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Ambassade d'Auvergne


Pan
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We think this gets points in both Gault Millau and Michelin for being authentic Auvernois cuisine. It's not cheap, and not all the dishes are worth ordering.

We went in somewhat ignorant of just how heavy, pig-based, and offal-specializing Auvernois cuisine is. If that's what you want, you stand a good chance of eating well at this restaurant. I enjoyed the blood pudding with apples appetizer very much, and from what I remember, my brother had some kind of bean casserole with bacon (which he didn't realize would be in it), which was also nice. Their beef stew, which I had for a main dish, was too tough and gristly, not worth ordering.

Their sausage with mashed potatoes and cheese dish is very popular. The waiter comes with the melted cheese and whisks it over the mashed potatoes with a big spatula. It's a big production. We didn't have any, so I can't tell you how it is, but if I did go back, that's what I'd order for my main dish, most likely.

It's clearly a down-home place for exiled Auvernois, but it's not cheap for what you get there, despite its getting a bib gourmand from Michelin. And make sure to have plenty of roughage on the day you eat there. :laugh:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Their sausage with mashed potatoes and cheese dish is very popular. The waiter comes with the melted cheese and whisks it over the mashed potatoes with a big spatula. It's a big production. We didn't have any, so I can't tell you how it is, but if I did go back, that's what I'd order for my main dish, most likely.

That is the main event there. If you do, eat nothing for a day in advance and plan to eat nothing the next day. :laugh:

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It happens to be a neighborhood restaurant for me since I usually stay with a friend who lives around the corner on Rambuteau. For years I had been trying to take her there but she demurred saying the food was too heavy. Finally six years ago I managed to get another dinner partner to join me. While I am glad I tried it, I did not feel like rushing back on my next visit. Perhaps it is one of those once in a lifetime experiences, like eating locust and ortalon. Maybe the Guardian food critics should add it to their list.

The dining room is pseudo-rustic and not too crowded. The host that evening was a pleasant thin mustachioed gentlemen, with a jacket that seemed slightly too large and long for him. Clearly he did not regularly dine on his establishment's feasts. He graciously solicited our comfort at the end of a long work-day. It was a mid-week meal and both of us had been working hard so he sensed his customers' state of mind.

I had decided to go whole-hog since I did not expect to get back soon and true Auvernois cuisine is not abundant in the States. So I had the freshly sliced ham (much dryer and tougher than the Italian and Spanish equivalents), a sausage -- I think it was an andouillet, but I can't be certain six years later -- and the famous aligot, mashed potatoes with cheese -- I think it is cantal, but again my memory may be failing. Nor can I remember what my friend ate. Washing this down was a fine bottle of chateugay, which, I must admit, remains my fondest gastronomic memory of the evening. I was too stuffed for desert.

It was not cheap, but not outrageous either. The food is heavy and distinctively country-French. In looking over the description in an old Pudlowski it strikes me that other dishes might have been more appealing, but ultimately this food is what it is. By the way Guide Michelin is not the only authority that praises it. The Pudlowski description is also encouraging.

We ate this meal in May. I suspect the food is more suited to a cold wet February, but I am not likley to try that soon.

Unfortunately this area, although close by the Pompidou center and not too far from Notre Dame, is not blessed with an abundance of good restaurants and is overwhelmed by horrid merguez-frites greasy spoons, and other places not too much better. Considering that it is at the edge of the Marais and les Halles, up until a few decades ago, arguably, the gastronomic center of the world, it is a pity that the food is not better. But the movement northward of the French metropolitan food center has ruined it.

However there are a few places worth visiting, if you are nearby. In a separate post, I hope to describe them. My first choice is the Dome de Marais (but I better check the name) on rue Franc Bourgeois, the continuation of Rambuteau. The second choice is Le Hangar.

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Au Bascou on Réaumur is a highly regarded Basque bistro in the area. It would be a more enjoyable and lighter meal, I think than Ambassador d"Auvergne. The aligot is a once in a lifetime experience, I'm told. I've yet to do it. :biggrin:

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Steve -- On your reference to "stodgy" clientele, what did you mean? Also, why would the appearance or other aspects of other diners at a given restaurant matter in a meaningful way to you? :blink: I don't particularly care who other diners are, so long as they don't have very heavy perfume on and are not speaking at inappropriately loud levels. I often find that I am among the best dressed (or most modernly dressed) women at a restaurant (at least in my own mind), and that doesn't bother me a bit.

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and the famous aligot, mashed potatoes with cheese -- I think it is cantal  

In l'aligot the cheese should actually be a fresh tomme from Laguiole. I just had this dish tonight made by one of my chefs at Cordon Bleu who's an Auvergne native, using his grandmother's recipe. It was the finale to a cheese lecture and he served it with the pork sausages - which he started searing on the stovetop and finished colouring well in the oven - and a simple reduction sauce made by deglazing the defatted sausage pan with white wine. It was as expected absolutely delicious but also not surprisingly quite filling - as was the original intent, to feed very poor hungry people well. I had a very small serving and that easily sufficed for dinner. I now have about a half a kilo of leftover aligot in the fridge. :biggrin:

I asked the chef where one could try an authentic aligot in Paris and he confirmed Ambassade d'Auvergne. When he's not so busy tomorrow, I can ask him for a restaurant in the Auvergne.

I might also generally recommend L'Auvergne Gourmande - the little sister restaurant to La Fontaine de Mars. I have not eaten there yet but walk by there just about every day and the food looks very good. They have one daily plat du jour, one long communal table and another smaller round table by the bar. Small space but quite stylish, very reasonable prices, exceptionally nice staff.

Here's the recipe for l'aligot

L'ALIGOT

serves 4

1 kg large potatoes

500 ml milk

400 g fresh tomme cheese from Laguiole

500 ml creme fraiche

1 garlic clove

salt, pepper

Peel the potatoes and quarter. Start in cold salted water and boil until knife tender. Slice up cheese. Drain potatoes and dry in oven. Boil milk with garlic then hold warm. Mill potatoes and garlic while hot into large bowl. Add creme fraiche and mix well with wooden spoon. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add hot milk gradually and continue mixing. Taste again and season. Add cheese gradually and continue mixing until smooth. Taste and season. Hold warm over a bain marie.

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I don't know which cheese in America might closely match tomme de laguiole. As I recall it's a semi hard pressed white cheese. I guess the quintessential Auvergnat restaurant would have to be Michel Bras. :laugh:

He did serve his version of aligot in a small silver sauce pan alongside his wonderful beef. I'm not sure if was much different, with the exception of the silver server, than the version I had in a rather inexpensive brasserie in Rodez the day before. There's not much one can do to improve on a classic.

The wine bar Nemrod on the rue du Cherche Midi, possibly at the intersection of rue St. Placide is run by Auvergnats. Perhaps that's why their aligot is excellent and their fried potatoes are not. It's one of those unexceptional looking places with unexceptional food (save the sausages, andouillette and l'aligot) that make Paris a real place. Some time in the nineties it was named the wine bar of the year. One can't be renominated for the honor and thus, once a wine bar of the year, always a wine bar of the year. It's far less trendy than Willi's Wine Bar and all the places in that neighborhood and a lot less chic with it's pseudo decor now starting to have it's own patina and looking less offensive. It does offer some nice beaujolais by the carafe and sandwiches on pain Poilaine. From time to time, we meet friends who live in the neighborhood there for lunch and regrettably, if we have a good dinner planned, I skip the sausages knowing I won't have an appetite for dinner.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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