vegas NV

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Crown Bakery

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Green Tea Cookies

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Butter Bread

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Sweet Pecan Pie

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Rock Bun

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Mr. Kim Bun

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Ube Cream

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Choco-Honey Cake

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Located next to latenight stalwart Ichiza, occupying the East corner of the second floor at 4355 Spring Mountain Road, Crown Bakery had long been a place on the local to-do list and with dim sum at Ping Pang Pong proving less than exhilarating it was largely on a whim that the decision was made to stop in, a smiling young lady more than happy to answer several questions and even going so far as to offer a pair of complimentary cookies atop the half-dozen items self-selected to check out the store’s wares.

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Most certainly no expert in Asian baked goods, a sweet tooth crafted in the Midwest far more attuned to American and European-styled pastry, it was with coffee in hand that a degustation of Crown’s buns and breads was undertaken and starting off with the crispy matcha cookies teaming with chopped nuts the restrained use of sugar was immediately evident, a texture not far from Italian Biscotti while the flavor profile trended herbal and lightly creamy – each bite actually well paired to the java, and likely even more appropriate alongside a pot of tea.

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Attempting best to see flavors progress from mild to rich it was with one cookie set aside that sights were turned to the appropriately named “Butter Bread” and as much as placing butter atop milk bread filled with cream filling may seem a good idea the use of a whole pad that stood solid simply seemed unnecessary, the additional calories far better invested in crispy wheels loaded with pralines and sprinkled with sugar, the flavor still less ‘sweet’ than the Southern classic despite the title’s description, but delicious just the same.

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Moving next to a dense orb denoted as “Rock Bread,” suffice it to say there is probably no American item comparable to the amalgam of dried fruits, coconut, several types of nuts, and just enough flour to see it all bind tasted to date, and although a bit challenging to pull apart and eat the variety of flavors were exceedingly natural…perhaps even ‘healthy,’ a followup “Mr. Kim Bun” featuring a soft base laced in peanut butter and red bean paste obviously trending a bit more sugary though still quite mellow amidst the supple white base.

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Always a fan of purple yam, it was with good fortune that despite arriving a few hours after noon there was still one Ube Cream Bun left on the shelf, and with a light coat of spelt decorating the outside for texture the flavor was every bit as good as expected, a half quickly eaten while the rest was consumed shortly after tasting the cocoa-honey ‘cake’ that unfortunately proved a bit lackluster with texture not dissimilar to that of Wonderbread with neither flavor very pronounced.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: A bit hidden amidst one of Chinatown’s busiest plazas, but featuring several novelties with low prices and the sort of service that one rarely associates with Spring Mountain Road, Crown Bakery is a place well worth exploring for those interested in Asian baked goods, a full exploration of the scene yet to be undertaken but the results thus far a promising start.

RECOMMENDED: Ube Cream, Mr. Kim Bun.

AVOID: Choco-Honey Cake.

TIP: Several chilled pastries and macarons are available, as are custom made cakes and a few items offered by the slice. $10 minimum for Credit Cards.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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Posted in Crown Bakery, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada

Ping Pang Pong, Las Vegas NV

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Ping Pang Pong

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Crispy Duck with Roasted Peanuts

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Pork Belly with Roasted Peanuts

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Shrimp Ball with Mayo

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Chive Dumpling

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Almond Coated Shrimp with Mayo

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Steamed Pork Bun

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Har Gow

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Shumai

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Baked Pork Bun

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Baked Coconut Bun

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Egg Custard

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Stuffed Eggplant

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Pan Fried Red Bean Cake

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Red Bean Donut

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Red Bean Bun

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Found inside the Gold Coast Casino, and said by some to offer the best Dim Sum in a City oft lamented for lacking anything on par with other locations of similar size, it was with three friends that an 11:00am arrival was planned at Ping Pang Pong – one showing up far later than the rest, but really not missing much as the majority of items proved mediocre to decent at best, though service was admittedly far superior to several spots on Spring Mountain Road…perhaps to be expected considering the price.

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Served in traditional cart format, the table provided cattycorner the kitchen giving a good vantage of carts being loaded with fresh items throughout the duration of a two-hour stay, Ping Pang Pong features most of the usual suspects with minimal variation and taking a slow-but-prudent approach to ordering as the restaurant sat almost universally full it was with teas both iced and hot that service began, a duo of crispy duck and supple pork each served with peanuts and complimentary sauces proving well roasted and full of flavor, though the former was riddled with bones that left some pieces virtually devoid of meat.

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Passing on snails that later went half-uneaten by the tardy member of the party, course two featured fried shrimp balls with a sidecar of creamy mayo along with surprisingly delicate and aromatic chive dumplings that rivaled the best found anywhere in town, and moving onward to a trio of plump crustaceans covered in sliced almonds it was here that the savory highpoints of the afternoon were found, the freshness of each item assured by the good fortune of location though the increasing smell of cooking oil and gas would eventually render that impression unsound.

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Underwhelmed by both shumai and har gow with skins that trended too thick, and personally finding both styles of pork buns almost ‘dessert like’ given the significant amount of sugar present in the sauce, it was a bit of a surprise that the lightly set egg custards were almost entirely natural in flavor atop flaky buttered pastry, a duo of coconut buns ordered as the first of several sweets equally impressive without the gloppy filling that sometimes ruins the texture of the bun.

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Adding one more savory, the soft eggplant with an herbal stuffing coated in fermented bean sauce, before going all-in on a trio of sweets to finish, suffice it to say that those fancying red bean paste are well served at Ping Pang Pong, and although items featuring both green tea, pineapple, and sesame were offered the pan fried cakes of red bean as well as baked buns and filled with the same were every bit as good as any tasted anywhere to date, the lack of pressure to turn a table while drinks were repeatedly refilled without request allowing time to linger, chat, and enjoy – an admitted rarity in during peak hours at restaurants serving in this style.

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TWO AND A HALF STARS: Charging approximately 25% more than other similar spots in town, and failing to nail the standards despite executing a few items quite well, Ping Pang Pong is just another average Dim-Sum joint intended to cater to the growing Asian tourist population, a better option for those confined to casinos found at nearby KJ in the Rio while those with a car would be well served to check out Chang’s just a mile and a half to the North.

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RECOMMENDED: Almond Covered Shrimp, Chive Dumplings, Coconut Bun, Red Bean Donuts

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AVOID: Har Gow, Shumai, BBQ Pork (unless one enjoys it really sweet.)

