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Ledoyen

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The Puligny Montrachet we had at Ledoyen was a J-M Boillot "Clos de la Mouchere" 1998; price was €140.

Jonathan,

Ah, but now you are talking premier cru, (which should be) a notable step up from most village wines.

How did you find the wine?

Best regards,

Claude Kolm

The Fine Wine Review

Claude, I am not at all a wine connoisseur. I enjoyed the wine a lot: it seemed balanced ("rounded") and had a subtle quality that I described as "spicy" in my writeup but perhaps wine people would call "mineral". It wasn't quite as fruity as the sommelier had led me to expect; perhaps just a bit of citrus.

I've now seen this wine priced at €60 at retail, so €140 doesn't seem like that painful a restaurant price.

Jonathan -- Glad it worked out well. Boillot had problems with hail in some of his Pulignys in 1998, and I didn't remember if the Clos de la Mouchere was one of them, but it sounds as though it wasn't.

Best regards,

Claude Kolm

The Fine Wine Reivew


Edited by Claude Kolm/The Fine Wine Review (log)

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Unfortunately, it is a common experience in French restaurants to find that they refuse to sell you a wine that is on the list -- the more you have a sharp eye for the list's bargains, the more you will run into it.  They size you up and decide what wine you deserve. 

Yes, but fortunately once they speak to you, usually they change their mind and make favors to amend the original misjudgement. I have been in quite a few French starred restaurants since 85 and it is only in Ledoyen and one more place that I ran into serious problems, i.e. they were adamant and so was I so the whole thing turned into a battle of wills...a lose lose situation which ruins the dinner. By the way the problem in Ledoyen happened twice both under Arabian and Le Squer. Old habits die hard.

Once at Arpege when it was still a two-star, I had to negociate through about four or five wines with the sommelier.

This is THE second place I ran into the same problem but not when it was 2 stars. When it was 2 stars they had women servers and the young (male) sommellier was open minded. Unfortunately things changed. I believe we should post such problems in eGullet to warn one another. I just value French cuisine, culture and character and independent posture too much to believe that they should not get away with disrespectful attitudes.

Another practice that I disapprove of but that is not quite as offensive is to put wines on the list and in place of a price, put "en vieillissement."  I think it is a good practice for a restaurant to hold back wines until they are mature, but why put them on the list if they are not currently available?

Another good point Claude. Once I fell in the trap for a Parkerised Rayas at La Feniere in Lourmarin. Here I am not blaming the restaurant but myself as "en vieillessement" is a booby trap, and unfortunately in that rare instance my taste and Mr. Parker's coincided, Rayas is normally an outstanding chateauneuf.

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I once had this problem at Ducasse at the 16th ar location. I ordered a Chave 1989, which was very well priced (1100 FF), and they were very resistant to serve it to me. At the time I believed that it was because it was arguably not ready, but I am no longer so sure. I insisted, and they did serve it grudgingly. I am somewhat surprised that individuals accept this behavior at all. My approach would be to listen to the explanation and if not convinced, I would simply insist. If the restaurant persisted in refusing, I would either order no wine at all or walk out.

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It seems that there is more than one reason why restaurants won't sell wines that are listed on their carte. One is thinking that the diner is not worthy of the wine or that the wine will not go with the dish(es) ordered. But a second reason is that the restaurants want to have cartes that are studded with prestigious wines, and if they sell them too rapidly, they may have problems restocking, especially if the prices of the wines have increased. Therefore, the prestige wines are essentially show window wines, but not in stock.

Best regards,

Claude Kolm

The Fine Wine Review

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The way that most restaurants handle show window stock is by charging an outrageous price that no one will pay. Gary Danko does this with his grand cru Bordeaux, such as charging $3600 for 1982 Haut Brion, which can still be had at auction for under $300. I don't think that show window stock is the problem. The problem is with the great wines that are also well priced wines.

