Jake Dear's Profile

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May/June trip report: Paris, Burgundy, Jura, Savoie, Lyon

Hi JB, I've read that same Art of Eating article, and am starting to plan a trip there, hopefully with better weather than you had. But for now, here's belated thanks for this very well done report. -- Jake

1 day ago
Jake Dear in France

Dining in and near the French alps, September 2014: Flocons de Sel, La Table du Trappeur, La P’tite Ravine, Pere Bise, Annecy Friday morning market, and more

Salut Parn,

Just curious, was the restaurant, when it was located in the village, in the same nice backstreet location were the current and much less expensive sister resto, Flocons Village, is now?

Re the big resto and expense, I'll now admit that our very generous traveling companions insisted on treating us at that dinner, and I recommend that same result to anyone else going there!

Re La P'tite Ravine -- it was the only place open on the mountainside that day and during this time of year -- one of the costs of visiting in "low season," I suppose. But when you are hiking around and suddenly spy, off in the distance, a place like this, beckoning with its colored terrace umbrellas, you really don't need or even want more choices -- it just seems so right, and becomes its own kind of destination. These respites at small family run mountain restos are one of the things we love about hiking in the French, Swiss, and Italian alps -- and it's something we never really see in the US. -- Jake

Nov 21, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Valenti & Co. Ristorante Vinobar in San Anselmo

Thanks Melanie, this is indeed a much better format. (Frankly, I see little use for, and have only frustration with, the Q&A format.) And I will be interested to read others' discussions of our new neighborhood place. To us, it's the best new thing in San Anselmo since M&H (which could also be called "Tartine in Marin" for its great Levain). -- Jake

Dining in and near the French alps, September 2014: Flocons de Sel, La Table du Trappeur, La P’tite Ravine, Pere Bise, Annecy Friday morning market, and more

Mangeur, we take our cue from you! Re La P’tite Ravine, by the way, no micro greens here -- I'll attach a pic of my lunch on the terrace.

Nov 17, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Dining in and near the French alps, September 2014: Flocons de Sel, La Table du Trappeur, La P’tite Ravine, Pere Bise, Annecy Friday morning market, and more

Salut allende, Re turnip Campari, I just looked back, and happen to have a picture. That will have to do, because after all these weeks we can't really remember how Campari fit into it. Maybe they were soaked in the libation? But here's a picture of the pretty dish.

Nov 16, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Dining in and near the French alps, September 2014: Flocons de Sel, La Table du Trappeur, La P’tite Ravine, Pere Bise, Annecy Friday morning market, and more

Here’s a somewhat late and yet long report: After a TGV picnic (cheese and hams, etc., selected at the Sunday Batignolles covered market) and picking up our car in Annecy, we drove for a special anniversary stay at Flocons de Sel, http://www.floconsdesel.com/uk/flocon..., which we finally found (madame, our GPS, was confused) on a shoulder of a mountain just south of Megeve.

By happenstance, and thanks indirectly to mangeur, we’d met the assistant sommelier, Olivier, on a visit to Puligny-Montrachet when staying there at his mother’s B&B a few months earlier. Chatting with him, he eventually mentioned that he worked at Flocons de Sel. How about that, we said, we have a reservation there, with another couple, in mid-September. Although it’s possible that this prior introduction greased our stay, looking back, I do think that the generosity that we experienced was really just part of the natural vibe of the place.

It’s a chalet compound, with about 5 modern but traditional-looking chalet buildings and only about 8 guest rooms, all apparently connected by underground passageways (with underground parking) to avoid what must be considerable snow during ski season. According to my wife there’s a lovely indoor pool, Jacuzzi, spa and sauna, all with a relaxing Zen feel. (I should have gone to at least take a look, but for two days in a row I just took a real bath in the huge tub while she went.) This “mountain elegant” establishment is more luxe than we normally go for. We had the cheapest room, and yet it was one of the nicest we’ve ever experienced; the price, we noticed, nearly doubles in the winter, yikes.

