I woke up early Saturday morning to take the TGV up to Paris, where I met my special lady friend, who was flying in from Houston. After some initial confusion about hotel rooms, we finally got settled just outside of the Gare de Lyon and struck out to enjoy the day. Instead of an aggressive schedule of museum visits and sight seeing, though, our entire plan consisted of a run in the Jardin des Plantes, a a nap, and an early dinner.
Dinner was, however, a spectacular affaire in and of itself. Based on a recommendation from Wine Spectator we had reservations at La Truffiere. At 7 PM we were clearly the first customers of the night and, accordingly, we were waited on hand and foot by the entire staff. It was a good way to start off the evening being “bon soir”ed by no less than seven employees on the short walk to our table. Another indication that we were in for a good evening came when the wine list arrived : a tome so extensive that it came with its own pedestal to support its weight.
It was difficult to choose among the thousands of possibilities but the sommelier was helpful and we eventually settled on Château Leoville Barton Saint-Julien 1999. It was rich with tart red fruit and gentle, carressing tannins up front, followed by dark, warm spice on a long finish—just what the doctor ordered! It turned out to be the last such bottle in the house, a good omen. The sommelier got extra points for fantastic presentation. Sure, he broke the first tasting glass (before there was wine in it, fortunately!) but we’ll just write that off as a warm up. J
Choosing what to eat was much easier. As the name of the restaurant indicates, their specialty is dark truffles. Accordingly, that was the focus of our courses. Before any food arrived at our table, the maitre d’ presented us with a bowl of fresh truffles, which were incredibly fragrant. I had always thought of truffles as being very earthy but this was the first time that I came to appreciate how fruity and nutty their pungent aromas could be as well. We selected our truffle for the evening (one that was oddly shaped and therefore would surely be full of mysteries!). It was weighed, priced (costing more than our wine!!!), and then hand shaved (by a black-gloved hand) in front of our table—again, points for presentation!
The truffle shavings then became an integral part of our meal for the rest of the evening. We began with toasted bread, olive oil, fleur de sel, and truffle shavings—so simple and so delicious! It helped that the truffles went magnificently with our wine. And of course a dinner in Paris w/o snails would be somehow . . . unfulfilling. So we also ordered the escargot. It came in three different varieties: sauteed with white asparagus on phyllo, emulsified with parsley and garlic and served in the shell, and suspended in an emulsification of garlic and bone marrow. So good!
Next round: Salmon with green tea mousse and parmentier of foie gras—again with truffle shavings galore. About this time it was clear that our noble Saint-Julien would need reinforcements. Our sommelier recommended a Chateau de la Negly La Porte du Ciel 2003 Rhone blend from Languedoc-Rousillon, claiming that it was like nothing that we had ever tasted from that region. It had been opened in the morning and was in a perfect state for consumption. He was right on both accounts. It was an oppulent, fruity wine—more purple and less red—and definitely stood up to our hearty meal.
Before dessert arrived, it was mandated that we cleanse our palettes with cheese. The rolling cheese cart was more of a fortress, containing and displaying at least 20 cheeses from around the world and varying in age from 1 – 5 years. Oh well, since it was mandated, we had to partake. I can’t even remember what we had, except that most of it was strong and stinky—like me!
Dessert then took the truffle experience to the next level. We had a moka chocolate tort and a dark truffle souffle, which was amazing. The both paired fantastically with a glass of muscat and that was it. By the time we finished dessert, 3.5 hours had passed (We received little palette cleansers between each course.), 17 grams of truffle shavings had been consumed, and we could have rolled all the way home.
When the bill arrived, it was, not surprisingly, the most I have ever paid for dinner for two. While I don’t plan on making such extravagent expenses a habit, it was certainly worth it to do once on this special occasion.
This morning we woke up late, had a leisurely brunch, and hopped the train back to Lausanne. The evening featured fine dining (frozen pizza, now that I actually have a kitchen with an oven!) and catching up on the current season of 30 Rock. With every episode I watch, I continue to love Alec Baldwin’s character (Jack Donaghy) more and more. “We all have our ways of coping; for me, it was sex and awesomeness.” It was a lazy, wonderful weekend in Paris and I am looking forward to the coming week with my guest in town!