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TIP: Those interested in menu items are encouraged to request a copy as kitchen items are offered made-to-order, a congee and Chinese Donut cart also seen just before exit though it never made its way to the right half of the room. Seating is first come, first served and the line appeared to peak at noon.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.goldcoastcasino.com/dine/ping-pang-pong

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Posted in Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Ping Pang Pong, Pork

Andiron Steak & Sea, Las Vegas NV

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Andiron Steak & Sea

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Prosciutto – Melon, Balsamic, Olive Oil

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Bread and Butter with Black Salt

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Burrata & Grilled Fig – Medjool Dates, Confit Tomato, Mius 8 Vinegar

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Grilled Market Vegetables – Fava Beans, Zucchini, Peppers, Eggplant, Roasted Tomato-Balsamic Vinaigrette

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Hudson Valley Foie Gras – Huckleberry Jam, Toasted Brioche

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Nueske Bacon Wrapped Matzo Balls – Horseradish Crème Fraiche, Sandy Valley Farms Arugula

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Pork Belly – Grilled Leeks, Tomatoes

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Maine Lobster Salad – Grilled Peach, Seabeans, Radish, Yuzu Vinaigrette

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Tomahawk Chop for Two with Stuffed Bone Marrow and Red Wine Bordelaise, Andiron Steak Sauce, Chimichurri, Green Peppercorn Sauce

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Creekstone Heritage Pork Schnitzel – Warm Potato Salad, Watercress, Fried Farm Egg

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Whole Wheat Linguini – Spinach and Ricotta, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Pea Tendrils

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Summerlin Market Carrots – Carrot-Ginger Puree, Chervil

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Roasted Organic Mushrooms – Shallot, Thyme, Whole Wheat Croutons

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Mac & Cheese Waffle – Five Cheese Blend

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Twice Baked Loaded Potato – Bacon and Bee Hive Smoked Cheddar

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Ashley’s Crème Brulee Donuts – Vanilla Custard

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Brown Butter Lemon Pie – Toasted Lime Meringue, Candied Lime

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Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake – Peanut Butter Ice Cream, Salted Toffee

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Cherry Almond Cake – Cherry Crème Fraiche Ice Cream

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Stone Fruit Sorbet, Almond Amaretto Ice Cream, Salted Caramel Chip Ice Cream

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Double Espresso on Ice

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Owned and operated by Elizabeth Blau and husband Kim Canteenwalla, with talent in the kitchen supplied by Joe Zanelli, Andiron Steak & Sea is without a doubt the centerpiece of Downtown Summerlin’s dining scene, and yet as much as some would like to anoint it a groundbreaking development…or even a “game changer”…the reality is that the restaurant is exactly what it claims, a modern steakhouse with seafood and sides executed at a level corresponding with the associated fee.

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Large in size and light in ambiance, the flowing space featuring an outdoor patio juxtaposing a sexy bar that greets the eye just as patrons enter the door, a first glimpse of Andiron occured during the restaurant’s grand opening but waiting until buzz died down to sit for a proper meal it was with three friends that dinner was taken, the original plan of deferring to the kitchen quickly squashed when an order was requested with the resulting experience occurring over the course of two hours during which much food and fun was had.

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Well appointed with white linen as large windows bathe the space with light it was after a short visit from Chef Zanelli that the meal began and first treated to a gift of melon and prosciutto it would not be long before the table was quickly overloaded, a duo of salads and four starters immediately necessitating a request for more prolonged pacing as chilled dishes were set aside to focus on those more temperature sensitive – the grilled vegetables and pork belly both highlights from round one while the flavor of the lobster was almost entirely lost amidst its accoutrements and foie gras trended a touch pricey considering its small size.

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Thankfully giving time to photograph, chat, and exchange opinions of plates before queuing up course two it was again that the service structure at Andiron saw a plethora of plates arrive shortly after those from round one were cleared, and having opted to pair three entrees to four sides the results were surprisingly similar to that already experienced, both the Tomahawk Chop and Crispy Pork Schnitzel prepared as good as any off-Strip while the Linguini was texturally mushy, the carrots proving the high-point of the sides mainly as a result of the ginger puree beneath while the clever macaroni waffle was far better than the first time around in part due to the cheesy sauce added tableside.

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Never one to shy away from sweets, though admittedly a bit disappointed that the tarte tatin and ice box cake listed online have been deep-sixed in favor of chocolate pudding cake and an admittedly impressive cherry clafoutis, it was with a quintet of complimentary desserts that the meal would end and as much as the crème brûlée donuts may indeed get all the press it was actually the aforementioned almond cake alongside the Brown Butter Lemon Pie that saw everyone smiling in agreement – the later a dessert ranking high amongst Las Vegas’ very best.

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THREE STARS: Thus far a hit as the restaurant was nearly 90% full on a Friday evening throughout the majority of our stay the question that few have answered is how exactly Andiron ups-the-ante compared to the likes of nearby Flemming’s or even Echo & Rig, the former obviously a chain with similar price structure as well as execution while the latter is seriously flawed in its dessert program, though ringing in at 2/3 the cost for a similar upscale experience, plus in-house butchery and curing programs allowing for far more range.

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RECOMMENDED: Grilled Market Vegetables, Creekstone Heritage Pork Schnitzel, Summerlin Market Carrots, Brown Butter Lemon Pie.

AVOID: Maine Lobster Salad, Twice Baked Loaded Potato.

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TIP: Now offering a $55 3-Course Prix-Fixe, plus frequent ‘special event’ dinners, online menus currently lag behind those offered in-house – those interested in specific items should call or stop by.

http://andironsteak.com/

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

Click to add a blog post for Andiron on Zomato

Posted in Andiron, Andiron Steak & Sea, Andiron Steak and Sea, Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Lobster, Nevada, Pork

Au Petit Bouchon “Chez Georges,” Lyon France

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Au Petit Bouchon “Chez Georges”

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Vin Rouge

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Crispy Pork

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Chitterling Sausage

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Warm Bread

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Œufs cocotte au St Marcellin

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Tripes au vin blanc

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Quenelle de brochet aux écrevisses

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Tarte Apricot

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Considered a local gem, but often discussed by visitors as a “true” Lyonnaise bouchon despite its location on the edge of the touristy 1st, tiny Au Petit Bouchon “Chez Georges” is the sort of place where a sign reading “Complet” often hangs long before dinner begins, yet having planned far in advance in order to assure a seat the experience itself was one of mixed feelings – the cuisine itself universally excellent while service unfortunately made little attempt to welcome foreigners, even going so far as to unapologetically attempt to rip me off twice.