After Olivier brought us glasses of Champagne he showed both humor and great depth of knowledge in helping us settle on two local-as-possible Savoies: white, Dominique Belluard, Le Feu, Vin de Savoie, Cepage Gringet 2012; and red, Prieure Saint Christophe Vin de Savoie Mondeuse Tradition 2004. One of our waiters advised us that Chef Renaut was happy to make split orders, and so we focused on two entrees and one plat per couple, and out came some lovely amuses -- tartlets from the garden right outside our table window; toast with fish eggs and citrus cream; and my favorite, “smoked milk and nettle fritters.” The head waiter returned with “another proposition from the chef”: Would we prefer if he just considered our various dishes, played with then a bit, and made a tasting menu for the four of us? Dandy. So out came, among other things (and variations thereon) -- each in a distinctive and elegant plate or bowl that was apparently dedicated specifically for each item:

Chilled “Black Krim” and “Berner Rose” tomatoes with marigola and agastache herbs, served with a “frozen jus of the tomato skins”; spring garden salad with Melissa and oxalis; crayfish from Lac Leman, with fresh almonds and turnip Campari; “first girolles” with egg yolk and amaretto; and Fera, the “ ‘catch of the day by our fisherman Eric Jacquien’ ” (thanks to Robert Brown for recommending this Lac Leman dish to us). Our impression from all of this: Mountain sourcing and cooking at the highest level.

(We were in a light and fishy mood; but also on the carte were a few more fish dishes, and some very nice sounding meats -- an inviting rendition of veal sweetbreads; pigeon smoked with conifer; and suckling lamb.)

After a substantial trolley of regional and mountain cheeses, our main desserts (among 6 choices) were “Like a painting, mountain herbs and flowers” -- this was a light chocolate base with various gels and gems of said vegetation; and a chocolate tart smoked with cedar wood and a wood flavored ice cream. And of course there were many other tidbits and little tastes as well. And then herbal tea infusions; and then, on the house, excellent Chartreuse . . . .

Finally, Chef Renaut came out to the table, and after we said all the genuinely heartfelt things that one would hope to feel on such an occasion, he promised to “organize the menu” by which, we learned, he meant that he’d write out what we’d had. This was done with a certain style: The next morning, we found waiting for us at the front desk two personalized, hand-written and signed commemorations of the dinner, with a printed menu of our specific courses, tied with a piece of straw and presented in an embossed parchment booklet. And Olivier had soaked the two bottle labels and presented them in the package. (He told us how to easily remove then: Pour boiling hot water *inside* each bottle; wait, then they just slide off. After all these years, I never knew that.)

More examples of generosity: Breakfasts were set at 25 € pp; and for that you get much more than we wanted (in addition to the standard and lovely fruits, breads, jams, juices, etc., they brought or offered various cheeses, meats, hot quiches, etc., etc.) When we checked out, we noticed that, in response to our putting up our hands and asking to keep breakfast light, each of us had been charged only half of the normal fare, each day. Very classy, and quite a contrast from what happened at a later vaunted venue (see below). Along with our final bill came a pack of going away party favors -- house-made jams, and two bottled waters for the road

Other dining nearby

Although we’d long ago booked the considerably less expensive sister-restaurant, Flocons Village, in the nearby town of Megeve, for our second dinner, in the interim it had been taken over by a private party for that night. And so the Flocons de Sel folks offered to suggest other places for us, and drive us there. And so in the midst of a sudden downpour we ended up at La Table du Trappeur, http://www.chaletsaintgeorges.com/fr/.... It was pretty good, but nothing memorable or that calls us back.

For lunch while hiking just above Megeve, we stumbled on the little mountain restaurant (open in summer and winter, but closed in the fall and spring), La P’tite Ravine -- as it styles itself, a “Bar Restaurant d’altitute.” It’s not accessible by car, but has nice views of Mont Blanc. We were happy to notice the same proprietors from our visit there 10 years ago. We joined other hikers and local construction workers for omelets, sausages and cheese, and made a note to return there in at least another 10 years on a future hike.

Cross-border diversion: Dining on Lac Leman, Suisse

We wanted to show our traveling friends Chateau de Chillon, and it was lunchtime, so we did the easy thing and returned to a touristy place right across the street and still on the lake, Taverne de Chateau de Chillon. It’s stuck in the 1960s-70s, but the pike and perch from the lake were still good. (Beware, in Switzerland, we found more than once that our credit card charge was converted “for our convenience” into dollars -- we reversed this each time, and became vigilant. We’ve not seem that tried in France -- yet.) Then, heading back to France after spending 8 nights in Suisse, we returned to Lac Leman and found a place more Chow-worthy, also right on the lake, in Nyon, between Lausanne and Geneva: O’les Terrasses du Lac, http://www.olesterrassesdulac.ch, where we had a nice lunch, including Fera, bien sur, from the lake.

