Ma Cuisine – Beaune

•July 5, 2010 • 2 Comments

You won’t find this restaurant in the Michelin Red Guide; yet, Ma Cuisine is universally recommended through word of mouth as THE place for solid local Burgundy cuisine. The restaurant is named after the book by Auguste Escoffier, the culinary legend many deem as the father of French cuisine, and its proprietors, the husband and wife team of Pierre and Fabienne, even share his last name (no relation I believe). However, Ma Cuisine breaks from the norm with an unusual case of role reversal: the husband covers the front of the house while the wife commands the kitchen.

As we step inside the modest-sized restaurant, we are greeted by chatter in a familiar twang. We look around in surprise. Not a single Frenchman. On our right is a couple from Texas, on our left is a party of six from California’s wine country, and the remaining two thirds is a large contingent of Asian Americans with kids and nanny in tow. “Where are all the locals?” I think to myself.

The farmhouse tables, wooden chairs, blackboard menus and “no-decor” decor may lull people into thinking that their pocketbook is safe here. That notion flies out the window when they open the wine list, a veritable book crammed with grand cru wines in fine vintages. A closer look at the blackboard also induces some sticker shock since some entrees cost nearly 40 euros. Nevertheless, since we only had a sandwich for lunch, we splurge on four appetizers and an entree to share.

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Lameloise – Chagny

•July 4, 2010 • 2 Comments

Lameloise is the three star Michelin restaurant in Chagny that is uniformly praised by food critics and bloggers alike. It has been in existence since 1921 where, until recently, two generations of the Lameloise family helmed the kitchen. The toque has since passed to Eric Pras, a recipient of Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman of France); the front of the house, to his nephew, Frederick Lamy. Both continue the tradition of excellence that enables the restaurant to remain at the top of its game.

At 8pm, we’re the first guests to arrive. Instead of aperitifs, we start off with a 2008 Puligny Montrachet that fills our wine glasses with a discernable aroma of fresh almonds.

Amuse bouche, part un: Comte cheese sticks, snail butter crackers, beef tartare with avocado, sardines on disks of concentrated tomato paste, foie gras cubes topped with mango, codfish beignets dipped in squid ink powder on potato puree. So many little morsels on this slab of slate, and we enjoy them all. The sardine/tomato combination brings back fond memories of a childhood treat — tins of Spanish sardines in tomato sauce. Surprisingly, I also like the beef tartare even though I’m not generally a fan of raw meat. Continue reading ‘Lameloise – Chagny’

Chagny Market – Burgundy

•July 4, 2010 • 1 Comment

Sunday is market day in the town of Chagny, twenty minutes south of Chassagne Montrachet. It’s 9:30am and the vendors have just finished setting up their wares. The stalls on the outer edges mostly sell clothing or provencal fabrics for tablecloths and curtains. We snake past them in search of food. As with many other greenmarkets, it’s all about seasonality and variety.

Apricots from Provence.
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Le Chassagne – Chassagne Montrachet

•July 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The town of Chassagne Montrachet sits on about 6.5 sq km and has a population just shy of 400 people, but you’d never know it from the empty streets and shuttered windows. The only signs of actual inhabitants are the cars parked in the town center across from its one star Michelin restaurant, Le Chassagne.

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Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet

•July 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Our lodging for the next few days is the Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet. It’s not a hotel but a working winery with five guest suites to let. I had found this through and took a chance even though it wasn’t on Trip Advisor nor the Michelin Red Guide (it’s in their 2010 edition now).

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Burgundy, France – Prologue

•July 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This year, our summer holiday takes us to Burgundy. It’s a destination that’s been on my mind ever since I took a Fundamentals of  Wine course and found myself intrigued by the concept of terroir in Old World wines. It also has a rich culinary history and many of the dishes we associate with French cuisine today (like boeuf bourgignon) originate from the region. What more incentive do I need?

