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jaybee
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For Ajay and Robert here are my notes on Troisgros. I have to hunt for my notes on Veyerat.

I had expected that the hotel room at Troisgros would be very dismal after looking at the pictures in Relais and noting the pink edifice across from the train station. Nothing could be further from the truth. Their suites are magnificient  - large, beautiful bathroom, bedroom- a contemporary large room - all chrome and glass. The new kitchen is unbelievable - at 1:30 am we watched the kitchen staff polish every inch of the kitchen - every copper pot, every piece of chrome glistened. The dining room is subdued and formal but not stiff - service is gracious. As we were having only 1 meal we didn't want to do the menu and miss having some of Troisgros' famous dishes. (We are going back this year for 2 meals so won't have that feeling of trying to have it all in one meal.) We asked our waiter if we could devise our own tasting menu - he said "une pour deux" - unusual for France but perfect for us.

After a number of amuse - don't have my notes on these, we had tete de veau - a pressed pork head with tomato in olive oil basil vinagrette. Next the frog legs beignet was perfect - almost like a tempura batter with a remoulade of celery- blanched shredded celery served with tangy mayonnaise and vegetables cut in 1/16" cubes in an olive oil mixture.Then a tomato fritter with snails.. Next their famous salmon in sorrel sauce - rare 1/2" thick salmon with enough sorrel in the sauce for sorrel with each bite. Then crunchy grilled sweetbreads, natural sauce, tomato petals and potatoes. After cheese we adjourned to the garden for desserts, pastries, coffee, Armagnac and for my husband a Montecristo #2. It was a perfect evening - great food, super service and perfect ambience.

I did find my notes on Jardin des Sens and completely agree with Cabrales that I am not a fan of their food.The dining room is terraced looking out at an Asian inspired garden with an eight foot "sluce" type waterfall coming down about 50 feet - very dramatic. We were given a lovely table and then proceeded to have an awful meal. The food is so overwrought - too many ingredients - it was out of control cooking. The service was equally bad - cold, uncaring with no spirit. This is the first 3 star restaurant I have ever been to where you feel as if you are being hurried so they can "turn the table." Just an example of the food - grilled rouget, cannelloni of asapragus, gratin of shrimp,panfried asparagus tips with sauterne reduction - all on the same plate. Another example - pressed lobster terrine with vegetables, smoked cured duck, mango, olive oil with vanilla - again on the same plate. We had reservations for dinner the next night and my husband begged for a bistro. I insisted we give it another chance. Food was somewhat better - squid with tomatoes, shrimp with the local ham - but service was indifferent and surly. We did have wonderful wines that night - '95 Raveneau Chablis Butteaux and '96 Guigal La Turque.

If you are in the region there is a wonderful bistro type restaurant - Le Mimosa. David Pugh is the husband and sommelier and his wife Bridgett the chef. He is English and she is from New Zealand. She was a professional dancer, but settled in Saint Guiraud when they fell in love with the place. One dish that was particularly memorable was squid with oriental spices with mint very reminincent of the Slanted Door in SFO.  It seems that Bridgett had been at the Slanted Door the year before and she was taken with their food and this was her interpretation.

Again, thank to e-gullet for their input.

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I did find my notes on Jardin des Sens and completely agree with Cabrales that I am not a fan of their food. . . .The food is so overwrought - too many ingredients - it was out of control cooking. The service was equally bad - cold, uncaring with no spirit.

lizziee -- Finally, somebody who agrees with me on the Pourcels and who is as happy with Troisgros as I am! Now, if I could only turn Steve P around on how the same problem of too many ingredients and unnecessary complexity applies to Gagnaire.   ;)  On Veyrat, I am becoming increasingly disenchanted with his cuisine. A post on his recent meanderings into testtubes and syringes as props at Ferme de Mon Pere should be in the A Balic thread, once its pre-crash status is restored. The presentation of the dishes was weird, and that negative aspect was not offset by equilibrium in tastes. Also, I posted notes on the menus taken in "Planning a Trip to France -- Gagnaire and Troisgros" under "France".

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Interesting comments on Le Jardin de Sens. We had many fine meals from 1993 to 1995. Each was different and seeking to be inventive, sometimes a bit Jeckle and Hyde -- a symptom of having two chefs? Since then we have returned once, in 1998 (soon after 3*'s were awarded) where we had a fine meal. I noted that the food had simplifed a little with each dish based, by and large, around three main ingredients. It seems that creativity and consistency in dining experience are at odds here.

