October 23, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 1: Back at Troisgros

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So here we are... at the start of another MNSC road trip.  The region we have chosen this year is Rhône, and for the second year in a row we are starting the trip with a full day spent with the Troisgros.

Two of us arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport early in the morning, and after grabbing a simple cup of coffee with a pain au chocolat, boarded the TGV and headed to Lyon.  After getting picked up at Lyon Part Dieu station, we picked up the rest of the crew at Saint Exupéry Airport and the connecting TGV station.  Within one hour, the Viano was full and we headed north for lunch.

The landscape started to look familiar in the final minutes before arriving at La Colline du Colombier, and as we pulled up to the gate it was comforting to see that Couline and Rose - the two donkeys of the farm house - were still running around in their pen.  The weather was warmer and nicer today compared to our visit last year, and I noticed that tables were laid out on the patio.

The restaurant was crowded on a Sunday as usual.  We took the same table as last year, next to the fireplace so that the fumes can fully interfere with our olfactory senses...  EXACTLY what you want while drinking some expensive stuff.

I remember the painful experience of stuffing myself at lunch, which meant I wasn't hungry at all when dinner time came.  I was determined not to make the same mistake this year, so I asked the gang not to over-order and try to save some stomach space...

We started with some nice jambon...

...and pâté aux lentilles.

Soupe de potiron - a nice pot of butternut squash soup to keep us warm.  I stuck to having half a bowl...

Scrambled eggs with chanterelles - this was really good.  Runny scrambled eggs with lovely fragrance and flavors from the shrooms, together with what looks like a red wine reduction.  Curious to find two little scoops of butter placed on top...

We ordered a round of mains and shared them all between us:

Boudin noir with apples - I would have been happy to have this on my own, but in this case I had a couple of chunks to satisfy my perennial craving.  Soooo good...

Lièvre à la royale - I knew I'd be having it sometime on this trip, but didn't expect it to be so soon!  Absolutely loved it.  The sauce was incredibly rich with all the blood, liver...etc. but there are some fruity acidity to balance it somewhat.  Most definitely the best lièvre à la royale I have ever had.

Frog's legs in parsley garlic butter - just as good as it was last year.

Côte de boeuf - what a huge hunk of beef!  I don't understand why the French always say that something like this is "for two"... because it would need to be "for four" or more when it comes to us.

Very nicely done with garlic cloves and shallots, this came to the table pre-carved and "bleu".  Absolutely perfect in terms of execution, and totally delicious.

These amazing potato puffs were served on the side.  Just the sight of a whole basket of them is impressive enough...

Golden and crispy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside - like mashed potato with lots of air bubbles.

Given our history last year, there was never gonna be any surprises as to what we would be drinking for lunch today...

2004 Coche-Dury Meursault 1er Cru Genevrières- nose of toasty oak, smoky, a little grassy with obvious straw.  A little ripe on the palate.  Honestly, a little too subtle for a Coche-Dury...

2004 Coche-Dury Meursault 1er Cru Perrières- much bigger nose, heavier toast, explosive almost as I would expect from a Coche-Dury.  A hint of lemon and toasted corn.  More acidity on the palate, and this was a very well-balanced wine.

1993 Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée - lots of fruit, sweet and lovely nose.  A little floral and smoky.

1995 Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée- minty, nose was a little closed.  Some dried herbs with ripe prunes.

I absolutely, totally failed in my mission not to get stuffed at lunch.  There'll be hell to pay at dinner time...

We moved out to the patio since the weather was so nice, and took our coffee there.  The meringues they served us were very good... still soft inside the hard shell.

The five city slickers went out on the patch of grass next to the restaurant and took in the views of the surrounding areas.  One of us decided to lay down on the grass to look at the blue sky above, and one by one we all followed suit.  The sun bestowed its warmth on me, the gentle breeze caressed me, and the sweet smell of unpolluted grass filled my lungs.  I began to feel that I had left all my troubles behind... and the next few days would be to relax and take in a little fun.

We drove to Roanne and checked into Maison Troisgros.  The devious Pineapple waited until the last minute to inform us that, due to the hotel being incredibly busy, there would be only 3 rooms for the 5 of us.  Two of us from the Taiwanese mafia would be sharing a room for the night.  Now it's looking more like a college road trip!

