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trip to France


Patrice X
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This is so subjective. Without much more knowledge of your tastes than indicated by the three you've already selected, I suspect you're just asking for our favorites. The three stars all over France are obvious mentions, although I would make special notice of Veyrat. It may be too far out of the way. Then again, it's not that far from Lyon and Lyon may well be on your route from Paris to Bras. Veyrat is just incredible and to my great surprise, there was nothing about his restaurant or food that smacked of the pretense I expected from what I had read in the press. Veyrat has a wonderful inn, but it's also just minutes from Annecy.

In Paris, I would absolutely recommend L'Astrance. It seems to be the hottest ticket around at the moment. I've just finished a short report of our July visit to Paris at the WorldTable site. My mention of L'Astrance includes:

Patricia Wells wrote "a star is born" in her International Herald Tribune review of L'Astrance. Then Bénédict Beaugé cited the restaurant as "the most important gastronomic event of the last few months in Paris" in The Art of Eating, Spring 2001.

Although not in Bras' league, I'd love to mention the Fagegaltier sisters' Vieux Pont in Belcastel, southwest of Lagioule. The food and the rooms are simple, but all in good taste and the accomodations are tastefully modern and airy. I mentioned them earlier in another thread and I hope you're reading the old threads, so we don't repeat the same suggestions in each thread.

(Edited by Bux at 12:07 am on Sep. 10, 2001)

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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Dear Pat,

Since 1990 there has been a paradigm shift in gastronomic travel in France. First, hardly anyone from the USA does it anymore, as people have been brainwashed by a self-serving American gastronomic press that brainwashes people that it is no longer necessary. Second, beginning with the catastrophic, untimely loss of Alain Chapel, the more-like-two-star cooking of Georges Blanc, and  the slippage in Joigny and Vezelay, the north to south  Paris to Lyon trip (no one ever thought trying it from Lyon to Paris) takes second place to going east to west. Therefore, my first piece of advice to you is, “ Don’t fly to France, fly to Switzerland.” Get a car on the French side of the Geneva airport, drive to Tailloires and stay at L’Auberge du Pere Bise for two nights to get over jet lag in the most beautifully situated hotel in France. But try not to eat there (or take small meals), as the food is not interesting anymore. Instead, eat at least once at Marc Veyrat. Then head for Lyon, stay at the Villa Florentine, eat in a genuine old restaurant or two (Leon de Lyon and La Mere Brazier come to mind) and visit the market on the cours Lafayette.. Next stop could be to the citadel of post-war 20th-century provincial French cooking, Restaurant de la Pyramide where the new chef there is getting very good press (though I haven’t been back since Madame Point died). With your ultimate goal being Laguiole for Michel Bras (at least two meals), visit an old favorite on the way, Auberge des Cimes in St.-Bonnet-Le-Froid. It now gets a 19/20 in Gault-Maillau and is probably just a notch below Marc Veyrat and Michel Bras. Being a denizen of the Cote d’Azur some of the year, I haven’t been to Paris in a couple of years. What stands out from the last time was the bad meal I had at the hands of the highly-touted Frederic Anton at the Pre Catalan. Anyone to report otherwise?

Robert

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As a Londoner, we are fortunate in being able to visit France for about four weeks over the year, mainly the Languedoc.

You already have excellent advise on the chefs highly rated by the guides, in particular you should go to Michel Bras, but note that they close at the "end" of October for the winter. I would also endorse L'Astrance in Paris and we want to return to the Auberge de Cimes in St. Bonnet-le-froid sometime. La Pyramide at Vienne is also outstanding.

Robert also recommended Vieux Pont in Belcastel. The gap between the cooking here Michel Bras has narrowed over the past 5 years. Robert (bux) describes the cooking as simple which should be interpreted as a great complement. We love the place because it is family run (not Relais and Chateau run) and as a bonus the setting in a picture postcard village is worth a visit in its own right. Of equivalent style with a stunning wine list do also take in Le Mimosa (also has a hotel) in St. Guiraud 40 Km north west of Montpellier.

What else? If you make it down as far as Montpellier (where the weather will be warmer and more reliable that the Massif Central) you will not only see a city the English coin as the Oxford of the south but you can dine and stay at the Jardin des Sens.

What you should also do on your trip, irrespective of your budget, is balance out your dining experience with more everyday French restaurants that serve lovingly produced simple regional dishes. In many ways giving recommendations for these is harder. If in Lyon certainly dine at Le Lyon de Lyon, but also take in a couple of bouchons as well.

I do hope that despite this weeks horrific events you are able to go. Let us know your plans and I may be able to help fill in the gaps.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I want to follow up on Robert's comment about Pre Catalan. We went there recently after a rave review by Patricia Wells.

We wanted it to be good because the setting was wonderful and the day was perfect.

Unfortunately the service was indolent and the food was totally unworthy of any stars under any system of ratings. It was just extremely disappointing.

We put it down to an 'off' day - but maybe they have a few??