Also interesting that you classify Le Mimosa as a bistro! However, thinking about it that's an appropriate description for somewhere that serves ingredient led food that is given the minimum of cooking transformation - somewhere where one can eat every day. What's more it's a small family operation and a requirement of the staff is a warm personality.

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Since then we have returned once, in 1998 (soon after 3*'s were awarded) where we had a fine meal. I noted that the food had simplifed a little with each dish based, by and large, around three main ingredients. It seems that creativity and consistency in dining experience are at odds here.

grahamtigg -- It could be that creativity and consistency are in tension, but I tend to think it's more likely a matter of "fit" between a diner and a restaurant. Thus, I probably would not say that Jardin des Sens is a bad restaurant, period. I would say that it is a poor restaurant for me and, in my assessment, does not deserve the accolades it has received. My two meals during a single visit there were during 2001. I was suffering from a severe cold, and my sense of smell was rather impaired, during that visit. Even under those conditions, I readily ascertained that the restaurant is not for me.   ;)  Perhaps the restaurant could be subjectively wonderful to certain members. I did like the rooms, though.

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Graham,

It is thanks to you that we "discovered" not only Le Mimosa, but also Can Peio. What great recommendations!!!! You are right that Le Mimosa is not per se a bistro. I used that term to define Le Mimosa as a family affair with Bridgett in the kitchen and her husband David, front of the house and  sommelier. The feeling of the restaurant was so friendly that after a short period of time, we felt as if this had been our neighborhood resteraunt for years. The food was excellent, using the freshest local ingredients with Bridgett's own special flair.

As for Can Peio in Junas. I still can't believe we found it. It is well worth the detour. Yes, it is an old train station - the ticket window is the pass through for the food. This was our first experience with Catalonian food and we loved it - especially the deep fried baby rouget. We ate and ate, platters after platters of food with the local wine Abadia and had a wonderful time at low low cost. Thank you again for a real find. I'm so glad that I had a chance to thank you personally.

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Cabrales,

Thank you for your help in editing- I am somewhat mechanically challenged.

Let me say Cabrales, that I enjoy reading your posts - you are truly knowledgeable from the view of both the back and front of the house. I find your opinions serious, well-thought-out, considerate and mindful of those in the business. Also, it is nice to read that someone agrees with me about Jardin des Sens. Another time we'll debate Gagnaire.

We normally take a month trip to France every year. This year, for the first time, we are going in Sept. (Our dog/house sitter is getting married in May.) The itinerary is set and most reservations made, except for a couple of empty spaces. Like you, I like to make the "must eat" reservations well in advance.

I hope Cabrales as well as other e-gullet members would give me their input on sort-of-made decisions. I am "stuck" (because I love them) staying with our favorite restaurants, so I have not mentioned them here.

In Paris we are trying Bath's for the first time. I am definitely going to L'Astrance, for the first time, thanks to e-gullet.

In Lyon, I have reservations at La Tour Rose (I've eaten there many times, why is he down to no stars?) Again, for the first time I am trying Christian Tetedoie and l'Auberge de I'll.

I have not gone through the entire dining itinerary as it would be a bit much, but I thank you for an informative and lively site.

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I hope Cabrales as well as other e-gullet members would give me their input on sort-of-made decisions. I am "stuck" (because I love them) staying with our favorite restaurants, so I have not mentioned them here.

In Paris we are trying Bath's for the first time. I am definitely going to L'Astrance, for the first time, thanks to e-gullet.

In Lyon, I have reservations at La Tour Rose . . . . I am trying Christian Tetedoie and l'Auberge de I'll.

lizziee -- Thanks for your kind words. Unfortunately, I have never visited Bath's, Auberge de I'll, La Tour Rose, or Christian Tetedoie, and can not provide input on them. :wink:  Auberge de I'Ill had been the subject of a planned trip to Strasbourg just this past Easter, but I cancelled at the last minute due to excessive restauranting in Paris for several preceding days. Just like I have not yet visited Westerman, Bras or Roellinger (all the subject of recent unexecuted plans).

Are you contemplating including Troisgros in your trip, or perhaps L'Arnsbourg (which, as you know, is readily accessible from Strasbourg)?

I am loyal to my favorite restaurants too, although my preferred restaurant is not open on weekends and I might venture out a bit.  :raz:

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jaybee: Do you have a favorite trip?  Where did you go? Why does it stand out over all the others?
Fat Guy: You can never recreate that sense of initial discovery and wonderment,

Actually the two best trips are the first and the one we haven't yet taken. The next one always has the potential to not only profit from the mistakes of the last, but to achieve a perfection.

jaybee: But the wonderful aspect of France is that with all the trips and the years, my sense of discovery is still sparked by being in a region or town I've never seen.  The Sologne was so different from other regions, and so enjoyable, and this trip was just two years ago.  I suppose the same would be true for Italy and possibly Spain, but somehow no other country has captured us as has France.  I've yet to go to Britanny and Normandy!