Dinner time rolled around, and I was once again not the best bit hungry.  What's worse, my buzz from lunch had just worn off after drinking some of that wonderful thé aux fruits rouges et à la menthe served by the hotel in our room.  For some reason, they always know exactly what to serve you as a welcome drink to refresh you... and they give you the recipe for you to do it at home, too!

We started the evening in the library, with some nibbles while waiting for the entire crew to assemble.

Caramelized cherry tomatoes

Pumpkin on Parmigiano toast, semolina cube with lemon, cuttlefish with tapenade on ink toast

Pigeon mousse millefeuille

Jamon lard croustillant

1990 Troisgros Cuvée Jean-Baptiste, elaboré par Duval-Leroy - Michel Troisgros sent this bottle of the house Champagne for us to start off the evening.  Lovely, oxidized nose, a little metallic and mineral, sweet and caramelized, a hint of salty plum (話梅), sugar cane, and Chinese licorice (甘草).

We moved to the private dining room in the restaurant, where we spent a wonderful evening last year.

The snack on the table to start us off was a bowl of deep-fried pork rinds.  These had to be the most bling-bling pork rinds I had ever seen... flavored with seaweed.

There were also some deep-fried pumpkin strips.  These were OK...

Since I wasn't hungry at all, and had already had a few snacks, I decided to forgo the full tasting menu and just order à la carte.

Couteau en gelée à la clémentine et à l'estragon - for those of us not having the tasting menu, Michel sent us the same starting dish as those who were.  Very interesting to have razor clams served this way.  Lovely citrus flavors of clementines to tone down the flavors of the ocean.  Radish strips provided an Asian element.  The tiny bits of tarragon added another subtle touch, which I really appreciated.  I can't tell you how many times I've been pissed off by a chef's heavy hand with herbs...

Macquereau croustillant, inspiré de Venise - I love mackerel, and here you've got the acidity from the capers, grapes and vinegar helping to cut down on the oily feeling in your mouth.  Kelp, onions, chicory and saffron all come together to create a complex flavor profile.

Moules et maïs voilées de lait - I got a taste of this dish, which combined the creamy textures of milk and mussels.  Not bad.

Plins à la truffe blanche d'Alba - this was our favorite dish last year, and I sure wasn't gonna pass it up this year!  The full portion was at least double the tasting portion, and I was in heaven.  The little agnolottis simply exploded with the slightest pressure in my mouth... and the flavors from butter, Parmigiano, Marscapone just filled my mouth.

Of course, one mustn't forget about the wonderful white truffles that are in season...  A totally awesome dish!

Anguille à la laque, vinaigre et yuzu - the presentation of the eel was definitely very, very artistic.  Nicely glazed on the surface.  Served with a duck jus / vinegar reduction.  The waiter shaved some yuzu (柚子) rind on top, but the taste in the mouth was actually yuzukosho (柚子胡椒) as promised.  Pretty nice, but I was just too full by this point to finish the dish.

Swiss chard - served on the side with the eel.

The cheese platter here is as impressive as I've seen anywhere, but I just couldn't take any...  Michel did send us panna cotta à la poire, which was delicious with grapefruit and clementine rind.

I nibbled on some of the mignardises, including these little pebbles that explodes upon cracking the hard shell, filling the mouth with Chartreuse.

We still had a lot of wine for dinner - something that is increasingly difficult to handle given our jet lag...

2002 Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne - beautiful, big nose of toasted corn and smoke.  Very pure, and extremely well-balanced on the palate.

1992 Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Cros Parantoux en magnum - lots of forest and sous bois notes, a little sharp on the nose, with mint and dried herbs.

1999 DRC La Tâche - a bit smoky, still pretty sharp and alcoholic on the nose due to the young age.  A little tight and took some time to open up.  A little raw and simply too young.  Infanticide.  We finished the bottle in my room after taking a quick walk around town, and it drank a little better.

This was an amazing day.  After two dinners at Troisgros, I can see what Pineapple has been raving about.  Michel Troisgros is able to construct his dishes so that the flavors - subtle or prominent - come together in perfect balance.  Nothing is out of whack.  While we may not be wowed by his use of Asian ingredients or preparation method, the dishes themselves are still pretty faultless.  I look forward to coming back here again...and again.

1 comment:

Felix said...

What a day! Look forward to reading about the following ones!


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