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

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

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

Boulangerie de la Martiniere, Lyon France

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Boulangerie de la Martiniere

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Emmental, Hazelnut, Raisin Bread

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Raspberry Clafoutis

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Canele de Bordeaux

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Almond Croissant

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Praline Braided Croissant

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Having twice passed the bakery in search of parking for nearby Boulangerie Saint Vincent, it was with boxed bites left over from earlier that I entered Boulangerie de la Martiniere, and once again greeted to a large selection of unique items alongside many traditional pastries, one simply couldn’t help but opt to order a few things for the sake of side-by-side comparison, the results unfortunately showing the former to far outperform the later in every single regard.

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Larger and more fancifully adorned than many other boulangeries found throughout the city of Lyon, it was to rather curt responses that questions in broken French were tolerated from the two-person female staff despite the fact that the shop remained otherwise empty throughout the five minutes that options were perused, but eventually trading 11.40€ for a total of five items it was back to the street that items were taken for tasting, a trio of police officers entering to a warm “Bonjour” and smiles I’d never seen just as I closed the door.

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Admittedly a bit skeptical based on the appearance of both the Canele ordered and some of the pizzas seen in the case it was into a veritable sponge with the center no different from the exterior that teeth were first plunged and immediately discarding the rest to a nearby waste receptacle the Almond Croissant unfortunately proved an even more unmitigated disaster, the interior literally flooded with an artificial liquid goo that dripped down my hand onto the pavement – a texture so soggy that even the nearby pigeons would have been remorseful to have taken a bite.

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Thankful that leftovers from Saint Vincent were in-hand to cleanse my memory of some of the worst pastries tasted on either side of the Atlantic, it was briefly that the savory roll of cheese, nuts, and raisins served to right the otherwise sinking ship, but turning back to items more sweet the clafoutis unfortunately presented with the overly-eggy base clearly separated from the raspberry studded top-layer while the braided praline viennoiserie suffered similarly to the more commonly shaped almond iteration, a pair of bites taken before the rest was left to waste.

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Posted in Boulangerie de la Martiniere, Breakfast, Canele, Croissant, Dessert, Food, France, Lyon, Vacation

Boulangerie Saint Vincent, Lyon France

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Boulangerie Saint Vincent

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Coffee Éclair

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Cherry Clafoutis

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Chocolate Pistachio Snail

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Cranberry Pecan Brioche

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Almond Croissant

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Apricot Tarte

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Located on a small corner just steps away from the Saone, and featuring weekday hours that see the small bakery open just long enough to sell out of the vast majority of its wood-fired goods by noon, an early arrival at Boulangerie Saint Vincent after an early morning run found the small storefront with doors still closed, and yet with a small line of waiting locals eagerly watching watches there was an immediate sense that the brief wait would prove worthy, a fact born out just moments after 06h40 when I sat down on the bank to sample a half dozen items of which every single bite was divine.

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The very definition of “cozy,” a couple steps down from the curb finding room for no more than two to peruse the pastries, breads, and viennoiserie served by a young woman with beads of sweat already formed above her brow, the selection offered by Boulangerie Saint Vincent is surprisingly diverse and although minding the persons waiting while trying to make decisions was a bit of a hurried experience the patience with my limited French was very much appreciated, the man beside me going so far as to suggest the Cranberry Brioche as “very best…you must get.”

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Obviously benefited by the early arrival, but reassured that items clearly crafted during the wee-hours of the night were just as good as those still warm from the racks, it was with bites of the warm almond croissant that the tasting began and although served softer than one would generally expect the exceedingly natural flavor and soft wisps within were exceedingly well executed, the same to be said of the light green ‘escargot’ loaded with chocolate chips and gentle nuttiness, a more hearty bite offered from the bitter-sweet, eggy brioche.