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Originally booked for Friday at 19h00, but arriving fifteen minutes early to the aforementioned sign and opening the door to find the three staff members enjoying family meal, it was with to stern look that I enter and apologizing as best as I could in French I was nonetheless invited to sit, the chef talking loudly and finishing his story before retiring to the kitchen – the lone server and sous left to do the cleaning.

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Obviously identified by my language, the handwritten ledger verifying the booking made by E-mail, it was while browsing specials that the menu was presented , and with no prix fixe even suggested in the English iteration despite prominent placement on the French version and website an inquiry to such was met with resistance – the bill presented later again found to exhibit a la carte prices, plus the cost of a full bottle of house Red when only a lone 25cl pour was drank.

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No doubt an intimate space, and one that gets both hot and loud as the 24-seats fill and remain that way as the nigh, and rolls on, dining at Chez George begins with a small basket of pork cracklings present on arrival and soon treated to bread and a slice of house sausage the attention to detail was readily apparent, each bite replete with light spicing that helped to tame the otherwise rich sapor.

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Amused when a three-part order including one prix-fixe plus an additional plate was deemed “too much for just you,” but happy to receive a demi-portion of one dish at a slightly reduced cost at the suggestion of the chef it was with signature Œufs cocotte au St Marcellin that the menu started off and with two golden eggs centered in a bowl of cream and cheese the results were absolutely indulgent, the makeshift fondue when mixed absolutely delicious on its own, and even better when sopped into the crusty warm bread.

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Having somehow missed out on tripe to this point in the trip, round two saw a half-plate of supple offal arrive in a sauce of white wine, and as much as the dish may prove an acquired taste the version served at the bouchon is amongst the best I’ve tasted to date, the honeycombed ribbons meltingly tender at the center with a top lightly crisped by the oven and plenty of nuance added by potatoes and sauteed onions.

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Not nearly as full as the server would have thought, it was after some delay and chat with English-friendly neighbors that the final savory would arrive, and having already sampled through many Quenelles during my stay in Central France I’m happy to say that the version at Chez Georges was one of the most hearty in the city, the flavor of pike rather light amidst the eggy omelet while the sauce was creamy and substantial with shellfish, each balanced bite compelling another without ever threatening to overwhelm or make one feel stuffed.

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Moving onward to desserts, the items all prepared earlier in the day due to the limitations of a tiny kitchen, it was with some regret that I declined the apple dumpling in favor of an Apricot Tart, but with the sharply flavored fruit presented atop a custard-like clafoutis with just a touch of char there was really nothing to feel sorry about at all in my decision, though perhaps ordering another savory or a few more desserts would have been a worthy endeavor, not only because everything was so good, but also to make a point.

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http://www.aupetit-bouchon-chez-georges.fr/

Posted in Au Petit Bouchon “Chez Georges”, Bread Basket, Dessert, Food, France, Lyon, Pork, Vacation

Régis et Jacques Marcon, Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid France

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Régis et Jacques Marcon

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Le Menu entre Velay et Vivarais

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Du Sapin, Roi de nos Forets: La Pomme de pin a cueillir, Le Cepe a Ramasser, Cornet fourre a l’hommous de lentilles vertes du Puy, Huitre en gelee de pommes vertes – cresson et celery, Feuillete au Comte, Cuilleres gourmands entre Ardeche et Auvergne

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Carrotte Orange, Legumes Achillee, Brandade Ardechoise, Tartare de Boeuf du Mezene

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Bread and Butter, Grisini

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Escargot Beignet, Courgette Veloute with Wild Fennel

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Fera et Asperule Odorante – Chaude et Froid de fera a la crème de cistrem jeunes pousses, fleurs en gelee d’asperule

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Langoustine et Rhubarbe – Langoustine rotie a la tige de Rhubarbe, Sabayon au Gout Grille

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Les Chanterelles et Herbes – Gateau de Ratatouille de Legumes aux Chanterelles, Bisque aux Herbes Parfumes

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Barbue et Aigrelette de nos Champs – Piece de Barbue Braisee a la Feuille d’Oseille, Chou Tendre, Beurre Verveine

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*Gift from Chef* – Just laid Quail Egg, Lentils de Puy, Aged Balsamic, Black Truffles Preserved and Fresh

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Consomme et Tanaisie – The de Champignons Parfume a la Feuille de Tanaisie, Reviole Truffee

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Pigeon et Abricot – Le Demi Pigeon Roti aux Amandes et Abricots, Taboule d’Epeautre a la Sauge Ananas

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Les Fromages d’Ardeche et d’Auvergne Affines dans Notre Cave

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Framboise et Verveine – Le Baba Punche a la Liqueur de Verveine, Chantilly, Framboises a Deguster

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Les douceurs avec les chaudes, les glaces et les patisseries a choisir suivant
Mignardises

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Located in lush Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid, and garnering Michelin Stars and Relais & Chateaux recognition on par with Bras, Blanc, Pic, and Troisgros, Régis et Jacques Marcon was the fifth ‘destination’ dinner on trip through Central France and although the restaurant may lack the international acclaim of the others it was amidst the spacious environs overlooking valleys and fields that an extraordinary meal was enjoyed, Le Menu entre Velay et Vivarais centrally focused on the bounty of Mother Nature with a particular eye on foraged mushrooms and local Lentils de Puy.

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Truly a beautiful place, the hotel and restaurant atop a hill decorated in hard woods, wide windows, and a ceiling that literally sparkles like the stars, entry to Régis et Jacques Marcon is via covered parking into a well appointed salon, and with reservation confirmed it was after a brief visit to the kitchen that the table was ready – a fourtop set for one with fancy linens, fine silver, and English fluent service that trumped any seen in France before.

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Providing ample literature about the Marcon concept alongside several dining options including the summer tasting which suggested seven courses despite actually offering more than a dozen when accounting for canapes, amuses, cheese, mignardises, and a special gift from the kitchen, service began with several snacks offered in the spirit of the forest, everything from the dangling nut to an Oyster with Green Apple proving excellent, the creamy mushroom cap symbolic of much to come.

