Have you ever had a French chef prepare a meal for you in your own home, or perhaps in a home you were renting while on vacation? No? Well, you’re missing something.
In the past, I’ve written about Chef Fabrice Lemonnier and our private cooking lessons with him in Daglan. In September of last year, I wrote about the lunch we prepared together with our daughter Anne, our son Michael, and Michael’s partner Vanessa (visiting from Toronto). Then in April of this year, I wrote about the cooking lesson that Fabrice gave to us with my sister Karen and her husband Mark (visiting from Florida).
If the previous experiences were fun, educational and delicious, our most recent experience with Chef was pure enjoyment: He prepared, we enjoyed. Here’s how it went down:
It started when our English friends Joanne and Chris arrived in Daglan with their two children and their close friend Les, to stay for several days at the holiday home they own near our house. They love good food as much as we do, and they suggested that it might be fun to have a lunch prepared by Chef Fabrice. Well, bien sûr! Of course it would!
Our next step was simply to call Chef Fabrice and ask him to meet with us to discuss a menu and to agree on a date and time. Like all good chefs, Fabrice is sensitive to his guests’ personal tastes, interests and possible allergies. It didn’t take too long to settle on a menu, and to agree that we would have the lunch at the home of Joanne, Chris and Les. Chef would provide the ingredients and prepare the meal, and we would provide the wine. And so it came to pass.
On the appointed day, Chef showed up with all the ingredients, with lots of time to spare. At about 12:30, my wife Jan and I wandered over to our friends’ home, where we were greeted with glasses of Champagne. Then, just after 1 p.m., our five-course feast began.
First up was a soup — a deliciously fresh pea soup, topped with a truffle foam and a thick slice of black truffle (a Périgourdine specialty). Here it is:
As our entrée, Chef had suggested scallops, prepared in two ways. As you’ll see in the photo below, we each received two perfectly cooked scallops, topped with a somewhat-too-crispy topping (the result of Chef not being familiar with our friends’ broiler) and a delicate carpaccio of raw scallop in a light lemon dressing.
Since our friends’ daughter loves duck, it was easy for all of us to decide that duck should be the star of the show. What Chef prepared was a delicious, rare breast of duck, carved into thick slices and served on top of a purée of Jerusalem artichokes (in French, topinambours). With this came caramelized pearl onions and thick slices of sautéed wild mushroom. Here’s the dish:
For the cheese course, Chef had suggested something that we had never tried. It’s a time-limited specialty from Switzerland and the east of France (near the Swiss border) called Mont d’Or. I call it “time-limited” because it’s available only from the late fall until the early spring. Here it is:
As you can see, the cheese comes in a thin wooden box. Chef Fabrice’s treatment was to top the cheese with garlic and thyme, and then roast it, while still in the box, in the oven. The result is a gooey and delicious mess, and this is how it looks when it’s served onto your plate, ready to be spread onto a slice of country bread:
Finally, we had dessert. Oh wait, not just dessert — three desserts! There was a bit of fruit salad, a crème brûlée, and a fondant of chocolate topped with a candied slice of orange. Here are the sweets:
To say this was all enjoyable would be a terrible understatement. We had a wonderful lunch and a long and lingering afternoon — and early evening. Yes, this meal went on and on and on, with Chris serving as sommelier and the rest of the adults serving as willing tasters. Oh, and Les and I discovered that the wooden dining table had a very nice sound when played like a bongo drum.
I leave the final word on this “afternoon” to Samantha, Fabrice’s wife, who emailed me the next day.
“No wonder you and Jan only go out for lunch and do not eat out in the evening,” she wrote. “You wouldn’t get home until the following morning!!!”