johannabanana's Profile

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Piemonte: drinking barolo and barbaresco and September reopenings

Thank you very much for the September information. Your recent dinner at Conchiglia d'Oro sounds amazing. Very useful to know about the rooms there, too.

Mar 30, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Must Eat Restaurants in Piemonte

Thank you! Looking into it.

Mar 28, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Piemonte: drinking barolo and barbaresco and September reopenings

That's very kind of you.

Mar 28, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Piemonte: drinking barolo and barbaresco and September reopenings

allende, as a regular visitor to the Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna, I wondered if you were familiar with the August/September closures? We just heard from Amerigo dal 1934 that they expect they might be closed for their summer holidays during at least some of the first week of September, which is when we planned on eating there. I'm now worried that the other restaurants we were excited about (all your recommendations on this board: Da Ivan, La Buca, Del Belbo-Da Berdon, Il Centro, Osteria Veglio, and La Conchiglia d'Oro in Liguria ) might be closed too.

Mar 28, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Piemonte: drinking barolo and barbaresco and September reopenings

Thank you DavidT and allende. DavitT, I'm not sure we'll manage two bottles between us but I absolutely love dolcetto and will be sure to drink some in Piemonte. I'll ask about double decanting, allende.

Mar 28, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Must Eat Restaurants in Piemonte

Thank you Allende. I think we will try to eat at Bardon twice but will see where we can find to stay that's more practical than Asti but not too far from Bardon.

Mar 28, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Dining in beautiful Brittany (and a few quick notes about Paris) in September 2013

Jake Dear, thank you for the further thoughts about your Brittany eating, and the helpful pictures.

Mar 28, 2014
johannabanana in France

Must Eat Restaurants in Piemonte

allende, would you see much sense in staying around Asti to be near Da Bardon or is that too isolated from all the rest of the action?

Mar 27, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Piemonte: drinking barolo and barbaresco and September reopenings

My husband and I are travelling to Piemonte and Emilia Romagna at the very beginning of September for the first time and have learnt so much from this board. We're looking forward to reporting back on our trip.

I wanted to ask the more experienced travelers to those regions if they think that the restaurants will be up and running as of 1 September (a Monday this year), immediately after whatever August break they take?

I also wondered what approach people like to take when ordering barolo and barbaresco in Piemonte? My experience from drinking these wines at home has been that they often benefit from a few hours of air prior to drinking. Do people familiar with a restaurant's wine list in the Piemonte sometimes call ahead to say that they'll be ordering a particular wine and to ask if it could be opened ahead of their meal for them?

Mar 27, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Paris and Lille trip report (with a foray to In de Wulf)

To answer my own question, Gastromondiale reports that you can bring your own wine to la Table d'Aki for a 35 euro corkage.

Mar 26, 2014
johannabanana in France

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn

Café Joubert is a lovely café/wine bar/restaurant in Fayssac, between Gaillac and Cordes-sur-ciel. Our favourite place we ate at in the Tarn two years ago. Really fresh food, inexpensive and charming, situated in the middle of a pretty village, with lots of outdoor seating. They hold concerts some evenings -- you could ring them to ask the schedule. Delicious lunches. Might well need to reserve. Not sure if they serve dinner.

I second Parigi's recommendation of Vigne en Foule, very reasonable wine prices by the glass if you want to try a selection from their list. The main courses (better than the starters) are large: we had an excellent steak and a pork chop on dfifferent nights, big enough to share. They also sell their wines at retail prices if you want to take some back to where you're staying. You would probably want to reserve ahead.

Also recommended is the "Nature et progres" market in Gaillac on Tuesdays from 4-7:30 pm in the place du Griffoul. (In Gaillac, the easiest place to park is on the place Saint-Michel, next to the church, from where it's a short walk to the market.) There's also a smaller "Nature et progres" market on Tuesdays from 4-7:30 pm in the place Fernand Pelloutier in Albi. The one in Gaillac has all sorts of delicious cheeses, fruits, meats and vegetables and has a fun atmosphere.

Feb 19, 2014
johannabanana in France

Dining in beautiful Brittany (and a few quick notes about Paris) in September 2013

Jake, although you say Cancale was the highlight, you don't go into that much detail about your dinner at Roellinger's Le Coquillage. Was it as good as you'd hoped?

Jan 15, 2014
johannabanana in France

Paris and Lille trip report (with a foray to In de Wulf)

mangeur, I agree that you'd expect some misses but sadly the misses were all among the larger meat courses (with the exception of an excellent crispy trotter) and desserts. As this represented the final third of our tasting menu, it left a slightly bad taste.

My New Year's resolution is to stop eating long tasting menus. Our two most enjoyable recent fine dining experiences were at Yoann Conte and Michel Bras, ordering à la carte even though both restaurants offer tasting menus.

The bed in our fancier room at In de Wulf was comfortable, and we were particularly impressed by the huge wooden bathtub with high sides like a wine barrel. Would love one of those at home.

