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  1. Favorite trip itineraries

    In '99 my wife & I retired (early) so that we could spend more time traveling - mainly in France. Since we could therefore stay longer, we decided to slow the pace down quite a bit. We typically take a 4 - 5 week Spring trip, and another 4 - 5 weeks in the early Fall. We stay in Gites, which usually run $300 to $800 per week depending on location & time of year. We normally stay for two weeks in one Gite & then move on to the next. This allows us to buy food in the markets & cook it ourselves at the Gite - in addition to visiting the local restaurants. Imaging my surprise when we drove up to our Gite in the Riveria & I saw a foie gras "farm" across the street !!! It's also exciting to see cepe mushrooms come into season in the Fall (never been there for truffle season). THIS IS THE TYPE OF ITINERARY I LIKE.
  2. Hiramatsu

    I have transcribed their menu into a Word document. E-mail me at StuDudley@aol.com if you want a copy.
  3. Hiramatsu

    I don't know, since I didn't order off the A la Carte. The crab was interesting, but not my favorite dish of the 12. We have excellent crab and avacado here in Calif. The St Jacques were lightly dusted with cinnamon & quite good & served with a pommes acidulee. The beet was unique - it was very lightly pickled & tasted neither like a pickled beet nor a raw beat (which I hate). It was on top of a light pastry which covered a julienne of white beets, haddock, & onions. The St Pierre (the part of St Pierre was played by Sandre when we were there), was very nice but not as unique as some of the other dishes. The lamb was 1 rib (3 on the a la carte) accompained by a perfectly seared loin which was split (1/2 loin per dish), with the orange flower sauce which was "cornered" on the plate with by perfectly steamed baby leek (split). I really didn't "pinch" a menu - I asked for one & they gave me the ladies menu without prices, so I can't tell you the price of each. The oysters are not on the a la carte nor are they on the hiver menu - they may have been cleaning out the refrigerator, since we were there on a Sunday & they are closed on Monday.
  4. Hiramatsu

    Stu -- Fleur d'oranger is orange flower blossom. (At certain developed places where one can get infusion drinks in Paris, it's better than verbena.) I had this dish -- it was stunning in taste, with brilliant color effects to appeal to the visual senses as well. BTW, to quote another member's post so it shows up in a box in your post, go to that member's post and click on the "Quote" botton on the upper right hand side of the post. You can then edit out parts of the quoted post you do not need. Your own post is typed separately. Of course, this procedure is only if you want to quote in the conventional way. I kind of like the way you quote, and am unable to navigate certain technical aspects of this site (e.g., link to another thread). Hey - I tried the quote here & I hope it works My first thought was that it was an orange blossom, but how did he achieve that deep red color ? I've never seen a red blossom on an orange. (red dye #2 ?)
  5. Hiramatsu

    If it were up to me, I would force everyone at the table to order the surprise menu (menu l'astrance) but given the fact that one of my party is a vegetarian, I have to face the fact that the restaurant may not be able to accomodate my desire to have this menu and my mother's dietary requirments (no fish chicken poultry etc, but she won't make a big deal about stocks). Therefore, I would grateful for suggestions on how to best maximize the experience while pursuing an a la carte strategy. I "pinched" a menu from Astrance last Sunday, and I think your mother better take some snacks with her. Here is the A la Carte: Crab wrapped in avacado (scrape out the crab) Eggs Scallops sea urchin beets - but with haddock included (she can scrape this out) St Pierre (fish) mackerel salmon duck lamb veal If there are more than 2 of you, I would order the surprise menu & let your mom just eat the veggie items & pass you the rest. I bet if you let the restaurant know, they might be able to make some adjustments (both hiver & surprise menus must be ordered for the entire table)
  6. Hiramatsu

    Steve Klc Stu--I asked about the language because there is an ongoing theme that runs across many threads here about service and treatment in restaurants--and I think a lot of non-French speakers would benefit from knowing whether they'd be at a disadvantage--or, as Cabrales indicates in this instance, no disadvantage at all, in being able to communicate to the staff. The service at Astrance was probably the best I've ever encountered. No hovering waiters, like at many ** restaurants, but 3 people young people roving around & obtaining eye contact with each other when it's time to serve/clear a plate. Two people served & cleared each plate. The maitre d did not talk to us, but the other server did & tried to explain things in English if my wife didn't understand the French. At one Michelin no star restaurant last year, they seated all the Americans together & gave them an English menu. We asked for the French instead since I have a much better understanding of French fish names than English names (we really don't have warm salt water fish here). The French speaking people went upstairs to a different section of the restaurant. One of the items I orderes was Cepes. We almost always stay at Gites in the countryside or an Apt in Paris & we buy our food at the markets & I cook it myself - and it was Cepe season.. The cepes served to me were dried & re-hydrated, which is something that is horrible for cepes & they loose their crunchy testure. I wonder if the French patrons got fresh cepes? Cabrales Stu -- That was an outstanding dish, with the Camembert effect quite prominent on the nose, but very suppressed (almost non-existent) in the mouth (where the oyster tastes and textures dazzled). What was your assessment of the dish? Same as yours. The sauce did not overpower the oysters but just added another dimension. It's probably the dish I remember the most (my wife won't eat oysters so I had her helping). The sauce was quite "frothy" & clean. One other item on the menu was L'agneau grille, topinambour et fleur d'oranger. The waiter said the fleur d'oranger was some sort of mountain juice (whatever that means). It was red but didn't taste like blood orange juice. Perhaps it's blood orange juice with a little tomato juice in it. That's the magic of sauces in excellent French restaurants - they never overpower & it's often very hard to tell what it is (besides good!)
  7. Hiramatsu