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Turning next to the second clafoutis in two days to feature cherries with pits, this one not quite as perfect as that at Tixier despite still being quite nice, it was onward to a tarte topped with sugar lacquered apricots that the breakfast progressed and having set aside bites of many items for later that day it was finally to the decadence of an éclair that tastebuds were treated, the golden choux quickly giving way to richness of coffee infused in a cream so light that capacity wasn’t even considered in consuming the whole thing.

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Posted in Boulangerie Saint Vincent, Boulangerie St Vincent, Breakfast, Croissant, Dessert, Food, France, Lyon, Vacation

Maison Pic, Valence France

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Maison Pic

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Apricot Nectar

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Escargot Comesquis, Fresh Ewes Cheese and Vanilla, Saffron Marshmallow with Curry

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Foie Gras Brulee with Green Apple

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Kelp Bread, Baguette, Epi, Beer Bread with Brittany Butter

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Multiple Tomatoes – Black Currant Leaf and Elderflower Glaze, Smoked Vanilla Burrata Ice Cream

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Carrot with Jasmine Blossom – Fine Carrot Jelly, Light Carrot Puree, Jasmine Blossom Yogurt, Voatsiperifery Pepper (Jaune du Doubs, Purple Haze, White Satin, Deep Purple)

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Berlingots – Filled with Soft, lightly smoked Banon, Watercress Consomme infused with Ginger and Bergamot

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Tarbouriech Oysters – like an Irish Coffee, Crunchy Rhubarb Compote, Bourbon Pointu Coffee served in a Chemex

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Blue Lobster – Roasted in Lobster Butter, lightly smoked clear berry consommé, Strawberry-Barberry Chutney, Burpee’s Golden Beets

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Turbot – Green Zebra Tomato, Sweet Woodruff, Tomato Consomee, Peas, Broad Beans, Verbena

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Milk Fed Veal Sweetbreads – Roasted in Liberica Coffee and Caramelized Gruyere, White Asparagus with Wild Garlic and Menton Lemon

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Brie de Meaux with Bourbon Vanilla Foam

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Cheese with Wine Raisin and Black Pepper Bread

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Black Cherry and Bergamot Meringue

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White Mille-Feuille – Light Tahitian Vanilla Cream, Fine Jasmine Jelly, Voatsiperifery Pepper Emulsion

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Strawberry Tart, Dark Chocolate and Japanese Whisky, Pear and Vanilla Bean Macaroon

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Currently one of only a handful of Michelin 3* Female Chefs in the world, the second in her bloodline to achieve the red guide’s highest award at the restaurant and hotel bearing her name within the town of Valence, Anne-Sophie Pic needs little introduction to those in tune to world class cuisine, and yet with all of her accolades and restaurants soon to be opened in New York the flagship Maison still seems somewhat underrated when compared to her male contemporaries, an oversight from every angle when taking into account the creativity and quality delivered during a three and a half hour meal that left me smiling and contemplative after each and every plate.

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Cited by some as being a bit ‘too’ stuffy, and in fact one of the most serious dining rooms ever visited whether in Europe or back home in the States, the experience at Maison Pic begins the moment one opens the doors, and from the colorful unicorn in the foyer to Lalique crystals and mirrors everywhere the feeling is undoubtedly feminine, though touches such as rich wood bar stocked with several vintages of Scotch and chest of cigars seen en route through the lobby show signs of refinement for all who enter to enjoy.

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Seated at a plush two-top that could easily have handled four in less elegant environs it was but moments after settling in that a young man arrived offering aperitifs, a selection of Alain Milliat’s Apricot nectar proving a pleasant palate refresher throughout a meal during which flavors traversed a wide range, at times simple and pure while others were so complex that index-carded menu sharing the chef’s process proved ‘required reading’ just to grasp what was occurring on the plate.

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Opting for the Essentials menu, a 320€ journey that would prove by far the most expensive tasting of the trip, it was with a trio of exotically spiced canapés that the scope of influences was introduced and progressing to Sophie’s signature foie gras custard beneath a dollop of fragrant green apples the oft-riffed dish spoke volumes in both texture and nuance, the crackling top a light kiss of sweetness amidst the unctuous liver while sours from the cream lingered on the lips long after the small dish was scraped clean.