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Next presented a quartet of bites, each enlivened by herbs from the garden that served to highlight the featured proteins and produce, it was with warm bread and mushroom shaped butter that the afternoon progressed and although doing my best not to overindulge in the warm cracked wheat the plan mostly proved fruitless, a second round later arriving…though admittedly long after I was wowed by a garlicky snail in choux alongside a shooter of creamy soup proving an inspired juxtaposition of flavors as well as textures with a light fennel finish.

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At this point starting the proper menu, forty-five minutes of snacks already passed, service progressed as a slowly unfolding story of French summer, a low bowl of sprout broth with cubes of firm fish served beside supple tartare of the same – a shooter of Tomato Gazpacho once again acting to ready the palate for a follow-up of snappy langoustine served atop rhubarb and green beans brought into new light by a sabayon of zucchini and ‘just a touch’ of cream.

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Continuing to richer flavors, though little of what Is served at Maison Marcon could be considered ‘heavy’ in any traditional way, a ratatouille cake surrounded in mushrooms found substantial depth of flavor amidst a reduction of fine herbs while the tender filet of Brill dressed in bitter vegetables including radish and cabbage was surprisingly subtle despite the substantial portion.

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Again taken to the kitchen, an unexpected surprise that saw me greeted by both Regis and his son Jacques, it was thanks for ‘coming such a long distance’ that a gift from the kitchen was given, the tender ragout of lentils dressed in a ‘just laid’ quail egg beneath black truffles every bit as decadent as would be expected while the following cup of mushroom tea and truffle ravioli reminisced of Achatz’s “explosion” with less intensity but better context.

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Rounding out savories with a pigeon in two forms atop vegetables and fruits, with a vibrant pineapple pan jus poured tableside before moving on to cheese, the grand finale of lunch at Marcon was unveiled in piece-by-piece fashion and as excellent as bites of Apricot Cake with Blossom Flower Emulsion and Herb Ice Cream were it was without doubt the Verbena liquor soaked baba that stole the spotlight, a collection of mignardises including Chocolate mushrooms, Truffled Nougat, Candied Citrus Lentils, and fresh Cream with Chestnut Liquor all equally befitting a dining destination that exemplifies concepts of seasonality, time, and place.

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http://www.regismarcon.fr/

Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Food, France, Ice Cream, Lyon, Régis et Jacques Marcon, Régis Marcon, Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid, Tasting Menu, Truffle, Vacation

Vert Marc, Chaudes-Aigues France

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Vert Marc

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Laminated Praline Biscuit

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Apple Tarte

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Caramel Tarte

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Butter Croissant

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Chocolate Baton

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Having spent a restless night in a humid hotel along the main street of Chaudes-Aigues it was just before dawn that I awoke, and deciding to take a morning run through hilly city streets a substantial amount of ground was covered, the townsfolk encountered along the route all exceedingly friendly including the owners of two local bakeries, the first Patisserie de la Source du Par and second Vert Marc.

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Obviously a space not frequented by foreigners, and expectedly not particularly attuned to limited French though more than willing to try, it was by a lone woman who also appeared to be the baker that my arrival was welcomed and with no less than two-dozen options tempting behind glass while several more sat cooling on shelves a five-part order was crafted, the total tab of just 9.10€ proving an incredible bargain for the portions, quality, and ingredients entailed.

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Lacking seating like most boulangeries in central France, it was with car parked nearby that I took still-warm goods to the banks of a nearby river to enjoy as the sun came up, and beginning with a soft butter croissant with yawning caves of lamination my anticipation quickly grew with regard to a flaky praline biscuit crafted of the very same dough, the crisp pink shellac tasting sweet as candy with a thin coat of nuts helping meld it to shattering layers below.

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Attempting, as usual, to progress from lighter flavors to those more ‘dessert-like’ and bold, it was next into a duo of tartes that teeth were sunken, the warm apple version absolutely excellent with fruits slightly blackened while the caramel version was almost too rich to be enjoyed at 7h00, the rest saved until later as an indulgent bite en route back to Lyon.

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Admittedly trending quite full considering the aforementioned stop at Source du Par it was perhaps a bit foolhardy to even take a bite of the chocolate baton, but with the exterior crisp and golden with dark chocolate still molten the subsequent satiety was absolutely worth it, more than half the pastry eaten with my only regret being that a cup of good coffee was nowhere to be had.

Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Chaudes-Aigues, Croissant, Dessert, Food, France, Lyon, Vacation, Vert Marc

Patisserie de la Source du Par, Chaudes-Aigues France

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Patisserie de la Source du Par

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Croque Monsieur

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Butter Croissant

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Vanilla Éclair

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Chocolate Religeuse

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Prune Clafoutis

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Having spent a restless night in a humid hotel along the main street of Chaudes-Aigues it was just before dawn that I awoke, and deciding to take a morning run through hilly city streets a substantial amount of ground was covered, the townsfolk encountered along the route all exceedingly friendly including the owners of two local bakeries, the first entitled Patisserie de la Source du Par.

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Located in a sort of town-square area with shops for paper goods, meats, produce, and a few tiny cafes “Source du Par” is actually attached to the nextdoor “Salaisons de la Source du Par” and doubling as a store for Ice cream and Liquor the early morning selection proved a bit more meager than nearby Vert Marc while the quality and cost were both nearly on par.

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Treated to service that managed limited command for the French language with a surprising amount of skill it was with just a few minor questions answered that an order was crafted, and taking five boxed items to the streets for later indulgence it was admittedly a bit puzzling as to why nothing was remotely warm, the resultant first bite of a butter croissant setting any suspicions of day-olds aside as flakes broke away and gently floated to the ground.

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Not particularly impressed by the appearance of other laminated pastries, but thrilled to see the first boulangerie/patisserie croque monsieur of the trip offered at a mere 2.50€ it was in the creamy cheese sandwich that I opted to next indulge, and although served colder than one might have liked the thick layers of ham and Swiss between slices of toasted housemade brioche were nonetheless still delicious, and served at a fraction of the cost of many lesser versions served back home.

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At this point scaling back to half-portions in order to save room for a follow-up quintet from Vert Marc, it was next to a custardy clafoutis rich with pitted plums that tastebuds wee treated and rounding out the morning with two types of choux the decision of which was better proved a tossup largely dependent on one’s preference for chocolate or vanilla, the former stuffing an especially rich Religeuse while the later inside an éclair was far more mild and light.

Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Chaudes-Aigues, Croissant, Dessert, Food, France, Lyon, Patisserie de la Source du Par, Pork, Vacation

Serge Vieira, Chaudes-Aigues France

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Serge Vieira

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House Mocktail – Peach, Apple, and Pear with Elderflower

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Gruyere Bread with Mushroom Cream, Dry Aged Beef with Cucumber, Fried Pork with Lentils

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Crudite Tarte, Salmon with Guacamole, Trout Tartare with Fennel Gellee, Crispy Tube with Cantal Cream

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Pain au Cereal

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Pan Fried Foie Gras, Herb Coulis, Horseradish, Turnip, Crispy Quinoa

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Slowly Steamed Langoustine, Ravioli of Claw With Squid Ink, Marinated Japanese Pearls, Peas, Seasoned Juice

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Roasted Turbot with Wild Celery, Artichoke, Crispy Chips, Raz el Hanout, Cistre Shoots

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Mr. Raymond’s Guinea Fowl grilled with Lemon Verbena, Multicolored Courgette, Sweet Onions

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Trolley of Cheeses, Yoghurt, and Jams

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On a Peach Water – Yellow Nectarine Carpaccio, Crispy Tube, Chocolate Mousse, Milk Crust

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Le Temps des Cerises – Ravioli and Glazed “Burlat” Cherries, Elderberry Balls, Morello Cherry and Bassam Chocolate Cream

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Mignardises

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Located high in the hills of Chaudes-Aigues and eponymously toqued by 2005 Bocuse d’Or winning Chef Serge Vieira, it was several hours after finishing lunch at Le Suquet that I sat down amidst the modernized confines of Le Couffour, and with a windowside view of the slowly setting sun it was to a combination of deft cuisine and mostly excellent service that evening would take place, the unseasonably high temperature and sluggish pace despite a half-full dining room the only thing preventing the experience from being world-class.

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Truly a beautiful setting, the renovated stone tower looking down on a city of hills, cobblestones, and brick, there are some who say that the 2* restaurant run by Vieira and his wife has in some ways surpassed that of 3* Bras up the road, and although the rich wood confines similarly fuse to the nature just outside windows the cuisine itself trends a bit more ‘current’ with the occasional bit of modernist technique creeping in by way of spherification, ISI-whip, and foam.

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Served as two menus, both focused on seasonality but entirely different, it was in the 125€ Menu “M” that my decision was made and requesting a supplemental dessert from the 76€ “S” it was not long before bottled water was served, despite house-filtered flat being offered to others, the 8€ addition admittedly a minor annoyance while the creamy house mocktail was an unexpected surprise.

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Starting first with a trio of savory ‘toasts,’ from which both the mushroom and dried beef were memorable bites rich with earth and umami, it was next that the omnipresent centerpiece was used to deliver a quartet of canapés atop a long metal plate, and although the tartare of trout was a bit overwhelmed by the aromatic jam atop it would be difficult to call any of the other bites less than exemplary – the cruidte tart a perfect bite of summer while the supple salmon and tube of cream melted almost equally on the tongue.

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Offered bread but no butter, an oddity that at least prevented one from overindulging on a toothsome pain au cereal, the menu officially began nearly an hour after taking a seat and starting off with a caramelized slice of foie gras paired to nothing but bitters and herbs a strong precedent was set for flavors to follow, the sweetness almost always restrained with proteins instead highlighted by acid, light sauces, and produce gently manipulated to extract flavors at their very best.

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Having already mentioned the unhurried service, plates presented at an average interval of thirty minutes in between, courses two and three were offered as the Chef’s daily interpretations of the sea, and with the well-cooked crustacean snappy and supple amidst a clear yet complex broth the followup of turbot was even more exemplary, the flesh featuring a translucent rainbow glow beneath the lightest of sears while textures of artichoke and bitter vegetables found their balance in a brown butter foam.

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Seeing portions trend similar in size to Le Suquet, and thus happy to not see the menu run too many courses given the increasingly late hour, the menu’s final savory once again eschewed heavy meats in favor of Guinea Fowl from a local farm, and lightly tinged in citrus alongside multiple styles of squash plus a tarte of stewed onions the dynamics of the dish proved not only delicious on their own, but a perfect transition to cheeses paired to several more style of bread plus house cultured yogurt and jams.

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At this point admittedly finding the room a bit uncomfortable as temperatures trumped 85F with virtually no circulation of stagnant air, it was with good fortune that pasty at Serge Vieira proved well worth the investment of time, and with both the option from “M” and “S” served in sequence the decision of which was ‘best’ would prove a virtual stalemate, the peach tube without a doubt the lighter and more elegant while the cherries and chocolate presented a study of textures with taste not unlike that of a black forest cake.

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At last served a second decorative metal plate of mignardises in the cone that sat tableside throughout the course of the meal it was with the bill paid and coffee declined that a somewhat expedited exit was made, the air outside trending far cooler than that within while a meal very much worthy its considerable acclaim lingered in memories, though a slow descent from the hill via unlit dirt roads was indeed slow and fraught with several wrong turns.

http://www.sergevieira.com/index-us.htm

Posted in Bread Basket, Chaudes-Aigues, Dessert, Foie, Food, France, Ice Cream, Lyon, Macaroon, Pork, Serge Vieira, Tasting Menu, Vacation

Le Suquet par Michel et Sebastien Bras, Laguiole France

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Le Suquet par Michel et Sebastien Bras

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House Filtered Water de L’aubrac and Peach Nectar de Yannick Colombie

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Bread with Butter and Fennel

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Canapes – Oeufs Coque Mouillettes, Ancient Grains, Sepia Tarte

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Aujourd’hui – Le Gargouillou de Jeunes Legumes, Graines et Herbs, Lait de Poule Parfume au Basillic

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Ombre & Lumiere – La Lotte de Mediterranee Pochee a l’Huile Noure, Laitue Asperge Blanchie/Poelee de Port d’Agres, Olive Forte

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Ni Chaude ni Froid – La Tranche de Foie Gras de Canard Grillee; des Cerises au Vinaigre; Chou-Fleur Cru & Cuit

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D’Inspiration Mediterraneenne – Jeune Fenouil Emince sur une Pate a l’Ancienne, Crème aux Truffes de Compregnac

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De Pure race Boeuf Aubrac – Le Filet de Boeuf Poele au Beurre/Rouge, Tomate Steak & Rob de Tomate, les Basilics Parfumes, un Bouillon tout Simple au Vin Rouge