    Stu--if any of us were not already convinced that L’Astrance was a must visit--your notes on price surely seal the deal. What a fine-dining bargain! Do you speak French or were you conversing in English? My wife & I converse in English to each other , but she converses in excellent French to the restaurant help. A few times they tried to talk to me in English. BTW, why do you ask ?
  8. Hiramatsu

    Stu -- Thanks for your feedback. I'll try to include prices (at least sans wine) from now on, except in situations where they might lead members to think I am decadent I don't think you need to worry about that The prices for Hiramatsu were included in the provided link to the sample menu. The tasting menu, containing four courses, is listed at the bottom of that at 92 euros. On L'Astrance, I could not speak more enthusiastically about its prices, and, wholly apart from prices, its cuisine. See, e.g., "Gault Millau 2002 Guide France" under this forum for more on L'Astrance (G-M notes L'Astrance provides haute cuisine at bistro prices). Is the Menu de Saison the one that has dishes listed on the menu? Note that the price of the L'Astrance all-surprise menu (I think it's called Menu L'Astrance) is slightly higher (relatively; but, in absolute terms, marvellous) than the price of the Menu de Saison. The all-surprise menu price also varies slightly between lunch and dinner. They list all the items on the Menu de Saison, and one of the surprises (La Betterave en fine galette, oignons et haddock) was listed on the Carte menu. The surprises of Oysters in their shell (2) on a bed of chives with a "froth" of Camembert cheese sauce, toast soup, and sabayon in an egg shell were not. The Surprise menu includes wine & was 76 Euros. The lunch menu is not served on Sunday
  9. Hiramatsu

    My take on Hiramatsu – Good enough, and clearly deserving of a Michelin star, but no L’Astrance! Cabrales For those of us who consider price when we plan our dining itinerary, it would be helpful if you could include the price of the menu you ordered, when you review a restaurant. I dined at Astrance last Sunday and the price of the 8 course "Menu de Saison" was 58 Euros. The 8 courses were actually 12 when they added in "surprises". In addition to the white wine we ordered with our seafood courses, I ordered a glass of red wine which they kept filling up when it got low. They did the same with the water, although we only ordered 1 half bottle (4 Euros). We also ordered Kirs. They did not charge us for either the bottomless glass of red wine nor the Kirs - they said "not tonight" when we brought it to their attention. The entire dinner for 2 was Approx 160 Euros. We walked by Hiramatsu and the prices seemed to be in a different league than Astrance - high 30s for entrees & mid 40s for plats. I did not notice the fixed price menu. I suspect that Hiramatsu would have cost me twice as much as Astrance for only 4 courses (although they would probably be larger portions) Thanks for the excellent review
  10. L'Astrance

    My wife & I are going to Paris for about a week starting 3/6, and we wanted to dine at L'Astrance. I knew that they only take reservations 1 month or so in advance, but I called mid January anyway. They said that the earliest we could book is 2/6 for a reservation on 3/6. We called 2/6 at 3:00 pm Paris time & they were "complet". We set the our alarm (we're on PST) and called at 8:15 am Paris time the next day to try for a reservation on 3/7. Nobody answered and after about 8 rings, the phone stopped ringing (I guess they do this so you won't tie up their phone for hours trying to make a reservation). We called back ay 9:15 & nobody answered. We called at 10:15 and they were "complet". We asked them if we could book for 3/8 and they said "no, you will have to call back tomorrow". They said we should call earlier. We called the next day at 9:30 for a reservation on 3/8 and the line was busy. We used "redial" on the phone & called back 3 more times with a busy signal each time. Finally at 9:45 we got through but they were "complet". We asked them what time they get there in the morning and they said 9:30. I thought we would be clever and call them at 15 mins past midnight on 2/9 for a reservation on 3/9, but nobody answered. We set the alarm for 9:15 Paris time & started calling the next day, which would be Saturday. Nobody answered at 9:15 & nobody answered at 9:25. At 9:30 we got a busy signal. We finally got through at 9:45 and they were "complet" and they had been so for 10 minutes. Between 9:30 & 9:35, all tables were reserved. Tomorrow would be our last chance (they're closed Monday). We started calling at 9:25 & did redials constantly. At 9:31 we got through and WE GOT A TABLE !!! Now I just hope United Airlines doesn't go on strike. Stu Dudley San Mateo (San Francosco), Ca