Pere Bise, lac Annecy, Talloires

Talloires and the surrounding area is beautiful, and Pere Bise, http://www.perebise.com/uk/index.php, sits at a privileged point right on the lake. The welcome was nice, and making it easier on the wallet, the high season rates had expired just the day before. We were led into the dining room by Madame Sophie Bise, and chatted with her in the bar room after dinner. The dining and service were good, but not all that memorable. (We ordered the middle menus, the “Baie d’Argent”; we probably should have gone ALC.) The overall experience seemed a bit stuffy and tired; looking back, we actually felt more comfortable at Flocons de Sel.

The next morning, before heading back to Annecy to drop the car and catch the TGV, we had breakfast on the lovely lakeside terrace, after we specified -– both the night before, and then on the spot -- that we did not want the full offerings. We asked, may we just order a la carte? Of course. And so we did, and had our usual rather tiny breakfast. On checking out, however, we were charged 64 € (32 pp) for this. Not a smooth way to end a stay. I decided to object and pointed out that we’d been told we could order ALC. They checked, and then cut that part of the bill in half. But we could not avoid contrasting this with our treatment at Flocons de Sel, where, on their own initiative they cut the 25 € pp breakfast charges in half, and we drove away from Pere Bise with not nearly the same kind of warm feeling.

We ended the excursion as it began, with a TGV picnic -- this time courtesy of the Annecy Friday morning market, just a 5 minute walk in light rain from the gare, along and over canals in the old town. There must have been at least 100 stalls, with at least 10+ each selling local mountain cheeses, and another 10+ selling local sausages, etc. Oh, and that woman offering big slices of her substantial fruit-based breads . . . she supplied our little breakfasts back in Paris for the following week.

-- Jake

Nov 15, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Jardiniere not just downhill but rock bottom [San Francisco]

I don't doubt that bad service can happen and ruin an evening. But we returned there a few months ago for the very reasonably priced Monday night special and had none of the OP 's described experience. In fact, we'd go back . -- Jake

Foodie stop between Paris and Barcelona

Restaurant recommendations in Arles:
We enjoyed lunch at L’Autruche, and would return for dinner. I described it in the first link mentioned by Parnassien a few posts above. -- Jake

Nov 09, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Long report: a Franco-African week in Paris

Thanks for this beautifully conceived and written report. It's earnest, discerning, and affectionate in just the right measure. You did very well, and we will note some of your African places for our next visit. -- Jake

Nov 06, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Can I get a recommendation for a restaurant for dinner in Marin?

You have some good additional recs here, especially Sir and Star -- it is indeed a special and whimsical place run by folks of the same ilk. It did not spring immediately to mind only because it's quite a long drive, even from many locations in Marin. But well worth it, and I think they have -- or will soon -- open the 5 or so rooms upstairs? In which case, you can amble contentedly above after dinner. -- Jake

Can I get a recommendation for a restaurant for dinner in Marin?

PS, you would need a reservation, ASAP, for Valenti.

Also, just next door in Ross, we like Marche aux Fleurs -- again a family-run restaurant, a husband-and-wife team. And as you might infer, French influence. The chicken breast, normally a boring sounding dish that I would stay away from, is fantastic here. And there's a nice wine list. If the weather is good, which it may be on Saturday, there is a nice patio. -- Jake

Can I get a recommendation for a restaurant for dinner in Marin?

I'll suggest two -- our favorite local places for dinner:

Italian, in San Anselmo: Valenti & Co. Chef Valenti is from Milan. It's a very professional family run restaurant in the original Comforts location. We've been 5 times since it opened a few months ago. The cooking is bright and lovely, and it's quickly developed a strong local following. I'm surprised to be (apparently?) the first to mention it here -- I found nothing in a site search just now.

And of course, for Mediterranean-California, there's Insalata's, also in San Anselmo -- very good and reliable for what, almost 15 years now. -- Jake

Pays Basque: something old, something new, something borrowed, something insanely delicious

Thank you, Parigi, this will noted for us in the future. And because, as you imply, the search feature cannot be trusted, I am copying it into an appropriate file. -- Jake

Nov 02, 2014
Jake Dear in France

France trip report

"We didn't order any wine because in my parents belief wine is rip off at inflated prices." Wow, you have more patience than I would. Certainly, there are places with greatly inflated wine prices. But for anyone else reading this and thinking remotely the same as your parents: I bet that almost every place you went has a decent to very good house wine. Including (and indeed, especially! ) Chez Denise, for example. -- Jake

Nov 01, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Something other than hotel restaurants around CDG?