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Treated to several types of bread from a basket that arrived warm alongside the sort of butter that makes one want to give up their citizenship and move to a dairy farm in rural France, it was perhaps thirty minutes after seating that the tasting officially kicked off and with each course sauced tableside for both effect and the maximization of taste, texture, and temperature the opening volley of tomatoes surrounding smoky cheese with floral topnotes was delicious prologue to all that was to come.

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Truly a ‘journey,’ in that the menu unfolds as a story rather than just presenting a number of synchronous plates to showboat the skills of the staff, suffice it to say that with Chef Pic’s words presented alongside each plate one would be foolish to attempt to reinterpret the meaning behind each, and as such unfair to attempt to dissect each dish one is instead coaxed to simply embrace the beauty and execution, a situation only marred by the sort of formal yet entirely impersonal service that makes it seem as though the diner’s awe has gone unnoticed – a mere “Merci” quietly uttered to admiration induced by the beautiful carrots with the same response given as I sat stunned by the kitchen’s use of coffee to accent oysters as well as the most voluptuous sweetbreads I’ve tasted to this day.

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Showcasing a list of vegetables, spices, and proteins sourced from locations spanning just down the road to the far reaches of the world it was perhaps a bit of a surprise that when it finally came time for cheese the options were mostly limited to those hailing from France, and although a nearly thirty-minute delay in service before the Brie de Meaux was unapologetically brushed aside as an ‘error in the kitchen’ one would be hard pressed to find any flaw in the age or novelty of the several varieties presented, not to mention the complementary bread dotted with golden raisins that spoke of Sauternes despite being tinged with a mixture of Cotes du Rhone and something described as being ‘like Port.’

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Nearing 22:30, and admittedly a bit ‘long’ for a solo diner considering the sterility of the experience, it was with a wide smile that Chef Pic emerged from the kitchen to greet her guests before dessert was served and with surprisingly good English paired with perfect manners and a smile the time spent at each table easily spanned five minutes, her jovial spirit breathing a bit of life into the end of the evening that culminated with a small bergamot meringue over chilled cherry soup followed by mignardises and a pure white cube that shattered in layers to the fork, the flavors beneath unraveling first as sweet and floral before dissipating as vanilla with the slightest hints of pine.

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http://www.anne-sophie-pic.com/

Posted in Anne-Sophie Pic, Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Food, France, Ice Cream, Lobster, Lyon, Maison Pic, Pic, Sweetbreads, Tasting Menu, Vacation, Valence

Maison Tixier-Marechal, Lyon France

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Maison Tixier-Maréchal

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Coffee Éclair

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Praline tartelette

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Baba Au Rhum

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Cream Puff

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Praline Brioche

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Tarte Tatin

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Paris Brest

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Cherry Clafoutis

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Chocolate Religeuse

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Selected for post-lunch snacks before packing up for a trip to Valence largely as a result of its location close to Café Comptoir Abel, it was admittedly with little knowledge of Tixier & Marechal that I entered the small shop on Rue Vaubecour, yet once again demonstrating that almost any Parisserie in France is prone to impress when compared to all but the very best in America a selection of nine items ranging from petit-fours to things far more substantial proved almost universally outstanding, the low price of just 16.40€ presenting perhaps the best deal in all of Lyon when taking into account both the variety and quality entailed.

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Listed officially as “Patisserie d’Ainay, Maison Tixier Marechal” on the signage outside, and during this visit staffed by a lone young woman whose bright smile and fledgling English were more than enough to assist in assembling a sizable order that saw some bites left over for breakfast the next day, it was just after 14h00 that my entry found the selection still extensive and although at first questioning whether all would prove fresh nearly eight hours after opening the first bites of a small roll of praline studded brioche set aside almost all doubts, the sugar lacquered exterior still crisp while the inside unfolded in wisps of yeast, butter, and eggs.