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*supplement* Dit de Barbarie – Le Coffre de Cannette Roti sur Os et Perle a la reine des pres, Haricots Heldas, Genievre/Orange a Picorer

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Les Aligots

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D’ice et d’a cote – Les Fromages de l’Aveyron including Fresh Cheese and 3 Styles of unnamed local Cheddar 6, 18, 24 months with poached Fraises du Bois, Salad, and Nut Bread

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Sur une Interpretation du Coulant, Originel de ’81 – Le Biscuit Tiede de Chocolat Coulant Ibaria 67%, Crème Glacee Pistache, Gelee de Fruits Rouges

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Tout Doux – Abricot Poche a la Gentiane & Sirop au Miel, Fraise-Rhubarbe & Mousse a la Tagette

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Canailleries – Des Coronets Garnis au gre de nos Envies – Chocolate with Hazelnut, Lemon With Orange Pollen, Cassis, Wildflower, Vanilla with Chocolate

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Take Home Biscuits

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Occupying the top spot on an ever lengthening culinary bucket-list for just over four years it was with great anticipation that the 250 minute trek to Route de l’Aubrac took place, and arriving at Le Suquet just moments past noon it was with warm smiles that entry to Maison Bras was met, the rolling hills of Laguiole en Aveyron beckoning in the distance while clean air carried by a gentle wind quickly put the body at ease and naturally cleared the head.

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Every bit the postcard scene that photographs would have one imagine, a modern space bathed in light almost bleeding through windows to fuse with fields and gardens outside, it was in declining a drink at the lounge that the Maitre D’ offered to show me the kitchen, and with Sebastien Bras seen teaching at the fish station while a team of twenty worked quietly amidst spotless steel surfaces one could not help but feel caught up in the moment, a sense of passion reflected in every aspect of the three and a half hour experience to come.

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Taking the next twenty-minutes to explore the hotel and its grounds, the meal’s start time officially 13h00 per my reservation, suffice it to say that those so inclined will be happy to see a wide range of art and items for purchase just inside the foyer, and seated promptly at 12h45 it was with little indecision that the Menu Balade was selected, an additional demi-course added from one of the smaller menus at the cost of a 30€ supplement.

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At this point almost a ‘casual’ affair, the decision by Michel Bras to offer his cuisine without all the frills attached to many other Michelin 3* spaces found throughout the world made many years ago, it was still to immaculate service that all guests’ needs were attended – a loaf of bread bearing the name of each patron unveiled tableside while cutlery was retained throughout the meal, even the bottled water upcharge done away with in favor of house-filtered pitchers sourced from the streams in valleys below.

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More a ‘journey’ than just a meal, something perhaps to be expected given the location and history of the space, plates at Bras present a gentle progression of seasonality alongside regional flavors, the opening oeuvre of an egg meant to reminisce of Sebastien’s childhood in Laguiole while the following Le Gargouillou was a classic pieces of culinaria that many have seen but one must sit down to experience in order to truly understand the time and craftsmanship involved.

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Moving to meats faster than one may have guessed, a course of delicate Turbot with seared mushrooms and almonds showing great balance with pan jus atop freshly cracked polenta, course three featured the chef’s highly praised foie gras paired to cherries, cauliflower puree, and sphere of finely diced broccoli, the liver itself the very definition of creamy while vegetables focused on pureness of flavor despite the modification of traditional textures.

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Trending shorter than other tastings, but offering sizable portions of each course instead of small bites, plate four offered a fine puff pastry decorated in freshly picked fennel, fresh cheese, and truffle Cream before transitioning to the menu’s final savory, a rich cut of grass-fed beef wrapped in tomato with herbal aromatics and a reduced sauce of red wine.

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Here treated to the supplement, a young duck with crackling skin whose undeveloped fat layer yielded a leanness benefitting both texture and flavor of the flesh, it was after a scoop of Les Aligots that the afternoon progressed to cheeses, the young man tending the cart clearly a bit green with limited skills in English as the Maitre D’ happily stepped in with no shortage of regional selections to offer, a tasting of three ages of unnamed cheddar from a farm located mere minutes away offering an experience unique to time and place.

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Unknown to some that Michel Bras created the ‘lava cake’ with his Coulant as far back as 1981, sweets started with a textbook interpretation of the classic beneath a rich ball of pistachio ice cream and with mignardises spanning from a simple bowl of fruit in syrup to a crispy ‘flag’ of honey anticipation slowly built for the meal’s final moment, the famous cart of cones soon to be topped with five styles of ganache, sorbet, and cream.

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Left to enjoy the environs while water was refilled and a tin of parting gifts offered, it was admittedly a bit hard to think that such a long anticipated event had now passed, but still every bit the 3* experience even if the cuisine is no longer “cutting edge” a meal at Bras is undoubtedly worth it for those willing and able to make the trek.

http://www.bras.fr/#index-restaurant

Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Foie, Food, France, Ice Cream, Laguiole, Le Suquet par Michel et Sebastien Bras, Lyon, Maison Bras, Michel Bras, Sebastien Bras, Tasting Menu, Truffle, Vacation

Pâtisserie Chocolaterie Pépin, Lyon France

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Pâtisserie Chocolaterie Pépin

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Pomme de Pepin

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Coffee Éclair

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Paris Brest

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Guglhupf

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Raspberry Financier

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Verrine

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Apricot, Salted Caramel, Pistachio. Strawberry Macaron

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Located directly in the shadow of my hotel, but not opening until 9am and thus preventing a visit on days when other boulangeries beckoned as early as 6h30, it was late evening on 1 July that I entered the brightly lit space, and greeted by a young lady whose limited English complimented my primitive French a 10-part order was pieced together and carefully boxed, the goods intended as breakfast and ‘road food’ the following morning en route to Laguiole and lunch at Le Suquet par Michel et Sebastien Bras.

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Owned by Nicholas Pepin, a native of the Loire, and originally starting in the 7eme with subsequent expansion to the Confluence district, Patisserie Pepin is perhaps the most Parisian shop of its kind in all of Lyon and with several cakes, entremets, gourmandises, and petit fours alongside a full selection of chocolates the most difficult aspect of a visit is largely that of limiting ones order, my late arrival not even seeing a selection of breakfast breads and viennoiserie that I’m also told fare quite well.