"Auberge du Tourlourou" -- we enjoyed lunch there a few months ago: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/976126 -- Jake

Oct 29, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Budget dining in Paris?

Well, "raised" is at least somewhat true. Re the resto's demographics, we were early, the first of our party of five to arrive. I was interested to notice that everyone around us was speaking French. Who knows, some may have been tourists on holiday from the countryside. But it did underscore for me what I've often read on this site from Souphie, Ptipois, and others: French folks love couscous. And this is very good couscous. -- Jake

Oct 23, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Budget dining in Paris?

"Granted not French food" -- true, and yet when we were there for a nice lunch last month, with a couple others from this board, my wife and I were the only non-French folks in the place. -- Jake

Oct 23, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Our 1st time in Paris!! Want to do it right!!

I'm just now seeing these posts on Juveniles. We had a good (to me) -- or just OK (says my wife) lunch there in May. Very casual & nicely crowded. We were the second table to order, yet there was a problem in the semi-open and tiny kitchen, resulting in a neary 30-minute delay between courses -- for us and most others. Some drama was going on back there. Tim's daughter, obviously in charge of the room, apologized and then later took one dish off the bill. Classy moves, and it reset what might have otherwise left a slightly bad taste. A nice place if you are in the Palais Royal area, but not something to cross town for. -- Jake

Oct 15, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Provence for 8 Nights - Done my homework but could use some feedback please!

I second Parigi's Maison Gouin, having enjoyed it on her rec. And I would not schedule La Ferme de la Huppe and Bartavelle on the same day, for Parigi's reasons. We too like a nice sit down lunch as well as dinner, but especially prior to lovely Bartavelle, I'd aim for a lighter lunch at a simpler place. -- Jake

Oct 15, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Olivier Laflaive, Pugliny Montrachet tasting dinner

Kurtis,

"Priceless" indeed. We are are traveling vicariously with you.

I imagine it's beautiful there this time of year. -- Jake

Oct 13, 2014
Jake Dear in France
1

Around Vezelay?

Salut Kurtis, How nice to see this post. Ahhh, you got to see the ponts in the morning steamy mist. Dandy pics.

We can imagine you there, chatting with Philippe and his Dutch wife, Marianne (is she still rolling her own strong cigarettes?) sipping on the terrace as those 75 license plates drive by, and then ambling down through the hamlet's "main street" (as you know there are barely any side streets) to the two bridges. Indeed, all of this not far from CDG -- yet a world away.

When we were first there back in November 2007 with some other friends, Marianne suggested we go up to the war memorial, just beyond the big and newer pont, where the whole village (at least 25 folks, plus us) turned out for the traditional Armistice Day ceremony.

Marianne had told the mayor that she had some Americans staying with her and so he apparently revised his speech (all in French of course) to acknowledge the six of us and the 60,000 Americans who had died nearby in the great war. It was a gracious and moving gesture, and even now it reminds us of the many reasons for our love of traveling in France beyond Paris. (See photo, including the mayor, wearing a dashing sash.)


PS, when we returned again with other friends for a fine lunch there in the fall of 2011, I was so glad to see my favorite deux chevaux was still parked right across the street from the hotel. Did it remain for you we hope? (See second picture; and I'll add a third of the hotel in November -- fireplace weather.) – Jake

Oct 12, 2014
Jake Dear in France
1

Paris from mid-September to mid-October!

Salut Carole, your report reminds me of the lovely and similarly convivial dinner we had there, also with one of your dining companions (hint, it was not R) last spring. From your description, I infer that pork belly was not on the menu? That was a standout dish for us, but everything else was top notch as well. We really liked this place.

By my count, you have four dinners, and a few lunches, to go. Like others, I'll be sorry to end this vicarious tour. -- Jake

Oct 12, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Paris, Brittany and Normandy Report (Long)

Salut designetedeater, Thanks for the report (I'll consult it in the future, especially your mention of La Calypso) and also for the update on Petit Hôtel du Grand Large. You were there for dinner? We were at lunch only, and did find it quite simple for a *, but on the other hand enjoyed its casualness. And the restaurant staff, which I assume are also the hotel staff, were indeed delightful. Sounds like a lovely trip, except for the bouchons and crowds in Cancale. -- Jake

Oct 12, 2014
Jake Dear in France

our list/your opinion-- we've done our homework (i think!)

