Just the day before I was discharged (honourably) from La Roseraie, the clinic where I had been undergoing physiotherapy after back surgery, I received an email from a former colleague in Toronto, raving about her recent trip to Paris. In it, she wrote: “I hope you are on the mend so you can get back to what you’re really good at: Eating and writing! Ha!”
Well, I think our friend Kim nailed it.
Or as my wife Jan said this past Sunday, as we settled into our cosy corner table at Le Grand Bleu, the Michelin-starred restaurant in Sarlat, “You’re back in the saddle again!” Indeed.
I’ve praised Le Grand Bleu many times in the past, and here’s a quote from my posting of September 13, 2013, to give you an idea of what to expect:
If you’re new to Radio Free Daglan, I’ll quickly explain that the food at Le Grand Bleu is always beautifully cooked and artfully presented. Chef Maxime Lebrun makes full use of foams, ice creams, and unusual herbs and flavourings, often in interesting combinations with contrasts in temperature. “Surprise and delight” really are common reactions.
For Jan and me, last Sunday’s lunch at Le Grand Bleu was not only a celebration of my freedom from physio-captivity, but also a belated wedding anniversary treat. So we decided to go big — and we did.
Over Jan’s coupe de Champagne and my kir royale (Champagne flavoured with Framboise syrup), we opted for the Menu Dégustation, at 105 euros each. To accompany the varied dishes, we enjoyed a relatively oaky Chardonnay from Bourgogne, which worked well. Nice, eh?
Our meal began with a tray of amuses-bouches — little treats intended to show off some of Chef’s skill and inventiveness. Here was our tray:
In the little glasses were servings of a cool soup of cucumber, topped with coconut foam; on the gluten-free blinis were coils of seaweed-wrapped salmon; and in the spoons were balls of aspic from tête de veau, with tiny bits of crunchy vegetables, including beets (which provided the red colour).
Then came a beautiful and delicious hot soup of peas, with a scoop of beet ice cream (!!) in the centre, a ring of coconut froth around the plate, and an edible flower right on top. Here it is:
After the hot soup came an amazing cold dish — described on the English side of the menu as “Maki lobster and foie gras with yuzu, mango coulis and basmati rice ice cream.” It was beautiful and delicate, an astounding mix of tastes and textures. Here is my serving:
Then came a hot dish — “Asparagus risotto with truffle…” and the oddly-phrased “warm scampi in tarama way,” or “langoustine façon tarama,” in French. (Since tarama usually refers to the fish roe used in the Greek spread, I’m not sure what Chef was getting at, except that the scampi were barely cooked.) In any case, it was a rather sloppy looking dish, but absolutely delicious.
Once again, Chef had managed to pull together an incredible mix of rich flavors — the truffle-based sauce of the risotto, the earthiness of the green and white asparagus, and the touch of the sea from the scampi. Jan thought it was her favourite dish of the meal. Here is my serving:
For our main courses, Jan and I chose different plates — pigeon for her, sweetbreads for me — but both meats were served with a potato purée that was absolutely loaded with bits of truffle, and then surrounded by Périgueux sauce. She found her pigeon incredibly tender, as it had been slow-cooked at a low temperature. And here it is:
My sweetbreads had been caramelized, and were (again) delicious. (I confess I have the sweetbreads just about every time I eat at Le Grand Bleu.) Here is my plate:
And finally, we had our desserts — a soufflé à la Mandarine Impériale, with coriander (!!) ice cream. Once our dishes arrived, our server lifted off the top of each soufflé and inserted a scoop of the coriander ice cream inside the dessert; then he poured a generous glug of Mandarine Impériale into a side glass holding tangerine segments. Once again, it was a glorious mix of different temperatures and tastes. Here’s my serving:
Since then, we haven’t been quite as extravagant on the food front — although yesterday we did enjoy steak tartare at the usually reliable Le Bistro de l’Octroi in Sarlat, and today at home it’s lobster Newburg. So we’re not starving either, in case you were worried.
Final thought for foodies: Near the end of our lunch on Sunday, I asked Jan to confirm something for me.
“If you were a foodie, and you visited the Greater Daglan Area,” I began, “and didn’t eat at least once at Le Grand Bleu, would you be a gooberhead?”
“Yes,” came her prompt reply.
So there you have it.