Taillevent, Illy, Chez Dumonet, and O-Chateau Wine Tasting

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Taillevant & Le Cave Taillevent

Last month I had a fabulous lunch at Taillevent, the recently-demoted three-star restaurant, courtesy of some good friends from the states. But if our lunch was any indication, I don’t know who’s plucking the stars. And at 70€ it’s the deal of the decade: Three courses and lots of little extras. Plus they were very pleased to substitute any of the desserts which didn’t appear on the fixed menu for the selection offered. And to make the lunch even more special, another recent guest kindly bought me a bottle of lovely champagne…what’s not to get all starry-eyed over?

But whether or not you can make it to Taillevent, the restaurant, you should definitely visit their wine shop in the main Printemps department store. Run by Alison Vollenwider, with the help of Stéphanie (aka la petite), this wine cave is one of the most interesting in Paris.

Alison trained as a sommelier at Windows On The World with famed wine expert Andrea Immer, then worked in Bordeaux as a sommelier before settling here in Paris. Stop by and say hi—you’ll find plenty of reasonably-priced wines, starting at less than 10€, and lots of good advice from Alison. She’s friendly and knowledgeable…what more could you want from a caviste?

Update: Alison is now a proud mom and no longer working at Le Cave Taillevent.

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Illy

Ever since I got my new espresso machine, I’ve been trying to learn as much about the complex art of making espresso as possible.


Is it the quality of the coffee? The water? The muscle force used to tamp in the grounds? Is it too strong, or too weak? So I decided to head to Italy, where each cup of coffee is a delicious revelation…how do they do it?

This coming week, Illy coffee invited me to attend their Coffee University in Trieste. I was offered a factory tour and classes, and was hoping to share the pictures and stories here with you of the entire experience.

You can read more about it at Making Perfect Espresso at Illy.

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Grand Marnier Soufflé

When my Francophile cousin came to town, I was dying to have her try her first taste of confit de canard. But where to go? When you get a bad version, there’s nothing worse; the skin’s limp and fatty, and the greasy flesh is anything but appetizing. But a good confit de canard has well-crisped skin which shatters and crackles when you bite it with succulent long-cooked meat underneath, and comes accompanied with a pile of potatoes cooked in searing-hot duck fat alongside.

One of the best versions in Paris, if not the best, is at Chez Dumonet. But although I come for the confit, I stay for the dessert, which needs to be ordered at the same time as dinner. And their Grand Marnier Soufflé tops my list of best desserts in Paris.

It’s brought to the table…and it’s géant.
A small glass of Grand Marnier is set down too, and you pour it into the center, creating an eggy, molten volcano with a chewy crust and a soft, pillowy interior. Spoon up the last tastes of orange liqueur, the warm orangy puddle in the bottom, a perfect final touch to this sublime Parisian pleasure.

Chez Dumonet (Josephine)
117, rue du Cherche-Midi (6th)
Tél: 01 45 48 52 40
(Closed Saturdays & Sundays)

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Ô-Chateau

This week I went to the Big Seven Tasting at Ô-Chateau.

Oliver Magny led us through the basics of French wine, including discussions of the various regions and terroirs. Then, since there’s no better way to demonstrate the glory of France than via la bouche, we began to sample the wines.

Even though there are 150,000 wine makers in this country, Olivier chose glasses which demystified the regions and represented the various climates and grapes grown in l’hexagone. Starting on a festive note with a full, tall, cool glass of icy ArchiBald champagne (except for some woman named Mireille, who only had half a glass), then we visited the Loire with Sancerre, made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes (a favorite of mine). We sipped several more, including a mineral-rich white Bourgoune before we ended up with a Corbières, made from ruby, fruity Grenache grapes.

Great fun…in moderation, of course!

Ô-Chateau
Tél: 01 44 73 97 80

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Lastly, there’s just one space left for my Paris Chocolate Exploration with Mort Rosenblum, May 6-12.

During this exciting week, we’ll be special guests of La Maison du Chocolat for a private tasting, we’ll float on the Seine on Mort’s houseboat, enjoying the fine wines and foods we’ll stock up from my friends at Paris’ best open-air market, and one day we’ll head out to the countryside of Normandy for lunch at the home of cookbook author Susan Loomis.

And if that’s not enough, the elusive Jacques Genin welcomes us into his private chocolate laboratory for a look (and taste) of what chocolate-lovers around the world are talking about!

If you’d like to join me, or want more information, click here.

6 comments

  • You are banned! Can you not talk about spinach and spring onions for a while?

  • Pour toi David
    Si c est ton bras muscle sur la photo?
    Il y a une expression en francais
    ” C est muscle!” si on peut l appliquer au cafe
    ” Ton cafe est muscle!
    Cela veut dire fort ou corse……
    Corse: qui est fort au gout
    Desole je n ai pas les accents sur ma machine
    Pour les amateurs, c est accent aigu sur le E.
    On en apprend tous les jours!!

  • Too bad about the cancellation by Illy. A coffee University–are they accepting new students? ;) I’m sure your Paris Chocolate Exploration will more than make up for it.

  • Parisians are often honored for their coffee. But, to be honest, it’s most often bitter and a poor facsimile of what you can get in Italy. This likely goes back to French colonial times, where they imported beans from colonies in SE Asia (French Indochina/now Vietnam) where the quality tends to run low (often robusta instead of arabica beans), and they had to devise roasts to make up for it (a “French roast” is coffee’s equivalent to the well-done steak: charred to disguise imperfections).

    Illy is a fantastic company for quality controls. But unfortunately, coffee is a lot more like fresh baked bread than it is like imported, bottled wine (which is the way most people treat it). Coffee begins to oxidize it as soon as it is out of the roaster and it begins to lose flavor — no matter how fancy your vacuum sealing process. As a result, Illy coffee can be a bit flavorless (and, actually, stale) in the States, given the minimum four weeks of shipping time from Trieste. Illy has been unable to meet the freshness of any neighborhood roaster, but they do try to make up for it in consistent processing and grading.

    I hope you get to see their Trieste operations, because Illy coffee in Europe gets lost in translation over here in the U.S. for the above reasons.

  • yes Greg, the coffee here in Paris is generally horrible. Although people complain about the coffee in America, when you share a major border with Italy there’s simply no excuse for it. I go to a Cuban cafe…but even if you make it at home, the Italian coffee that you buy at the supermarket is a different roast and quality from what they use in Italy…even if it’s the same brand. My preferred brand for my morning cafe au lait is Malongo, which is French, but I buy my espresso in Italy if I can.

    I’ve adopted a few coping strategies; one being to only order coffee at a select few cafes that know how to make it (and that I can see flush their machines after each cup), and I try to stand at the counter. I’ve seen grounds being re-used on more than one occasion (if anyone did that in Italy, they’d be run out of the country…can you imagine?) so standing and watching them ensures at least freshly-ground coffee will be used.

    Am still hoping to get it Illy…someday…

  • Thanks David for the heads up on the blog by Alison of Taillevent.
    What a terrific, fun writer she is!