Moving next to a small rosy tart, the flavor nearly identical to that of the brioche with a butter crust inspiring hope for things to come, a quartet of choux based pastries were soon to follow – the tiny éclair unfortunately proving a touch soggy while the cream puff, Religeuse, and ring shaped Brest were the very definition of excellence, the chocolate mousse admittedly quite rich when paired to a topping of ganache, while both the vanilla custard and hazelnut cream offered robust flavor despite the sort of lightness only achieved by those willing to invest time and effort in the craft.

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Enjoying yet another baba, this one a small version with alcohol almost entirely replaced by sugar syrup beneath a raspberry plus a dollop of cream, it was onward to one of the best tarte tatins served outside a fine dining establishment that the tasting progressed and yet as good as the caramelized apples atop a flaky crust truly were not a single item tasted prior could stand up to the pudding-soft clafoutis, the preparation so authentic that the custard was baked golden despite a center still jiggling, the cherries still featuring their pits offered in such a quantity that they comprised nearly 2/3 of the slice.

http://www.patisserie-tixier.com/

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, France, Lyon, Maison Tixier-Marechal, Tixier-Marechal, Vacation

Café Comptoir Abel, Lyon France

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Café Comptoir Abel

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Warm Bread

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Fond d’artichaut frais au foie gras

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Terrine du Chef (porc, veau, foie de volaille)

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Quenelle de brochet en gratin maison

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Baba au rhum & sa Chantilly

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Considered by some to be the best of its kind, and open for lunch and dinner every day save for Sunday within a two-story space that speaks to an age long past, Café Comptoir Abel was scheduled for Tuesday lunch after touring several local churches and with an appetite peaked by a long hike in the sun a timely arrival just as the doors opened found the main dining room open to the air outdoors while two tourists plus several locals quickly found seat both on the patio and amidst the cozy confines downstairs.

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More a bouchon or bistro than an actual café, and said by some to be the oldest of its kind with an opening date in 1928, the experience at Café Comptoir Abel is without doubt one of the most ‘authentic’ feeling in the city with service that actually seems happy to provide guests with an excellent customer experience, my refusal of the English menu in favor of one written in French perhaps the reason for attentive service that saw a prix fixe ordered with the addition of the Chef’s terrine, every plate served trumping the other iterations served at similar spots within the city’s confines, and one of them better than Michelin starred iterations found in Paris on visits past.

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Admittedly a bit muggy during one of the warmest June’s in the history of Central France, it was with several refilled bottles of water plus a crusty baguette that the meal began, and without even time to request a bit of butter I was quickly treated to a duo of cold appetizers, the terrine rich with expected sapor and a bit of minerality while a thick terrine of foie gras came lightly dressed in salt crystals atop a supple slice of artichoke and salad tossed with just a touch of vinegar and pepper to make the whole plate feel unexpectedly vibrant and bright.

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Intrigued by the kitchen’s decision to present the quenelle of pike ‘au gratin’ as opposed to with a traditional sauce Nantua, suffice it to say that nothing could have prepared me for what actually came forth after approximately thirty minutes, the puff of fish nearly the size of my forearm served lightly browned from a large skillet with the rest of the sauce left behind to be added as I liked, the bits sticking to the pan not unlike the top of baked macaroni with the richness of Bechamel just reined in by a handful of mushrooms juxtaposing sharp notes of cheese.

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At this point almost certain that dessert would be every bit as good as the rest it was only the day’s aggressive eating schedule and dinner at Maison Pic that prevented me from ordering more than one, and generally expecting large portions after everything just experienced there was absolutely nothing to be disappointed in by the housemade baba, the yeasty round served soaking wet in a pool of spiced rum with a scoop of Chantilly that just went on and on, more offered without request as the best bites proved to be those matching a spoonful of cake to an equal part of whipped cream.

