Paris. That one word invokes a myriad of thoughts and emotions in everyone who hears it. It is almost mystical. It has gone beyond a physical place and became an ethereal concept, a thought, a vision. The combination of history, geography and of course the French made it so!
Today, Paris is the center of haute couture, haute style, haute cuisine and “ haute” everything else. When asked about her secret to success and daring style, Diana Vreeland, the longest serving editor of “Harper’s Bazaar” once said: “the first thing to do is to arrange to be born in Paris. After that, everything follows quite naturally.” I’m sure that all Parisians would agree!
Gastronomically speaking, Paris is of course a major tour de force. The culinary scene there is vibrant, innovative and constantly reinventing while at the same time maintaining its traditionalism rooted in classical French technique and discipline. From the stalwarts such as Le Cinq, L’Ambrosie, and Le Taillevent to the elegant newcomers such as L’Abeille, La Société and of course, innumerable cafes, brasseries and patisseries of Paris. The life is bubbling with that unique French sophistication, “je-ne-sais-quoi.”
For our French dinner, inspired by the recent trip to the capital of gastronomic excellence, we invited E. & S., friends who like us, love Paris and French culture (although we sometimes vigorously debate whether Italy is encroaching on some aspects of the French fame) to reflect on our culinary experience in the City of Light. E. & S. are a well-travelled chic pair with whom we share the love of elegant food, splendid wine and the art of storytelling of which S. happens to be an undisputed master.
Creating this menu, I tried to incorporate the ingredients and foods we tried during our visit in October but with my own twist and interpretation of it.
What comes to mind when you think about Paris? I say- cheeseeee…
At our French Dinner I couldn’t resist the temptation of serving the three classic varieties of French “fromages”. The luscious triple cream Brie from Burgundy, Le Chevrot, the goat cheese from Loire Valley which has a slightly wrinkled appearance but balanced flavors, and Saint Agur, the creamy marble-veined blue cheese. I paired them with seasonal fruits like quince, pears, figs and vine grapes and had a fragrantly intoxicating truffled honey on the side as the accent condiment. It was an easy yet sophisticated no-cooking required hors d’oeuvre which our guests devoured!
Coquilles Saint-Jacques, simply means “scallops” in French, is one of the most prevalent and popular items on the Paris menus. This easy hors d’oeuvre/appetizer was inspired by our brasserie experience there. Sweet, lightly citrus marinated scallops, with paper-thin slices of radish on top, turned out to be a huge success among our guests. Next time you decide on throwing an upscale multi-course dinner, this easy starter takes less than 15 minutes to assemble but is so satisfying. For a truly luxurious presentation, try to replace the sea flakes with grainy caviar instead!
Our Tuna Niçoise was a natural choice as an appetizer, a well-loved and adored salad embraced by the brasserie culture not only in France but also in the States. Haricot verts, cherry tomatoes, baby potatoes, quail eggs, Kalamata olives and of course, perfectly seared tuna, make an exceptional, delicious first course.
A perfectly chilled glasses of Sancerre are enjoyed by our guests.
A warm autumnal tablescape was adorned by seasonal fruits and flowers.
The art of terrine making, I believe, was also invented by the French. My Lobster Terrine with Saffron Mayonnaise is best when prepared in advance. Serve it with a crisp frisee salad and a glass of white wine.
There’s just something so French about duck for the main course! My interpretation is somewhat traditional but yet innovative- Duck Burger with Potato Rosette, Foie Gras & Fried Quail Egg. The succulent, flavorful duck patties are topped with a generous slice of rich savory foie gras and finished with perfectly fried quail egg on top. My husband could not get enough of it for days! I scattered some gourmet mushrooms on the side of the plate to add warmth and earthiness. For the finishing touch, two thin strings of chives will add the height and color to the plate.
This Chocolate Raspberry Tart was a perfect decadent finish to our French-inspired dinner. The irresistible combination of fresh raspberries and luscious dark chocolate, is just soooo sensual and delectable that your palate will sing with pleasure with every mouthful. The crisp and light pâte sucrée pastry case is filled with tart berries; mint leaves and covered with rich chocolate ganache on top. Place the tart slices on individual plates with few raspberries and mint leaves. Serve this tart cold but not straight from the fridge!
Cooking like travel is very much about exploring, what have you discovered lately?