I am planning a dinner party and part of the process involves scanning cookbooks, magazine and on-line resources for recipes. But, none of the written lists of ingredients and detailed instructions capture for me the essence of my favorite meals.
Thinking about some of the meals we ate during our last trip to France in 2012, one aspect that they had in common was the use of fresh, local ingredients, prepared simply, but served with style. We’d come away from a meal in St. Emilion or Bordeaux or Paris feeling that the chefs had done their very best to make us feel cherished as diners. Eating French food one really feels the love that went into the preparation. That realization gives me an inkling of what I need to do to create a menu that I hope will make our guests feel the same way.
In St. Emilion one of our very best meals was at Le Giron’ Dines. We arrived just about half an hour before closing, but no matter. The delightful hostess assured us, “Pas de probleme!” It would not a problem for them to serve us a three-course lunch late in the day.
Our meal began with a salad of very young baby greens, just plucked from the garden at the back of the café. Accompanying the salad was a gently roasted red pepper, not really a surprise, as one tastes many of the flavors of Spain in southern France.
Our main course was duck breast, cooked to crispy-skin, succulent-meat, pink-in-the-middle perfection. The duck breast nestled on a bed of quickly sautéed vegetables that included one of my favorites, sliced fennel. The fried potatoes that finished off the course were amazing, delicately crunchy on the outside and feather light inside.
For dessert we ordered a dense dark chocolate cake accompanied by a spoonful of salted caramel gelato. Heavenly combination!
We decided to splurge on an after lunch drink and ordered glasses of liquor wine, listed on the menu as a favorite of Thomas Jefferson. Whether or not this is true, the flavor was extraordinary, full of fruit and just sweet enough. We are not usually fans of dessert wine, but we would drink this again and again. And, of course, they served us a complimentary cheese course!
The menu for our next dinner party may not be as elaborate as the food served by the charming ladies of Le Giron’ Dines, but it will include fresh ingredients prepared with love.