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http://www.cafecomptoirabel.fr/

Posted in Bread Basket, Café Comptoir Abel, Dessert, Foie, Food, France, Lyon, Pork, Vacation

Pain & Cie, Lyon France

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Pain & Cie

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Breads and Spreads

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Espresso

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Having heard interesting things about Pain & Cie, an artisanal boulangerie known for a simple brunch offering a basket of fresh bread matched to a vast number of jams, butters, toppings, and spreads intended to be mixed and matched to the customer’s delight, a foreigner simply could not help but stop by for the all-you-can eat experience that saw all sorts of novelties offered with a cup of coffee for just 8.50€, the chance to experience some of Europe’s curiosities at a mere fraction of what it would cost to purchase a container of just two or three.

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Owned by a middle-aged baker, and frequented by both locals and tourists alike, the scene at Pain & Cie is a rather tranquil one during the early morning hours, but quickly filling with patrons around 09:00 with nearby parking at a premium those looking to best experience a sampling of accoutrements without having to wait are encouraged to arrive early, the warm bread an added benefit, though the woman seated at a table adjacent mine tells me that the supply is baked fresh throughout the morning, the same apparently true of a selection of sandwich rolls featured with meats and other items later in the day.

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Admittedly tempted by croissants and other viennoiserie, but sticking to the original plan of a sliced baguette plus rounds of rustic whole wheat paired with several types of Kwatta as well as Cookie Notti plus housemade jams, honey, Pate d’Arachide, Choco Meli, Stroop, and Praline spread plus several types of butter and soft cheese suffice it to say that the value of a meal at Pain & Cie is well justified by the quality of the baked goods as well as the coffee, but for those intrigued by the toppings the cost is almost entirely inconsequential, the best bites from this vantage offered by the White Kwatta with Cappuccino Cookie Notti spread on a piece of baguette followed closely by Praline Butter and Dark Choco Meli that tasted like bitter yet balanced Nutella atop toasty whole grains.

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http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187265-d1100380-Reviews-Pain_Cie-Lyon_Rhone_Rhone_Alpes.html

Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Coffee, Food, France, Lyon, Pain & Cie, Pain and Cie, Pain et Cie, Vacation

Dorodi Pastry, Lyon France

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Dorodi Pastry

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Caramel Donut, Dark Chocolate Donut, Sugared Almond Donut, Dulce de Leche Donut

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Red Velvet Muffin

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Chocolate Chip with Hazelnut Cookie

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Nymy Cookie

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With Donuts clearly having a ‘moment’ back stateside, and American culture often creeping over to Europe with mixed success, one couldn’t help but be intrigued by Dorodi Pastry and entering the doors of the small space with donuts, cookies, muffins, cakes, and pies served alongside legit coffee the experience really couldn’t have been more familiar – the young owner from Montreal originally mistaking me for Nordic before giving up conversational French and switching to flawless English with that familiar East Canadian brogue.

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Similarly priced to American artisans, and that is to suggest most items topping 3€ each, it was largely with a focus on novelties as well as recommendations before personal favorites that the order progressed, a total bill of 20€ yielding seven items which were boxed and bagged as we discussed dining back across the Atlantic, suggestions for local spots offered and appreciated despite a dining agenda that was already jammed packed.

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Taking items to a small park in order to enjoy, parking no doubt a hot commodity before meters engaged at 9:00, it was with little hesitation that first bites were taken of each warm donut and although the yeasty brioche-style base was absolutely immaculate, all but the dark chocolate frosting featured an ‘off’ mouthfeel that came off almost waxy, the sweetness nowhere near that of versions served stateside and not at all on par with Donuts Factory, a place to be visited later on the eating tour of Lyon.

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Moving on to the “don’t call it a cupcake – cupcakes are frosted” muffin, suffice it to say that French cocoa studded with Valrhona’s dark chocolate chips is likely to upgrade anything being done with food coloring and Hershey’s throughout most of the American South, and although a dollop of cream cheese frosting may have upped the ante a bit it really wasn’t needed in the setting of such high quality ingredients, the same to be said of a crispy-rimmed chocolate chip cookie dense with nuts amidst a soft center and the best-of-the-morning “Nymy” that featured a puddle of ganache amidst a cocoa base with streaks of caramel, toffee, and hazelnuts making each bite a new experience waiting to be found.