Roger McShane

Foodtourist.com

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Roger, you have my sympathies. A close friend of Robuchon recommended it to me. Maybe that's why, since the chef at the Pre Catalan was Robuchon's "second".It's such a drag to be led down the primrose path and spend all that money. Did you have that weird dish with the bones and the marrow? Where else did you go in France?

Best wishes,

Robert

(Edited by robert brown at 12:09 pm on Oct. 2, 2001)

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Yes my trip is still a go.  I just buy my airplane tickets.

We will be in France oct. 17 - nov  16. We start our trip in Baune and Dijon: we made reservation at L'Auberge de la Charme.  Then we go to Macon. After we decided to go to Annecy: we already made reservations at Marc Veyrat. After we will go to ST-Etienne: we heard that a restaurant call Nouvelle is very good.  Then, we will go to St Bonnet-le-froid:  Régis Macon's Auberge des Cimes. After St Bonnet, it's Laguiole:  we already made reservation to Michel Bras. After we are going to Touluose, Pau, Biarritz, Bordeaux, Angoulême, Tours and Orléans.  We will be in Paris for 5 days and we made reservations for: Ducasse, Passard Gagnaire and L'Astrance.

Please excuse my english...

Patrice Demers

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I must say you've got an enviable list of reservations. It would appear that budget is not a problem, but I thought I'd throw in that in Annecy, we stayed at L'Imperial Palace, rather than Veyrat's guest house. A propos the discussion in another thread, Veyrat's Auberge de l'Eridan must reign supreme for comfort for all  the inns that are shown as restaurants with rooms.

Elsewhere on this board, I've noted my appreciation of Amat's St. James in Bouliac just across the river from Bordeaux. The hotel is  ultra-modern and designed by Jean Nouvel architect of the Lyon Opera house renovation, the Cartier Foundatin in Paris among other buidlings. In many ways his designs are not always practical, nor have the contractors been up to delivering as they should, but his work is an experience. The food is better than one star would indicate, as is the service on our two visits.

I've not been to a few of your choices, but they're all on my wish list for the future. Hopefully for the not too distant future. I look forward to your comments when you return. Bon Appetit.

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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I'm with Bux. I'm also, to say the least, jealous (as I'm sure Bux is, too). I can't add much more except that Talloires is so beautiful not to spend a day in.  Le Cottage is an economical alternative to Pere Bise and right next door. Not "grand luxe", but comfy. To talk a stroll around the bay or hire a rowboat and tool around the lake is delightful (if it's not too cold or too late in the year). Let me know about Auberge des Cimes. It has been a favorite that I haven't been to since 5-6 years ago. Once Regis Marcon schlepped two pots of confiture to NY for me; that's the kind of fellow and establishment you'll be visiting. Take good notes!! Bon Voyage.

Robert

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I am jealous of Patrice, but not too jealous. I will be in Paris next week. After Paris we will head off for a short drive in the other direction. That is to say north through Picardie and Lille, before spending a few days with friends in Belgium. Our three star ambitions are a bit lower with one in Paris and one in Brussels. Nevertheless, we intend to eat well at one and two star restaurants as well as those without stars. I look forward to comparing notes on Ducasse and Petrossian.

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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Robert, now I'm jealous of you. I'm planning to go abroad after Thanksgiving, but with the craziness of the world now, nothing like this is guaranteed. It would be nice to go to Steve's demonstration, let alone the whole show. I look forward to your report. In Brussels is Pierre Wynants still around? What about Souvereyns? Have you ever tried him? Have a great trip.

Robert

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There is one degustation listed on the Salon du Chocolat that I find particularly appealing and a propos. That's the beer and chocolate tasting with the Belgian chocolatier Marcolini. The Klc, Conticini and Adria demo is the highlight however.

This is our first trip to Brussels since 1964 and my first ever on a budget that would permit sitting down for dinner. I know very little about Belgium. We will meet friends in Atwerp for a drive to Oostkerke where we will dine in an inexpensive country restaurant that specializes in eel and game. We will meet again in Brussels at a one star restaurant they regard very highly. My wife and I will also dine at the three star Comme Chez Soi on the last night of our trip. With luck, I will still have a clean shirt. My guess is that most of my planned meals in Belgium will be very French. Perhaps the first will not. Belgian beer is excellent and I don't know it very well. I would love to have some good beer with Belgian food and not pretend I'm still in France. Ed Behr had a good article on Belgian beers in a recent The Art of Eating, and it was a catalyst in my decision to make this visit now.

I have a 2000 Michelin guide to the Benelux countries. I see neither of your mentions. Are they restaurants or chefs?