Nancy S., perhaps you should retry La Table d'Aki's sauces -- the meat sauce they serve with John Dory is very impressive. Dessert is indeed an afterthought but we don't mind at the prices charged.

Jan 02, 2014
johannabanana in France

Paris and Lille trip report (with a foray to In de Wulf)

This trip was over two days and nights, the first night spent in Paris, the following night in Dranouter.

Septime:
Second time eating here, our last meal was dinner, this one was lunch. The food wasn't great, the service was excellent. Good if simple squid a la plancha starter. Good chicken and weak pollock main courses. Very good cheese plate (particularly the Salers) and a weak baba dessert. The pollock was the worst dish, both the fish and its eel sauce lacking flavor. There was some scattershot plating on even the better dishes, with cubes of raw turnip and so on, where the various ingredients didn't come together. We weren't expecting fireworks from the relatively economical lunch menu but still felt it was lacking in refinement. The dinner tasting menu on our previous visit was considerably better, although this time I noticed that the table near us ordering the more expensive lunch tasting menu received largely the same preparations as us, if sometimes using different proteins. Fantastic, well-priced wine list if you like the genre of wines Septime specializes in. Such a handsome restaurant.

La Table d'Aki:
Third time eating here and everything was exceptional, particularly an ethereal cod dish. The saucing was, as always, complex and beautifully complemented each fish. The atmosphere wasn't as good as it has been before and I think can be reliant on how full the restaurant is (it was only half full) and your fellow diners. Funnily enough, we thought that the American couple on one table asking for a wine that was "like a rich California Cabernet" were typical tourists with no idea about the delicacy of the cooking or about variety in wines, but then the French table next to us asked for a full-bodied red as well. (The only difference was how loudly and in what language they asked.) The bad thing about La Table d'Aki is the wine list, which is too amateur for the cooking and doesn't list the name of the producer for some of the 10 or so wines. Does anyone know if you can bring your own wine here for a corkage fee?

In de Wulf:
This was our big splurge. I won't go into too much detail but thought I'd briefly describe the experience as the cost dictated the kind of restaurants we ate at in Paris and our going to Alex Croquet in Lille. The tasting menu had some excellent dishes but overall was slightly disappointing given our high expectations. I think we might have been unlucky because the "main" course in particular, a five-week aged duck, was simply not to our taste. We had expected the cooking to be more Michel Bras but it seemed more Mugaritz, with some dishes that pushed the limits of palatability. The breakfast, however, was wonderful, more of the incredible bread from the night before, and the dining room and bedroom were very pleasant.

Alex Croquet in Lille:
Had high hopes for the pastries and breads here but wasn't amazed. The breads (Pain Zébulon and Pain Paulette) were certainly good but not in the same league as the bread at In de Wulf. A chocolate eclair was dreadful: soggy pastry, cloying filling, a far cry from Jacques Genin. The "pudding" (similar to a bread-and-butter pudding, with candied fruits) and kouign-amann were good but we wouldn't rush to schlep them and the breads to the train station and onto London again.

Jan 01, 2014
johannabanana in France

Arpège or not?

I don't think you would regret trying l'Arpège once. I recommend showing up at 12:30 and saying you're happy to give the kitchen "carte blanche". These were our best lunches there:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/885256

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/796842

Nov 27, 2013
johannabanana in France

Lunch between Montreal and Stowe, VT?

We actually ended up eating at Misery Loves Co twice for lunch because of the way our flights worked out. The first lunch was a little disappointing -- the fried fish yum yum sandwich was unbalanced, with a ton of sweet sauce, while the eggplant (Aubergine Dream) sandwich was dull tasting. From one extreme to the other! Our salad was hopelessly overdressed, the leaves completely soaked. We had a great lemon curd doughnut, though, and felt that the restaurant could do much better -- we could see that the owners weren't cooking. They were planning something, seated at a neighboring table to ours.

On our second visit, we had the fried salt cod (Saltie) sandwich and the fried chicken (Rough Francis) sandwich, both much better composed. Although most everything appealing at Misery Loves Co. seems to be fried, which makes it slightly heavy-going, the execution was greatly improved for our second lunch and we loved both our sandwiches.

We also ate at Hen of the Wood for dinner, near Stowe, which was excellent. Fantastic wine list. And at the Parker Pie Company in West Glover, VT, which didn't live up to high expectations, raised that high by a positive write-up in the Art of Eating some time ago. The dough on our pizza was undercooked towards much of the center. The fresh tomato and spinach topping was very good, though, and we liked the vibe.

Aug 27, 2013
johannabanana in Northern New England

$500 - $600 special dinner in Paris

Also, l'Arpège at lunch when the menu is 130 euros per person. Well-priced wine list for that category of restaurant. Including a good bottle of wine, you would have change from $500 (remembering that you don't need to tip.) I know it's not dinner but there's really nothing quite like a Parisian three star, lunch will last a long time, and you'll have eaten enough that you won't need dinner afterward. You could walk around in the evening instead, go to a few wine bars.