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The way that most restaurants handle show window stock is by charging an outrageous price that no one will pay.  Gary Danko does this with his grand cru Bordeaux, such as charging $3600 for 1982 Haut Brion, which can still be had at auction for under $300.  I don't think that show window stock is the problem.  The problem is with the great wines that are also well priced wines.

Marcus -- Gary Danko's approach is one way, but not necessarily the exclusive one. My experience is that most restaurants in France do not take the extreme markups that Danko does with some of his wines, such as the one you cite. (Many restaurants in France do take markups that are higher than I think justified, but they do so across the board.)

Best regards,

Claude Kolm

The Fine Wine Review

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Claude -- I find wine pricing at restaurants in France to be highly variable. This is not to say that this only results from selective markup application. Restaurants may also be inefficient at keeping their prices current with the market and their are also systematic differences in valuation between France and the US, to some extent due to Robert Parker's enthusiasms. For example, Rhone wines are significantly more expensive in the US, and for whatever reason, so are Champagnes. At the same time, Bordeaux seems to be a bit more expensive in France. As someone who attends auctions and follows wine pricing closely, one of my great pleasures is picking through a wine list looking for bargains that appeal to me. Except for my experience at Ducasse, I have never had a restaurant strongly challenge my selection from their list. In general, they have been happy to serve it to me, and frequently offer congratulations on the selection. For example, at Feniere where I ordered a 1990 La Mouline for 1200 FF, the owner came over to visit and discuss wine and we received considerably more attention. I continue to consider the refusal or even reluctance to sell any wine that is on the presented list to be totally unacceptable. The Gary Danko overpricing approach to displaying show window stock, I find ludicrous but acceptable.


Edited by marcus (log)

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Claude -- I find wine pricing at restaurants in France to be highly variable.  This is not to say that this only results from selective markup application.  Restaurants may also be inefficient at keeping their prices current with the market and their are also systematic differences in valuation between France and the US, to some extent due to Robert Parker's enthusiasms.  For example, Rhone wines are significantly more expensive in the US, and for whatever reason, so are Champagnes.  At the same time, Bordeaux seems to be a bit more expensive in France.  As someone who attends auctions and follows wine pricing closely, one of my great pleasures is picking through a wine list looking for bargains that appeal to me.  Except for my experience at Ducasse, I have never had a restaurant strongly challenge my selection from their list.  In general, they have been happy to serve it to me, and frequently offer congratulations on the selection.  For example, at Feniere where I ordered a 1990 La Mouline for 1200 FF, the owner came over to visit and discuss wine and we received considerably more attention.  I continue to consider the refusal or even reluctance to sell any wine that is on the presented list to be totally unacceptable.  The Gary Danko overpricing approach to displaying show window stock, I find ludicrous but acceptable.

Marcus -- There are various reasons for the differences in wine pricing between the US and France:

Champagne houses sell their wines to restaurants at unusually low prices because they consider it good advertising to have their Champagnes drunk in restaurants. Now, why don't they do this in the US?

Rhones (and here we are talking the prestige wines, not Cotes-du-Rhone, Crozes-Hermitage, etc.) generally (but not always) are cheaper in France because US importers often take unusually high markups on the wines due to demand that far exceeds supply, and also because Rhone wines are not much in demand in France outside of the region of production.

Bordeaux is a different story. I don't believe that restaurants buy en primeur, and in fact it appears that the distribution system for Bordeaux is more complicated and inefficient in France than it is for other wines. Also, especially in Paris, Bordeaux has a special cachet (one might even say snob appeal). Consequently, restaurants seem to think that they can mark clarets up more than other wines (the flip side of the Rhone situation). (I must say, given the pricing of Bordeaux in France these days and the quality and style of so much of the wine that is produced there these days, I hardly glance at Bordeaux selections any more, unless I am in a restaurant with older wines on the carte.)

Finally, currency fluctuations, of course, can affect the relative prices of wines between the US and France.