 

https://twitter.com/dorodipastry

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Dorodi Pastry, Food, France, Lyon, Vacation

Daniel et Denise, Lyon France

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Daniel et Denise

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Warm Bread

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Jus Framboise

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La Cervelle de Canut – au vinaigre de vin vieux, parsley, chives, shallot, garlic

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Le Pâté en croute – au foie gras de canard et ris de veau – (Champion du Monde 2009) accompanied by an onion jam

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La Quenelle lyonnaise au brochet, sauce Nantua

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Pommes de Tere Dorees au beurre et gratin de macaronis

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Le Baba maison ivre de rhum St. James

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La Tarte Tatin aux pralines de Saint Genix and a collar of cream

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Booked for dinner based on the recommendation of a friend whose palate I’ve come to know and trust it was with high hopes that I approached a meal at Daniel et Denise, but beginning with the GPS first landing me at a closed location on Rue Tramassac to the original being ‘sold out’ of foie double just thirty minutes after service began it would be difficult to say any of the savories were otherwise memorable, the meal only proving memorable in its waning minutes while service was a far cry from that offered at any number of bouchons and brasseries experienced in the following days.

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Apologetically arriving late at Rue de Crequi, yet nonetheless treated as if I’d committed a great affrontery to a restaurant that was at no point more than 20% full, it was with no choice that outdoor seating was offered as the ‘only’ option and informed shortly after ordering that the main reason for the visit was unavailable a “Plan B” selection was made mostly based on the otherwise limited selection, a basket of warm bread without butter and a small sampling of creamy cheese with crostini offered as if to excuse the fact that the kitchen simply did not want to prepare the tripe, there simply being no way it was sold out when no other table had any present or delivered during my stay.

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Watching other tables of locals receive the Chef’s most famous dish gratis, something I can accept as repeat visitors are certainly entitled the benefits of their patronage, it was at full cost that a thick slice of the Pâté en croute was presented to me and although not quite on par with the terrine offered from Café Comptoir Abel the combination of duck liver and sweetbreads with a dollop of sweet onions was still far better than anything one is likely to find stateside, the richness of each bite nicely cut by a layer of aspic that was thankfully not over-salted, thus allowing the voluptuous meaty notes to shine.

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Generally lower in price than other places around town, course two featured a small quenelle of pike placed at the center of a low bowl with traditional seafood sauce serving to enhance the flavor of a fluffy yet meek iteration of the Lyonnais classic, and offering two sides alongside all main plates both the au gratin noodles as well as the pan fried potatoes presented a hunt-and-peck sort of experience, the golden top of the former far outperforming the soupy base while the slightly burnt bits of potato were admittedly quite delicious, the less-cooked spuds going uneaten as they were little more than filler in the face of two desserts to come.

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Unabashedly approaching every menu in town in search of baba au rhum, and here promised that theirs was ‘the very best in town,’ suffice it to say that those looking for a truly boozy interpretation of the dish would be well served to make their way to Daniel et Denise, and yet as good as the yeasty roll was beneath two types of cream it was actually the signature apple tart topped in a lacquer of pink pralines that proved to be the best dish of the whole affair, each bite featuring a sweet crunch that soon gave way to soft apples atop the flaky butter crust.

http://www.lesbouchonslyonnais.org/en/restaurants/daniel-et-denise/

Posted in Bread Basket, Daniel et Denise, Dessert, Foie, Food, France, Lyon, Pork, Sweetbreads, Vacation

Chokola par Sebastien Bouillet, Lyon France

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Chokola par Sebastien Bouillet

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Strawberry, Biscuit, Butter Caramel, Pistachio Macaron

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Butter and Vanilla Caramels

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Tarte Tatin

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Baba au Rhum

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St. Honore with Crème Caramel Base

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Originally targeted for another day, but finding itself slotted in on Monday as an evening walk led directly past its still-open doors, Chokola par Sebastien Bouillet proved every bit what the rumors had alleged of the patisserie now spread as far as Tokyo, the products amongst the very best in any city while the service is so indifferent that one wonders how the stores even manage to make a sale.