"Or a lamb kebab, sitting side-saddled at Urfa Dürum." We enjoyed that a few weeks ago. Actually, one lamb and one chicken. And two watery but refreshing 1664s in cans -- it was a warm day. Darn, I should have tried one of those home-made white-colored drinks from the big container on the counter. What was that again?

We scrunched down at the small and very low table, sitting in correspondingly miniature sidesaddle stool/seats, with a view, if we craned our necks and looked backwards or up, of the women doing prep in the back room and the fellows grilling over wood in the front. We had to restrain ourselves not to return the next day. (So many other places to sample.)

We thank Ptipois for this rec, but are not at all surprised to now recall, Parigi, that it's a favorite of yours as well. I think we are quite in synch.

We arrived a bit after noon, and by the time we left the line outside looked like this (I think I recall that it's a ticket restaurant, and so there's lots of local lunchtime traffic):
-- Jake

Oct 12, 2014
Jake Dear in France
2

Paris from mid-September to mid-October!

Salut Carole, so glad to hear Les Climats was good for you. That back room under the glass ceiling is wonderful at night as well, as we learned a few weeks ago when we diverted back there after we received a call late in the pm saying that Roseval had to be closed that night due to an accident. Les Climats at night, with its pure Bourgogne focus, was just as good as the prior lunch we'd had there. By the way, I hope you make it out to Bones, that will be a completely different vibe (and likely noisy). The cooking was bright, the wines we ordered were great, and the house-made bread is fantastic. -- Jake

Oct 10, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Paris and Avignon Restaurant Report

The "Infiniment Vanille" is what we had. Lovely; sweet but not overly; even my wife had half of hers, a rarity -- she is not a dessert lover.

Oct 08, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Paris and Avignon Restaurant Report

Salut tastebudseattle,

Thanks for the thoughtful report. Re A. Noste and tweezers: When we were upstairs there a few weeks ago (and for us it also was not crowded, yet not empty) we were each brought rather substantial tweezers with which to grab the slice of beef as it was being cut off the spit at the table. The meats were excellent, but as you suggest, challenging after what came before.

And re one of those prior dishes -- as you say, "a play on mussels and frites where the mussels were puréed with potato and deep fried to resemble frites" -- they were indeed fantastic for us too. I'm not sure that "the same combination was then baked off in the mussel shell" though -- I thought that part was more a take on gnocchi? We really enjoyed that dish in particular -- clearly the chef was having fun. I'll attach a photo.

Oh, and re Gigondas, and
L'Oustalet -- glad to hear it was good for you. We still recall lunch there in early May as one of the most pleasant, amiable, and memorable anywhere. Next time we will follow your lead and book a room at the inn.

Enjoy your Comte! We are as well -- this time, selections from la Ferme Saint Hubert, http://www.la-ferme-saint-hubert-de-p... (thanks for the rec, DCM), where he has four, and nicely gave us tastes before we bought big slices. And he packs sous vide / vacuum as well, just like Dubois.

PS, for other lovers of Comte, I'm just now reading an excellent 9 year old cover article in the Art of Eating (2005, no. 70, and for this I'll thank mangeur) -- I wish I'd understood all I'm learning about Comte earlier, but better late than never.
-- Jake

Oct 08, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Chamonix... anything hound worthy?

Sorry, nothing to report on Chamonix. But re "Flocons de Sel" -- the three-star place:

Four weeks ago, while staying there, we had a special celebration dinner for four. We all agreed the next morning that it was one of the best dinners ever, anywhere.

Chef Renalt ended up proposing and making a series of special plates for all four of us, improvising and embellishing -- after getting our assent to his open-ended suggestion -- on our initial orders.

Wine service was both affable and professional, focusing, at our request, entirely on very local producers.

Our experience may have been due to a series of events that are not replicable. But still, it was quite an evening, and we will be back. More later. -- Jake

Oct 06, 2014
Jake Dear in France
1

Paris from mid-September to mid-October!

"soufflé au marrons" at Le Kigawa. I enjoyed that there too a month ago; glad to hear this tiny and rather elegant place was good for you. Did you peek into L'Assiette, nearly right across the street? Another very fine place with a totally different feel. -- Jake

Oct 06, 2014
Jake Dear in France

Eric Briffard leaving Le Cinq

And it certainly does add perspective to Ptipois' comments about the "stars" (distinguished from the rest of red guide itself) in the other contemporaneous thread.

I am recalling fondly the generous lunch (and spontaneous post- repast kitchen tour) we had there about a year ago -- and am doubting that experiences like that can be replicated now. -- Jake

Oct 06, 2014
Jake Dear in France