Best regards,

Claude Kolm

The Fine Wine Review


Edited by Claude Kolm/The Fine Wine Review (log)

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Claude -- I agree with most of your points. However, with regard to Rhone pricing, the auction market is a secondary market entirely independent of whatever markup an importer may have taken many years ago. The reason that 1978 La Chapelle is selling for $500 at auction in the US and was under $300 at ADPA including VAT and service charge is in my view the direct result of the influence of Robert Parker.

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My approach would be to listen to the explanation and if not convinced, I would simply insist.  If the restaurant persisted in refusing, I would either order no wine at all or walk out.

Bravo. This is the best response. When they refuse the Coche at Ledoyen I actually did walk out with my wife and the maitre d' rushed after me and they (kind of) apologized. By the way they had taken my ordre prior the wine and the langoustines were served while we were still fighting about the wine and the kitchen had to prepare them again. But they simply reheated the dish and when it was served the langoustines were overcooked. At that point I had lost my appetite anyway and this is what I call a lose lose situation. I will never go there again.

Marcus, do you know who the sommelier was at Ducasse who gave you a hard time? They have high markups anyway. their wine team in Monaco used to be (I have not been there last 3 years) nice, they did small favors and usually found some underpriced gems when they tthought you are passionate about it. The Paris team struck me as more distant but professional. I am disappointed that they did this to you because I do not believe them. One can enjoy the 89 Chave now provided that it is appropriately decanted and you may have started with a champagne and/or white anyway while it is breathing.

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Marcus -- I think one wine and one particular price point is not enough to make a case. Especially when it is a wine that is as rare as 1978 La Chapelle (assuming that we are talking about genuing bottles -- I think that is one wine where there is now a fair amount of bogus wine circulating). Also, the the auction market, frequently yields very bizarre results. Here in San Francisco, for example, and I am sure that it is not just here, buyers frequently pay substantially more for wines at auction than they would pay at stores for the same wines. One would think that wine-searcher.com would end such follies, but it is not the case.

On the other hand, to cite one example, Guigal for a long time sold his la-las at much lower prices in France than they were sold for in the US.

Best regards,

Claude Kolm

The Fine Wine Review

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Vedat -- I don't know any of the sommeliers at ADPA, but my impression was that the one that took our order was way down on the totem pole. I haven't yet been to the Plaza location and my last ADPA dinner was, I believe, November 2000. I didn't find the wine list particularly overpriced, certainly not by NYC restaurant standards, but I am happy with a wine list if I find a few well priced bottles. In addition to the 89 Chave for 1100 FF and the 78 La Chapelle for 2000, I specifically remember an 86 Pichon Lalande for 1200. There were some additional good choices that I don't remember as specifically.

I'm glad that you did start to walk out, because I don't believe that people should feel that they have to mitigate being improperly placed in intolerable situations unless there is some compelling reason, which is certainly not the case with a restaurant meal. I do have my own Ledoyen story, which is not at all as dramatic as yours. It was while Arabian was still there, and I was having great difficulty finding a good red wine at an acceptable price. I was unhappy with the suggestions and then noticed an 86 Domaine de Chevalier which I had never tried, but believed that I had heard something good about. I ordered it, which did generate some grumbling, but it was served without real argument. However, after the first tasting and pour, the sommelier never revisited our table and the wine was poured by the waitstaff. I must admit that the wine was not as good as I has hoped it would be.


Edited by marcus (log)

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Claude--I think that you are subject to many of the misconceptions about the auction market that are quite common.

Firstly, I don't think that Ducasse's 78 La Chapelle was bogus, and he had the low price, so I don't understand your point here.

Secondly, the auction market is a secondary market, and it really doesn't matter what the price history is or what some producer may have charged originally in a particular geography. The auction price represents only what someone is willing to pay today. The retail market, which focuses primarily on recent vintages, no longer exists for these wines in any volume apart from odd bottles.

Thirdly, the average auction price at a point in time for essentially all wines, with the possible exception of some Champagnes, is significantly below the prices offered by any of the web discounters, I look at all of them. However, certain anomalies do occur:

Individually high runaway prices at auction do occur due to human psychology, and retailers often focus on these to create invalid comparisons. Sokolin is notorious for this.