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Being sure to refrigerate the bulk of the items in order to best assure freshness for the 4-hour drive following a morning trip to the gym it was with the sugary guglhupf that a tasting began and studded with golden raisins with texture that remained a buttery wisp despite its age the flavors a good first impression was made, the follow-up “pomme de pepin” an equally pleasing bite with aromatic apple cream and a cakelike center resting atop the cinnamon-rich base.

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Allowing macarons enough time to warm, and slowly progressing through flavors that saw bold jams highlight both Apricot and Strawberry iterations before moving on to pistachio and intensely salted caramel selections that unfortunately seemed to have suffered a bit of sog in storage, it was next from a delicate raspberry verrine that spoonfuls were enjoyed, the juxtaposition of chocolate chunks, cream, whole berries, jam, and granola equaling something far better than the simple sum of its parts while le financier de framboise was equally well prepared, a substantial bit of butter enriching every toothsome bite.

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Intentionally attempting to save the best for last, and hoping that choux had not suffered despite a full night in the fridge, suffice it to say that any skepticism was set aside after the first bite of an éclair loaded with espresso imbued cream, the atypically shaped Brest featuring a similar crisp break before giving way to the smooth flavor of pralines with just enough added sugar to see the sweetness balance the nuts.

http://www.patisserie-chocolaterie-pepin.com/

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, France, Lyon, Macaroon, Pâtisserie Chocolaterie Pépin, Vacation

Le Neuviem Art, Lyon France

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Le Neuviem Art

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Nectar Fraises du bois

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Foie Gras Tartine, Green Peas, Broccoli, Sun Dried Spanish Beef

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Sardines with Plum in Brik

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Yogurt with Tandori Spices

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Fried Quail Egg with White Bacon

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Bread with Butter on Request

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Royale de Tourteau, Rape de Poutargue et Pois Gourmands

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Foie Chaud et Feve de Tonka, Au Melon Anise, Jus de Carotte Acide

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Grosse Langoustine Bretonne Pochee dans un Bouillon Safrane, Artichaut Violet et Croute D’Epices

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Bar Cuit a Basse Temperature aux Asperges Blanches et Vertes, Emulsion D’un Lait D’Amande

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Pigeon aux Betteraves Acidulees, La Cuisse en Pastilla, Jus de Mure, Marmelade D’Orange Amere

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Cheeses from Our Trolley

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Gateau de Semoule Infuse a la Fleur de Sureau

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Lingot d’or aux Cerises Fraiches, Peit Pot Glace et Cerise Geante – Cherry Financier, Cherry Amaretto Sorbet, Cherry Cream Cake

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Mignardises – Apricot Pate de Fruit, Yuzu Caramel, Raspberry Lunette, Lemon and Basil Milk Chocolate, Raspberry Dark Chocolate

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Madelines – Strawberry and Lychee

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Owned by Christophe Roure, and Lyon’s most recent recipient of a second Michelin Star, Le Neuviem Art was a bit of a last minute decision when piecing together the dining puzzle of Central France, but with skills honed under the likes of Bocuse, Marcon, and Gagnaire the experience proved to be something absolutely distinct with several plates that either matched or outperformed those of his mentors in a sleek environment with the sort of formal yet friendly service that made even those who barely spoke the language feel welcome to sit back, relax, and simply enjoy the ride.

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Dressed in natural woods, grassy greens, and salmon pink with crepe paper touches amidst large windows that bathed the room first in natural light, then in that from streetlamps outdoors, it was at reception that guests were greeted by name by the Chef’s wife, a woman who took great interest in how I’d heard about the restaurant while telling stories of her own travels to the American Southwest years prior, it was soon after seating that a young man with excellent English skills approached the table with a list of aperitifs and electing for water along with Alain Milliat’s Jus Fraises du bois Juice a few questions about the trio of menus were answered, the chef’s tasting with one substitution “not a problem at all.”

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Told that the menu would last about three hours, and soon finding the room at capacity with a noise level that was far more jovial than any of the three-star spots visited without even being ‘loud,’ it was with a crispy “caterpillar” of dried beef, smooth liver, and vegetables atop a rock that the meal began and progressing quickly to a duo of briny anchovies sweetened by stonefruit alongside tangy yogurt before culminating in a breakfasty bite of pork and eggs, the canapes proved good evidence of things to come, the Gagnaire influence on obscure pairings and astonishing forms obvious from the start.

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Starting the menu proper with a foamy emulsion of lemon atop fluffy king crab flan and a sprinkling of lobster eggs plus shaved bottarga helping to bring sours and sweetness to a peak on the palate it was onward to the requested substitute that the menu moved, and although I’m sure the shellfish broth originally offered was as good as it looked at the table next-door I’d be hard pressed to assume it came anywhere near the buttery bites of duck liver offset by compressed cantaloupe and carrot vinaigrette, the later bracingly acidic on its own but a nice way to mellow the sometimes overwhelming melons while also washing oil from the tongue between bites.

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Focused on lighter fare, and perhaps only offering butter for the exquisitely crusty bread on request as part of this idea, courses three and four saw Roure continue with seafood and first using a bit of plating trickery to separate textures of the langoustine from crispy tuille as notes of saffron rose high from the broth, a followup of Sea Bass immediately had me singing praiseful comparisons to Troisgros – the almond milk foam topped with green asparagus gelee absolutely dazzling atop mushrooms and supple fish with just enough butter to see it all meld.

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Yet again trending light with the menu’s final savory, a perfectly seared pigeon breast topped with confit leg served alongside croutons of gingerbread, bitter beetroot, orange marmalade, and simple pan jus it was into cheeses that the tasting transitioned and although perhaps a bit more limited than some of the 3* spots, the selection put together by Le Neuviem Art was actually one of my favorites, the Pinot Noir washed Vully, Comtesse de Vichy, and Fleur du Maquis all quite excellent while the creamy Chevrotin was perhaps the most interesting goat cheese tasted to this day.

