April 7, 2009

Bordeaux trip: home and restaurant cooking

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I had two contrasting meals today in Bordeaux: a restaurant-quality meal in the dining room of a château, and a home-style meal at a restaurant. Needless to say the meal at the château was the better one.

We lunched at Château Margaux and was received by Director Paul Pontallier and his lovely wife Béatrice. Margaux is one of the most beautiful estates in Bordeaux, and it was certainly a privilege to be there. We started with a tasting of the new wines:

2008 Pavillon Rouge - beautifully aromatic. Fruit forward with mint, licorice, smoky, grassy and coffee notes. Very smooth on the palate.

2008 Margaux - black cherries, chocolate, mint, toasty oak, vanilla and exotic spices. Very smooth on the palate.

2006 Margaux - farmy nose with smoked meats, bacon, chocolate, smoke, ripe fruits and coffee. Already coming together very well.

2008 Pavillon Blanc - lots of green apple, wih good acidity balance.

We moved upstairs to the lavish drawing room for some Champagne, then sat down in the dining room for a beautiful lunch.

Bar braisé au fenouil - the seabass was very tender and delicious. The fennel cream sauce was top was a good match for the fish.

Quasi d’agneau et ses aubergines - the lamb was roasted and totally yummy. I took a piece at the end, and the lamb fat and the skin had so much flavor.

Les fromages de Jean d’Alos - from the famed Bordeaux affineur, and served on a very interesting platter made by Christian Dior.

Soufflé aux fruits de la passion - very yummy taste, but why was the ramekin only half full?! Who stole the other half?

A fabulous range of wines were served with lunch.

2006 Pavillon Blanc - smooth and ripe on the palate. A bit of toasty oak on the nose with a little spicy finish. Beautiful wine.

1989 Margaux - classic Bordeaux with smoke and brett on the nose. Silky smooth.

1959 Margaux - what a beautiful wine from a great vintage in Bordeaux. Nose of sweet grass, brett, sweet fruit and a bit of smoked meats. Sooo smooth and silky. Wow!

I really appreciated the generous hospitality that Paul and Béatrice showed us. They are a delightful couple and I really enjoyed my time with them. And I think the chef at the château did an outstanding job with the food.

Our dinner tonight was back at La Tupiña, the restaurant in Bordeaux city with the down-to-earth, homestyle menu. I was really looking forward to this meal, based on the delicious lunch on Sunday.

We ordered all of our dishes to share, doing it family style so that we could get to taste everything.

Salade croquante du maraîcher - julienned veggies like carrots, cucumbers, zucchini. Not as good as the one I tasted on Sunday.

Cèpes en persillade - classic, simple and good.

Foie gras poêlé aux raisins, sauce verjus - thick, juicy chunks of foie pan-fried just the way I like - a bit burnt on the outside but soft and runny inside.

I didn't try the white asparagus...the looked humongous but I think they would be a bit tough. I also didn't try the cassolette de St Jacques et cèpes aux beurre blanc, but it looked pretty good.

Main courses:
Poulet rôti avec croûtons au jus et farce - the roast chicken was not bad, and the stuffing was pretty decent, too.

La côte de boeuf - these are huge hunks of beef, done pretty well.

Magret entier grillé - actally not really that special...

Lamproie à la Bordelaise - I really didn't enjoy the sea lampreys cooked in red wine sauce. Actually it tasted like some of the fish that come out of a tin can, with that metallic taste. Now I know why - it sucks blood from other fish to stay alive... Not something I will have twice.

We started with some Louis Roederer Brut, then tasted 4 wines blind:

1986 Mouton-Rothschild - nose of sweet grass, soy sauce and smoke...tell-tale Mouton. The wine was still dark around the rim so it still looked very young.

1990 Cheval Blanc - nose of red fruits, orange and a bit of smoke. Nice and smooth to drink, but not mind-blowing.

1990 Lafleur - minty nose with a bit of orange. Finish was a little short, and I wasn't wowed by this wine...

1998 Le Pin - Wow! Explosive nose of orange marmalade, strawberries, exotic fruits, mint, brandied cherry, kirsch and apricot. I know this isn't exactly the classic Bordeaux in the same vein as the other three wines, but it was definitely my wine of the evening.

My second visit to La Tupiña didn't quite meet my expectations. I know the cooking is homey and nothing fancy, but I thought the execution was below par. Perhaps it was because our party was too big, but I expected better. Oh well... It was still a pretty good night.

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