At a time that there is a major release from a chateau, the price may be lower than the prevailing auction price.

The auction price represents the market price of the moment and when prices are rising very rapidly auction prices may move up faster than the retail price. But outside of these anomolies, I can show you large numbers of auction prices that are significantly lower than the prices on wine-searcher.com.

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I am curious to understand just how the "refuse to sell" gambit gets played out.

At my meal at Ledoyen, the sommelier simply indicated that a red would not go well with the chicken. And, not knowing how the dish was sauced, I went along with his advice. I assumed that had I insisted on a red, or on a Sauternes for that matter, he would have shrugged and provided it.

Or are you saying that sommeliers are literally saying, "That wine is on the list, but I won't sell it to the likes of you!"?

How does the conversation go? Is the sommelier recommending against (deconseiller) a wine or refusing to sell it?

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Jonathan -- I don't remember exactly the details from my experience at Arpege -- it took place shortly before the restaurant received its third star, so it was in November 1994, if I recall correctly. I think that the sommelier stated that the wine was not ready to drink, and I, knowing the wine, stated that it was. We went back and forth a little, but I really didn't press him.

A couple of other times, I've been told that he wine is sold out -- which may or may not be the case. Speaking of that, a friend of mine was dining at a restaurant in Paris this past fall (I don't remember the name) and ordered 1988 Domaine de Chevalier. The staff came back and said that it was sold out, but would he accept 1988 Chateau Trotanoy in its place at the same price (Trotanoy sells at a multiple of Chevalier's price)? Now, that was excellent wine service.

Best regards,

Claude Kolm

The Fine Wine Review

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Lousia

what a great description. Makes me want to hop on the train, and try it for myself.

Being the (or even our) designated expert, would you like to venture a cordon bleu guess as to how they made the stuffing for the ravioli? Did they use a mousse of foie gras to bind the morels, or a salpicon of both? And what was your guess on the components of the jus/sauce?

Also, with the peppers - do you think they removed too much (You mentioned the heat from the one, and the peppery-ness from the cress) or did it all balance out?

And when do you find out about the stage?

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Super report. You seem to have your eyes open to everything. When I first went to Paris in 1972, I had bottled water for the first time, real mustard, good cheese, strong coffee, fresh bread, croissants, etc. When I got back to LA, I looked briefly for these things but all I could find were croissants (Paris Pastry in Westwood). Sadly, I didn't persist regarding the other things (oh, maybe I found some mustard at Trader Joe's). Maybe the world has changed some due to globalization, but I'd still like to think that you will come back with some discoveries that will knock us all on our collective asses. Keep it up.

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I am really enjoying (and getting addicted to!) these missives. Keep 'em coming, Louisa!

My favorite parts are:

I live a very odd life at the moment. Thanks to my bounty from school, my freezer is half-filled with foie gras, I'm a little tired of quail and sweetbreads, and I have to remember to give away three boxes made entirely of chocolate very soon. At the same time I consciously stop myself from buying a pain au chocolat every morning when I walk by the Maison Kayser on my way to school -- for financial and caloric reasons.

and the part where the menu signing is likened to a high school yearbook signing.

Looking forward to the next installment!

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I don't know if it's fair to tell someone else's stories--they may want to write an autobiography some day--but I know a young American woman who was studying cooking in Paris. She broke part of her eyeglass frame. Fortuantely it was an internationally distrubuted brand and a local shop was able to replace just that part. When she went to pick the glasses up, the optometrist told her his distributor didn't charge him for the part, so there was no charge for the repair--there's still an advantage to be being a student, female and attractive in Paris. Later in the week, she dropped off a cake that had been the day's assignment at school. It's nice to think of that as a way of life one can associate with Paris.

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Louisa, I could just about taste those ravioli! Mmmmmmmmmm. Maybe I'll have to reconsider my opinion that the French cannot do pasta. :biggrin:

What did the private dining room look like?

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What did the private dining room look like?

Good point. Lisa needs a digital camera.