I'm of two minds of this as well and could play devil's advocate on either side. It's true that the various regions of France offer different experiences and different tastes that can be discerned over short distances. It's also a fact that even for those who seemed to have traveled in every corner of France, each season is another experience and there is never a completely off season. Another fact however, is that France has become increasingly less agricultural and more homogenized. For those reasons, we have been finding Spain a rewarding place in which to travel, explore and find discoveries.

Your impending trip to Brittany is a good example--I say this to urge you to go although my comments may put you off. We toured Brittany extensively in the sixties and loved it, but never managed to return until the nineties when our daughter married a Breton. We loved it anew and have been back several times in the past five years, but the long absence enabled us to rue the differences. The lovely little towns with stone houses were ringed with banal residential subdivisions. Every widow who wore the traditional local lace cap was now dead and buried along with her dress. What was street wear in the sixties is now seen only in the museums and at occasional festivals. There's no crepe like a real Breton buckwheat galette, especially one finished off with an oeuf mirroir on top, but the ubiquity of creperies all over France diminishes the regional impact and that at least half of the creperies are now creperie-pizzerias contribute far less to the experience of immersion in Brittany.

robert brown: Bux has just left for the airport to do an abbreviated version:Lyon-Laguiole-St. Bonnet-Lyon with a few other stops in the Auvergne. Bon Voyage, Mr. and Mrs. Bux. Oh yes, the route can be done economically

And I will start reporting back shortly as I get organized and catch up here. As you can see by the length of this post, the inability to participate here was the frustration of our trip. Yes, the expensive places were not prohibitive for the most part and there were some real bargains in terms of meals and accommodations along the way. It was rather pre-spring in the mountains especially, but the fruit trees were in bloom and the tourists were still absent.

ajay: I believe that Paris is still a culinary mecca and I find it difficult to believe a traveling gastronome's trip (or understanding of French haute cuisine) can truly be completed without experiencing Paris at all.  It seems to me your itinerary or that of Mr. Mrs. Bux is one that is best tried after one is thoroughly familiar with haute cuisine and the French three star experience.

Paris is a, if not the, culinary Mecca, but the French three star dining experience can be had outside Paris. At any rate Paris is my Mecca and I can't imagine my life without a Paris somewhere in my history, but there is more great food scattered around France than there is concentrated in Paris. To have eaten well in Paris, but not to have eaten at all in the provinces is not to understand French food. I could easily say that Paris is best understood by one who has traveled in the provinces and familiar with dining there at all levels. Sadly this may be changing as France loses it's agricultural heritage, but the heart of France is not Paris, perhaps because the heart of most Parisians is somewhere in the provinces.

lizziee: I hope you don't mind me butting into the conversation

Lizziee, welcome aboard and I'd like to hear more about your side trips to Spain.  Whether my experiences match yours or not, I look forward to reading more and discussing restaurants with you. I hope we'll discuss Regis Marcon when I get to post my trip. I loved the food, but have a far different view than yours in regard to certain aspects. Robert Brown sent an e-mail to me in care of one of our hotels. He mentioned that we had a new and serious eater on the board. I think jaybee expressed a view shared by many in regard to your post.

jaybee: I neglected to say that Paris has been the jumping off point for every trip we've taken. I took that for a given, but it should have been said.  A typical itinerary includes two or three nights (meals) in Paris at the start and often one or two before flying home.

We, on the other hand, have no problem skipping Paris and heading straight for the provinces. Our last trip beginning and ending in Lyon is a good example. Our last two trips to France started with a short week in Paris, but I strongly suspect our next trip might skip it again. It will depend on how late in spring or summer we go and how we will stay.

cabrales: lizziee -- Finally, somebody who agrees with me on the Pourcels

While I have never eaten poorly there, I have had one report of service so bad that the diner could not even focus on the food. This is from a very reliable source--one whose opinion I would advise taking over my own. My two star experiences there were so good, that I am almost afraid to go back.

lizziee: Graham, It is thanks to you that we "discovered" not only Le Mimosa, but also Can Peio. What great recommendations!!!!

...

I'm so glad that I had a chance to thank you personally.

I trust everyone has taken the opportunity to visit Graham Tigg's site. That this eGullet.com French board can give life to other site besides my own and allow us to share our knowledge and love of France is something I find most rewarding.

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.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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