Results tagged Burgundy from David Lebovitz

Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenée Restaurant

Alain Ducasse Restaurant at the Plaza Athenée

A few years ago in Paris, I was invited to a special lunch by Dan Barber, of Blue Hill in New York City, who prepared a meal at the restaurant of Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenée. I’ve been fortunate to be on the guest list for some of these meals, including ones that profiled Japanese and Chinese chefs, meant to introduce the foods of other cultures to journalists and food professionals here in Paris.

Of course, Alain Ducasse has upscale restaurants in Paris, Monte Carlo, New York, and Tokyo. But during a recent renovation of the Plaza Athenée hotel in Paris, Chef Ducasse and his chef at the restaurant, Romain Meder, decided to break from – and challenge – the traditional definition of luxury dining, and feature the producers and farmers, who produce the food, where good cooking starts. The menu has been completely rewritten, focusing on vegetables and sustainable fish.

Alain Ducasse Restaurant at the Plaza Athenée

Before this transformation, when Dan Barber was at the restaurant, he gave an impassioned talk to the French journalists and food writers (along with a few of us anglophones) that were assembled, about what he’s doing at his restaurants and his philosophy. Unfortunately the translator gave a word-for-word recapitulation, which didn’t (and couldn’t) explain the sociological shift and remarkable, and profound, transformation in American dining and eating habits over the last few decades. People used to say to me, “Don’t all Americans eat at McDonald’s?” But those who have been to the states now come back, and say “The food was incroyable.”

Farmers’ markets are in full swing in most major cities in America, and on airplanes (and in fast-food restaurants), you’re likely to find bits of radicchio in your baby lettuce salad, and even my local Safeway in San Francisco had organic milk from a local producer and bean-to-bar chocolate. French cuisine has taken a notable hit, mostly because of the increased reliance on pre-packaged foods. But that’s kind of becoming a thing of the past, and the tides are turning. And in this case, it’s coming from the top.

Alain Ducasse Restaurant at the Plaza Athenée

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Our Tour de France, Part 2

I, myself, have recovered better than my camera’s memory card, which is en route back to Sony, who said they would try to recover the rest of my trip photos. (Yes, I tried recovering software, none of which worked. And I passed on local outfit in Paris, who said they could give it a try…for €400 to €1000.) So in lieu of me shelling out the big bucks to get the photos back, I’m going to wait.

France: Loire & Burgundy

And we’ll all have to be content with some photos I pulled from my iPhone because as much as I like you all, for a thousand euros, I could spend a week on a beach in Greece — with a hefty budget for Retsina.

France: Loire & Burgundy

(On a related topic, two photographer friends advised downloading and backing up photos daily, using high performance memory cards, and realizing that even new memory cards fail, so keep backing up as much as possible. Storing the photos on an external hard drive, or in a cloud, such as Flickr or Dropbox. Although they aren’t fool-proof, they are other ways to guard and store your photos.)

France: Loire & Burgundy

Anyways, where was I? Oh yes, we were heading toward the Loire, where a friend of mine was spending the month. She’s a good cook, and an easy-going vegetarian, and I was happy to arrive to find platters of beautiful fresh vegetables and locally produced goat cheeses, which the Loire is famous for. She was also delighted that we brought vegetables from our friends garden in the Lot, which included a fresh piment d’Espelette pepper, typically used in Basque cooking, and something I wish were grown (and sold) closer to Paris. I love them. If only just outside my window, the landing wasn’t awash with cigarette butts from the neighbors, I could grow something livable out there.

France: Loire & Burgundy

Arriving in the Loire, we were greeted by more iffy weather, that always seemed to be arriving just as we were. But that didn’t stop us from hitting the market in Loches, with a château (another thing that the Loire is known for) overlooking the city.

France: Loire & Burgundy

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In and Near Chablis

gougeres pastry

For a variety of reasons, we decided to extend our twenty-four hour vacation by forty-eight hours. Actually, there were only two reasons: One was that there was a massive heat wave last week in Paris that was roasting us, and everyone else in the city. And two, a friend who lives outside of Paris – who has a pool – invited us to come.

French pool

So we drove out of the city, away from the unshaded pavements, the barren open-air markets, and the locked-up storefront, to breathe in some fresh air and float carelessly in a calming rectangle of cooling water. We were in the Yonne, part of Burgundy, which also meant Dijon mustard, gougères, and Chablis.

glasses of chablis

On arrival, we tumbled out of the sticky heat of the car and hopped into the pool right away to cool down, then our friend called us to the table with a vegetable tart she’d whipped together; a simple pastry dough with a smear of Dijon mustard, sautéed zucchini and onions, then topped with cheese and baked. Basta. Score one for simple French food, and the women who make it!

zucchini cheese tart

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Why You Should Drink White Wine with Cheese

white wine & cheese

Some time last year, I pretty much stopped buying red wine. France was always la France, feminine, and I find white wines much more nuanced and interesting, like women. Whereas (depending upon where you live) men are tough and brutal. And in my own special way of reasoning the unreasonable, the longer I lived here the more I found myself gravitating toward the lighter, cleaner flavors of the vins blancs of la France. I also realized that I felt better when I woke up the next day if I stuck to whites. And since I have to wake at least once a day, that’s a reasonable consideration.

white wine bleu cheese

There’s the old adage about “if it grows together it goes together” and keeping in line with the French concept of terroir (roughly: shared territory), something like a Selles-sur-Cher, a tangy, yet delicate goat cheese from the Loire goes quite nicely with brisk Sancerre, Muscadet, or a Sauvignon blanc. Which, by no coincidence, come from the same region. Slightly pungent Langres from Burgundy partners well with bracing Chablis or unoaked French chardonnay. The milky-creamy cheese is rich enough; no need to blast your palate with a full-on red. (Although I’m wondering if my argument reached its first hole since some people are more concerned with the wine rather than the cheese. So I guess I’m not one of them.)

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