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A very beautiful, evocative piece, Louisa. Oh to be young, in Paris, and eating at a Three Star!

By the way, the notched flat spoon is called, I believe, a sauce spoon. I was given one a couple of weeks ago at NoMi in Chicago for that amazing parsley sauce with my duck crepes.

I am looking forward to your next installment.

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Moby! Ugh, you're putting me through my culinary paces! OK. The ravioli filling was diced morels with smooth foie gras. So I'm guessing that they pureed sauteed foie gras and then added sweated morels, binding the mixture with cream. So kind of a mousse of foie gras but not really a salpicon of morels - since a salpicon usually refers to a cooked dice bound with a cream or even sauce but not really with a mousse.

And the sauce. The dish was garnished with seared foie gras and sauteed morels. So again I'm guessing, they seared the foie gras, removed it, reserved the fat, used some of the fat to sweat some shallots, sweated the morels, deglazed with some alcohol - maybe Port - reduced it down to a syrup, added some white stock - maybe poultry - reduced, added some cream, reduced, chinois-ed, mounted with butter.

As for the peppers and the cress, for my taste yes - I would have liked some more heat and pepperiness - but for French haute cuisine, no, it was correct.

I'm supposed to find out about the stage this week. But the strikes have made everything crazy so now I'm not sure. I'll ask Chef Chantefort to call on Monday if we don't hear from them by Friday afternoon.

hollywood, I don't know Paris Pastry in Westwood! Where is it and what's it like? What else do they have? I did have a running croissant competition with a friend of mine when I was there. She liked La Conversation's the best - I thought La Provence's were better. As for the other stuff, you can get the same Evian and Volvic water there. Same for Maille mustard. I actually prefer Peet's coffee! But the cheese and bread, well just wait until you get back to France. And I get knocked on my ass with discoveries here almost on a daily basis. Going to the Saveurs Salon tomorrow - food show - I cannot wait.

alacarte, thank you so much! You know what? I actually did forget about those chocolate boxes until you just reminded me - I gave away one so two more to go!

Bux, as they say "C'est normal." But it's not, is it? And this is Paris - the big bad city - not some little French village!

Suzanne, well, don't forgive the French completely yet for the way the sometimes abuse pasta! But those ravioli were incredible. And I just made the most amazing fresh pasta for the first time this session - and lucky enough to have Chef Bruno teach me hands on. He worked at an Italian restaurant here in Paris for 6 years - before he went to Maxim's.

The private dining room's focal point is actually the view of the garden just outside. I thought it was a private garden but I just went by there the other day and saw that it was not - it's accessible just steps off the Champs-Elysees. The far curved wall looks out onto an expansive green lawn, flower beds, and stone fountain - though it wasn't on. You first walk in through heavy, gold-framed glass doors and take about three steps down into the dining room. It's a simple, columned, thickly carpeted, heavily curtained room. Easily held about 10 round white tableclothed tables for 8 - could have been set up for double. Comfortable, gilded, upholstered armless slipper chairs. A luxurious garden room.

And I do have a camera. The ex took/lost the cable to download so I need to get a new one! Coming soon!

Maggie, thanks so much. And that would make sense about the spoon! Though I must admit that while the appropriate silverware was provided that bread was used - discretely- for the last of the sauce.

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hollywood, I don't know Paris Pastry in Westwood! Where is it and what's it like? What else do they have? I did have a running croissant competition with a friend of mine when I was there. She liked La Conversation's the best - I thought La Provence's were better. As for the other stuff, you can get the same Evian and Volvic water there. Same for Maille mustard. I actually prefer Peet's coffee! But the cheese and bread, well just wait until you get back to France. And I get knocked on my ass with discoveries here almost on a daily basis. Going to the Saveurs Salon tomorrow - food show - I cannot wait.

Paris Pastry is at 1448 Westwood Blvd. They've been there for a long time. Haven't been there for years but they were the first place in LA where I could get real croissants. They do all sorts of cakes, baked goods, tarts, etc.

As for Saveurs, sounds like another tasty report.

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