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Small in size, and in a way ‘overcrowded’ with confections crawling up to the door plus two glass cases featuring macarons and plated desserts sitting to the right and at the back of the store, entry to Chokola is perhaps an intended case of sensory overload as notes of cocoa and sugar permeate the air, the guest at first seemingly left alone to take it all in and peruse the options but later a bit disconcerting when the staff barely acknowledges a “bonsoir” or request for assistance at the glass jars containing caramels just a few meters away.

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Undeterred by the ennui, largely as a result of being impressed by the craftsmanship shown in almost every concoction from tablets of chocolate to classic desserts given an upgrade through whimsical inspirations, it was finally after approximately ten minutes of gathering and boxing that 29.45€ was exchanged for nine different selections, and taking the items to the street for consumption later on the first bites of caramel proved a bit less flavorful than expected, the vanilla version a far better investment with a good melt and plenty of butter, a similar flavor profile found in the Butter Caramel macaron while the rest of the small cookies ranged from a jammy and delicious strawberry to Pistachio that was too sweet and almost ‘gummy,’ the latter likely a result of having sat in the case for too long.

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Enjoying the rest of the items after dinner while relaxing alongside the river outside the hotel, suffice it to say that by focusing on favorites there was little chance that Bouillet was going to fail in impressing a prone palate, yet as much as I anticipated enjoying the trio selected there was no way to anticipate just how good each of the three items would be – the fully saturated baba using a meringue-like topping to temper the alcohol while both the tarte tatin and St. Honore saw a traditional preparation placed atop a flaky butter crust, the former absolutely packed with caramelized apples while the balls of stuffed choux and light cream rested on a crème caramel that poured forth just seconds after fork cracked the base.

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http://www.chocolatier-bouillet.com/boutique-en-ligne/

Posted in Bouillet, Chokola, Chokola par Sebastien Bouillet, Dessert, Food, France, Lyon, Macaroon, Sebastien Bouillet, Vacation

Regal Glace, Lyon France

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Regal Glace

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Samples – Pistache, Rocher, Nougat

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Caramel Fleur de Sel, Rhum Raisin, Vanilla Noix Pecan, Chocolat Blanc

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Returning from Roanne with plans to walk the hills surrounding la Croix Rousse before dinner it was another hot day in Lyon that prompted a stop for ice cream, and although entirely disappointed by high prices and subpar product at Rene Nardone a day prior the experience at Regal Glace proved very much the opposite – a vast menu of housemade sorbet, glace, and yoghurt first offered for sampling and then topping a freshly baked waffle cone with flavors and texture as good or better than many well regarded artisans back home.

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Originally founded in 1948, but clearly adapting flavors and modern techniques to form a lineup now sold at a few locations throughout the city of Lyon, the layout of Regal Glace is that of an artisanal scoop shop and using rough French to interact with staff’s limited English each of the flavors sampled from small gelato spoons was a spot on rendition of its eponymous ingredient, the eventual selection of four scoops carrying a tally of merely 6€, a relative bargain compared to several other spots around town.

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Serving more than 50 frozen varieties, each made throughout the day to replenish supplies as required, flavors such as Pistachio, Hazelnut, White Chocolate, and Nougat were as mild as one would expect from the included ingredients but moving onward to more bold choices the sweetness levels rose as flavor profiles became more robust, a best bite from this limited tasting proving to be either the ‘salty caramel’ with a creamy base streaked in smooth ribbons or butter pecan, a flavor seemingly no longer en vogue back stateside but breathed new life by Regal Glace through the use of cream and butter the likes of which are rarely found outside of France.

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www.regalglace.fr

Posted in Dessert, Food, France, Ice Cream, Lyon, Regal Glace, Vacation