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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Bux, Wynants, last I knew, is Comme Chez Soi (the restaurant name escaped me last night). I wonder if he is still around or alive. ( I never read that he died). I met him once when he was visiting the same restaurant as I was, and he didn't seem old at the time, but this must have been late '70s as he was going to see Jean Troisgros the next day. My guess is he should be mid-late 60s. Roger Souvereyns I believe is a three-star guy in the Waloon district. He's a Chapel accolyte. I read an article about him in the Wine Speculator, but I'm so backed up with unread issues, it could have been a few years ago that the article appeared. I forget the restaurant's name. Isn't there a big deal place in Antwerp as well?

Bulletin: I just found the Europe supplement that came with the Gault-Millaud France guide. Wynants is still there. He gets a 19 in it.

(Edited by robert brown at 11:58 am on Oct. 28, 2001)

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We're leaving on Turesday. Hasselt is well out of Antwerp and Brussels. (Scholteshof was a one star in last year's Michelin, by the way.) We're giving up the car in Lille and continuing on through Belgium by train. We have one unreserved dinner in Antwerp and I'd be happy to drink some beer in a casual spot and not eat French haute cuisine for a couple of days.

Wynant's name rang a small bell, but I have to admit I've not payed any attention to Belgian restaurants or chefs. I see it in the Michelin next to Comme Chez Soi. My 2001 GaultMillau didn't come with a supplement. I recall older versions that came with a list of restaurants outside of France, but usually just across the border. Brussels has two 3 star restaurants. Comme Chez Soi is the one closer to the center of town. Good to know GM rates it 19.

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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It turns out the supplement I have here  came with the 2000 G-M Guide. I left the 2001 in France and it may not have had the supplement at all. But the supplement isn't very useful as it covers only the major cities: 23 in 15 countries (including Prague). Did you get the 2000 guide here or in France? I thought Souveyrens was higher-rated than that. Anyway, I'm curious to know what your visit to Comme Chez Soi is like.

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Souveyrens is aparently highly regarded if not rated. When I mentioned Belgium to a certain French cook here in NY, Scholteshof was the first restaurant he named. I am now on the lookout, or will be when I get there, for a certain cookbook of his no longer in print. I look at the map in the Benelux the Michelin Guide shows Belgium fairly dense with stars. regretably this little trip is but a side trip. Clearly Belgium deserves a longer gastronomic tour. Fortuantely for my wallet, I can only manage to eat so much in a day and not nearly so much as when I was younger.

My 2001 GM was purchased in France last December. I'm not sure I have a copy of the 2000. I see a 1998 copy on a shelf. I'm also curious about my Comme Chez Soi meal. I'm leary of great meals at the end of my trips and worry about pacing myself along the way, but I'm learning about moderation.  ;)

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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I everybody, I'm now in Biarritz.  I don't have a lot of time but I can tell you that I already dined at Veyrat, Trama and Bras.  All of them were fantastic but I personnaly prefered Bras.  In 4 days i will dine at Martin Berasategui in San Sebastien.  

Patrice Demers

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Robert - Crise de foie is the problem and it's a real problem if I don't pace myself.

Patrice - Nice of you to drop us a line. We hope to get some details in a few more weeks. Bras is the one we haven't been to, yet. but I suspect it to be a meal that's second to none when we get there. Trama was one of our weirder lunches. It was not his or his kitchen's fault really. We found no fault with the food. Puymirol was not really on our itinerary, but we found ourselves not so far away and ahead of schedule one morning in the dead of winter--a very slow season in the region. On a whim we phoned and asked if they had a table for two for lunch. They hesitated so long that we were sure they were trying hard to squeeze us in. As it turned out, we were the only diners having lunch that afternoon.

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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I wasn't blown away by Trama either, but that was a long time ago. Bux, I would imagine you have a real treat in store when you get to Bras. As of five years ago, anyway, I felt him to be the most interesting and maybe even the best chef in France. I think you really have to eat there two times if you can. I keep telling myself I must go back as it has been probably five years since I was last there. I bet it's even better. I'm sorry Pat didn't make to Auberge des Cimes, but I fully appreciate that when one makes an ambitious itinerary, a place or two falls by the wayside. It's fortunate that it and Michel Bras are just a few hours apart by car.

I never understood fully what a "crise de foie" is. Is it something like the pain one that is associated with gallstones? I used to get that and it could have come from lots of rich food.

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I've had gallstones. It's not like that. I've never quite understood what it was, but when I returned home from a trip to France and had pretty much already recovered, I nevertheless enquired about my symptoms. My doctor's simple reply was "crise de foie." For me it went beyond a queasy stomach and general malaise to an inability to swallow any food. My body simply said "you're not putting any more food in here." I left my wife at dinner in a one star inn in the country and went to bed. A few days later in Paris, I thought I had recovered and did not cancel a special reservation. My mistake. After the amuse bouche and cream soup, I could not make a dent in my rich first course. I made my apologies to the chef and cancelled the rest of my dinner. I spent a small fortune to watch my wife eat. She was pitiless, reminding me of the number of days in a row I had eaten foie gras and duck fat while in Gascony and Les Landes. Her only concession to my spirit was not to complain about the shade of green my pallor was casting on her plate, until later than evening.

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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