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Le Bernardin, New York

•June 4, 2010 • 2 Comments

In a city notorious for fickle diners and jaded palates, where restaurants are tossed aside as easily as disposable napkins, Le Bernardin endures. It’s certainly no mean feat to last over fifteen years, let alone remain consistently in the top 10 list of just about every dining guide in New York. To call it a seafood restaurant seems a bit pedestrian, but that’s exactly what it is.  Except that it’s New York’s finest.

Chef’s Tasting Menu:

Lobster cappucino with cauliflower cream

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Faustina – NYC

•February 7, 2010 • 6 Comments

Faustina opened last Friday. My husband and I were each given a complimentary glass of prosecco for being its first diners.

The last time we were at a restaurant on opening day was at Bun Soho several years back. We sat at the counter and gamely watched as mayhem ensued. The kitchen was overloaded and harried barmen/waiters rushed back and forth in a frenzy trying to appease hungry guests. As a result, we got complimentary dishes. Not by design, mind you, but because the diners who’d ordered them had already left. At the same time, some of the dishes we requested never materialized. I can only guess that some lucky diner after us got them as freebies. Oh well, easy come, easy go.

Luckily, there was none of that chaos here at Faustina, Scott Conant’s (of L’Impero fame) latest restaurant at the Cooper Square Hotel in trendy Noho. The servers seemed quite relaxed and the kitchen paced the food at reasonable intervals. In short, it was like they were open for months.

Faustina’s menu is small plates Italian style (of course!) and our very knowledgeable waiter advised us to share 3-5 dishes per person. We settle on seven, two too much actually.

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Eleven Madison Park – NYC

•February 4, 2010 • 2 Comments

Normally, when dining out, we are quite laissez faire about service and ambiance because food is our top priority. But for special occasions, it’s nice to go to an establishment which excels in all three. To celebrate my husband’s birthday early this month, we had dinner at Eleven Madison Park, Danny Meyer’s fine dining restaurant housed in  a landmark art deco building overlooking Madison Square Park.

We hadn’t been there in years, but I’ve heard that Chef Daniel Humm has been racking up one glowing review after another with his “market driven french cuisine” tasting menu. And, of course, Danny Meyer has always been renowned for the high standards in service he maintains at all his restaurants.

As we step inside, I’m awed once again at how massive and beautiful this restaurant is, especially the tall voluminous ceilings plastered with art deco style floral friezes. Given its size, it’s by no means a backdrop for an intimate dinner, yet the noise level is such that you don’t feel like you’re in Grand Central Station during rush hour either.

We’re seated side by side on a banquette that looks out to the front of the restaurant. The wine list is impressive. We pick whites for the evening — a glass of Chateau Grillet from the Rhone Valley for me and Chenin Blanc from Vouvray for him. I would have liked to try the Condrieu but it did not come by the glass and we were never going to be able to finish a bottle between just the two of us. We decide on the Winter Tasting Menu that kicks off with hors d’oeuvres:

Beet marshmallow (tart to the bite), celery panna cotta sable, goat cheese gruyere galette with meyer lemon confit, foie gras macaron, crispy cornet with minced veal Continue reading ‘Eleven Madison Park – NYC’

Thanksgiving 2009 – Debrief

•December 9, 2009 • 2 Comments

Thanksgiving is a complicated holiday. For one thing, it’s one of the few times I have more people than I can comfortably seat around my dining table. Inevitably, guests spill over to my contingency site, a folding game table laden with tablecloth, runners and china to disguise the fact that it is a folding game table. Also, given the constraints of my small galley kitchen and single oven, the execution has to be planned out with the precision of an Ocean’s Eleven heist.

Last year, I wrote a post-mortem of my Thanksgiving preparation which I found extremely helpful as I started thinking about this year’s theme and menu. Hence, I’ve done it again. At some point, I hope to amass a treasure trove of lessons-learned to get this holiday preparation down to a science.

Thanksgiving 2009 Menu:

Poached Oyster with Champagne Cream

A pared down version of  this recipe from Bon Appetit/Epicurious.
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