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Moving from savory to sweet with a budino of semolina flour scented in elderberry beneath a cloud of meringue it was onward to Cherries in forms that the evening marched on and with raw almonds decorating both the whole cherries atop a financier and the soft center to a creamy pink sculpture the flavors were intense yet elegant, the cup of ice cream proving a smooth transition to handcrafted mignardises and chocolates with two types of warm madelines saved for the end.

http://www.leneuviemeart.com/fr/

Posted in Bread Basket, Crab, Dessert, Foie, Food, France, Ice Cream, Le Neuviem Art, Lyon, Madeline, Pork, Tasting Menu, Vacation

Bernachon, Lyon France

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Bernachon

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Baba au Rhum

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Mille-feuille

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Pecan tartelette

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Cream Puff

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Coffee Éclair

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Chocolates

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Founded in 1953, and as such a relative youngster compared to some of the oldest purveyors of fine chocolates and confections throughout France, some would suggest Bernachon an essential part of any visit to Lyon, and having already sampled two of their cakes plus several chocolates during dessert at L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges a stop proved inevitable, the bean-to-bar production values an added incentive as other more fashionable names simply melt down and refashion previously purchased chocolate – the French calling these retailers ‘fondeurs.’

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Not as focused on the purity of beans as many modern artisans such as Dandelion, Rogue, Mast, or Vegas’ own HeXX, but instead offering a full line of truffles, caramels, candies, and confections in addition to both single origin and blended bars the experience at Bernachon can almost feel like a spiritual one as a the staff steps softly while speaking in light tones, but once the guest is finally ready to order it is with great knowledge of both product and process that questions are answered, my eventual order probably not quite normal as a solo tasting of chocolates really is not something I’m into, though the five tasted were indeed quite special, a boozy rum tablet and chocolate lacquered biscuit particularly smooth and refined.

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Progressing to pastries, something for which high hopes were held given the quality of cakes at Paul Bocuse, it was in five petit-fours that the majority of 11.20€ was invested and although the Mille-Feuille came off far too soggy at 14h30 the rest of the items proved well concocted with flavors aplenty, the choux-based éclair and cream puff offering a clean break over cream fillings while the pecan tartlette and baba au rhum were each unique in their own way – the former trending bitter and nutty in a city where pink pralines are far more common while the yeast-cake’s cream center offered both balance and texture amidst lightly spiced rum.

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http://www.bernachon.com/fr/

Posted in Bernachon, Dessert, Food, France, Lyon, Vacation

La Mere Brazier, Lyon France

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La Mere Brazier

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Lychee Juice

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Meat Pie, Bresse Chicken with Foie Gras, Black Cherry Jam

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Country Loaf and Baguette with Salted and Unsalted Butters from Brittany

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Cold Tomato Gazpacho with Vegetable Ragout, Almond Cracker, Goat Cheese

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Artichoke and Foie Gras No9

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Scallop Mousseline, Lobster and Young Vegetables, Absinthe Shellfish Juice

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Veal Apple Viennoise Sweetbread, Carrot Cream and Cumin and Woodland Mushroom

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Mature Cheeses with Fruit Bread – Renée Richard, Didier Lassagne and Jean-Yves Bordier

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Warm Madeline with Ricotta Ice Cream

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Paris-Brest, Caramelized Hazelnut Ice Cream, Praline

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Mignardises

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A bastion of refined French cuisine since its inception, and currently a recipient of two Michelin Stars with Three Star heritage under the legendary Eugenie Brazier, it seemed senseless to leave Lyon without visiting La Mere Brazier, and although some have dubbed it a culinary museum not on par with the likes of Bocuse’s L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges the experience itself proved a worthy lunch as I sat with several French businessmen in one of several rooms spread throughout the building’s two-floor expanse.

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In recent years toqued by Mathieu Viannay, a significant presence that has seen a menu still loaded with tradition modernized to current times in a la carte choices, tasting menus, and business lunch specials, it was perhaps shortsighted to consider a sampling of the restaurant’s iconic dishes absolutely essential for a first time visit, but electing to enjoy Alain Milliat’s Lychee Nectar alongside the Classical menu as would have been prepared 94 years prior the food served spoke to timeless techniques and robust flavors found at any number of local bouchons and bistros, in some cases similar but in most simply more refined.

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Truly a tasting menu, the three savories followed by cheeses and dessert flanked by canapes and mignardises at the cost of 120€, service at La Mere Brazier speaks to refinement without all the seriousness of a place like Pic and providing the table with a young man who spoke spotless English it was mere moments after ordering that a sampling of the Chef’s Meat Pie landed on the table, each bite of the en croute version loaded with the rich sapor of liver but scaled back through the use of jam and pistachios making it far more sweet than other versions tinged in aspic, but delicious just the same.

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Next receiving a crusty round of bread paired to two butters from the legendary team at Bordier it was only with the greatest restraint that one resisted filling up before the meal itself even began, but with tomato gazpacho soon in hand and baguettes plus two preparations of foie gras alongside several styles of artichoke soon to follow any thoughts of moderation immediately went out the window, each slice of seared lobe featuring the slightest crackle before yielding the unctuous center while the lightly salted terrine topped with just a touch of acid was the very definition of creamy, particularly when spread across a thin slice of crostini.

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Left to enjoy the liver while other tables in the small room filled, it was not long after finishing that servicewear was replaced and a pool of orange centered by a quenelle of scallop amidst lobster in addition to vibrant vegetables sat before me, and although slightly smaller than versions less rarified there is little doubt that the ingredients entailed were on par with any of the city’s top tables, each bite a balance of soft and snappy with the butter poached crustacean and a sauce of its shell so thoroughly intoxicating that wiping the dish clean came without a second thought, a total disregard for anyone who may have been looking on.

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Clearly accustomed to quickly paced lunches for the folks who had to return to work, it was only after asking if service was too fast that the final savory was brought, and reportedly harvested from a 7-month calf in order to maximize both size and texture the baseball sized sweetbread was pure bliss served atop split peas, carrots, and mushrooms – the glands signature suppleness given the full spotlight beneath spices rendered crisp by the lightest of pan sears.

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Somewhat limited in cheeses, though still featuring a few favorites aged to perfection alongside fruit bread studded by nuts, it was with a warm Madeline plus smooth ice cream that the palate was cleansed before the meal’s sweet culmination arrived, and although atypically shaped one would be hard pressed to name a more lavish reinterpretation of the Paris Brest, a juxtaposition of two creams and nuts served between choux layers with nearby hazelnut ice cream presenting an almost identical profile of flavors, the dessert in its entirety touching a multitude of tastes, textures, and temperatures at once.

http://lamerebrazier.com/

Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Foie, Food, France, Ice Cream, La Mere Brazier, Lyon, Macaroon, Madeline, Pork, Sweetbreads, Tasting Menu, Vacation