Aug 24, 2013
johannabanana in France

Lunch en route to Stowe from Montreal?

Halfway would be good! St Albans is placed about right -- where were you thinking of?

Aug 06, 2013
johannabanana in Northern New England

Lunch between Montreal and Stowe, VT?

Thank you for all the suggestions. Prohibition Pig looks promising. We're actually flying into and out of Burlington and driving to Montreal-Stowe in between. It's almost 3 hours drive from Montreal to Stowe if we cross the border at Morse's Line. We'd hoped to find somewhere around halfway or a little before -- Burlington's a bit further than halfway if you take that routing. We'll already be eating there immediately after and before we fly, and I think it might be nicer to take the smaller roads, too. We had hoped there was somewhere in Canada, before the border...

Aug 06, 2013
johannabanana in Northern New England

Lunch en route to Stowe from Montreal?

On Friday, my husband and I will be driving from Montreal to Stowe, VT, probably crossing the border at Morse's Line. Is there anywhere en route in Vermont that would make a good stop-off for lunch? (We can't wait to eat at Misery loves Co. and Hen of the Wood later on during our Vermont trip.)

Aug 05, 2013
johannabanana in Northern New England

Lunch between Montreal and Stowe, VT?

On Friday, my husband and I will be driving from Montreal to Stowe, VT, probably crossing the border at Morse's Line. Is there anywhere en route, outside Montreal, that would make a good stop-off for lunch? (We can't wait to eat at APDC and Lawrence when in Montreal.)

Aug 05, 2013
johannabanana in Northern New England

4 hours enough time for l'Arpège Lunch?

Thanks for the info souphie. Maybe we'll give Ledoyen's lunch menu a go in that case.

Jul 20, 2013
johannabanana in France

4 hours enough time for l'Arpège Lunch?

4 hours is plenty of time.

When I recall my husband's and my lunches at l'Arpège (six of them since 2010), every lunch featured protein: turkey, chicken, pigeon, lamb, salmon, lobster, monkfish (the latter almost every time).... Perhaps protein has featured more in recent years than it did when Delucacheesemonger ate lunch there. As Ptipois says, the protein portions in the lunch menu are often very small, and I don't think we've ever received more than 3 protein courses (not counting the egg dishes). Certainly, you feel jealous when somebody orders, say, the lobster à la carte and you glimpse it going past in all its more substantial glory.

Passard does schmooze a lot but I doubt this impacts the cooking! The kitchen can operate very well without him -- our very best lunch at l'Arpège was on Bastille Day a couple of years ago when he was most definitely absent. The person really in control of your lunch is the maîtresse d'hôtel, Hélène Cousin the last time we went. (I actually preferred Nadia Socheleau, who seemed to have taken over for a spell but then moved to the Jardin des Plumes in Giverny -- a restaurant worth trying perhaps?)

Our last lunch at l'Arpège was disappointing. Next time we go there we'll probably order à la carte -- do you know if the à la carte at l'Arpège is cheaper at lunch than at dinner souphie?

Jul 19, 2013
johannabanana in France

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

Theobroma -- thank you for the siphon info. My husband and I don't mind the Table d'Aki décor, indeed quite enjoy its informality, even if it perhaps belies the sophistication of the dishes. What we didn't like is the Table d'Aki charging 6 euros per small bottle of Badoit -- they don't serve large bottles. I guess it's better to go with tap water there.

Jun 26, 2013
johannabanana in France

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

Glad everybody enjoyed the report!

Theobroma, the photos of La Table d'Aki suggest you had a great meal. What kind of siphon do you use for making your version of a black forest gâteau?

Jun 24, 2013
johannabanana in France

Lunch stop between the Aveyron and the Jura? Clermont Ferrand?

Report here on the Aveyron-less trip here:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/906609

In retrospect, given the Faurie cancelled, we should have stuck with Bras and your recommendations ptipois!

Jun 23, 2013
johannabanana in France

Faurie closes for year

Report on Annecy and Lyon here!
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/906609

Jun 23, 2013
johannabanana in France

Where to eat along with the Ardèche and the Jura? Burgundy? Savoie?

Jun 23, 2013
johannabanana in France

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

Savoie and Lyon:

On Sunday night we drove from Poligny to Yoann Conte in Veyrier-du-Lac on Lake Annecy. How grateful we were that this worked out after missing out on the Faurie! The hotel is very charming, probably little changed since Veyrat's time. It's pretty old school, and very expensive to stay there, in particular once the delicious breakfast is figured in -- but worth it, we felt, especially on a day of brilliant sunshine (our first sunshine in almost a week).

We arrived as they were serving lunch but they put together an excellent charcuterie and cheese plate for us. Tired after the long drive, we spent the afternoon reading on the hotel's dock, took a walk, and then had an exceptional dinner. From the restaurant's dining room, you look out on the lake and inside you also have a full view of the glass-walled kitchen (I imagine a post-Veyrat renovation). We ordered à la carte. First, great cut-your-own sourdough bread and very good, springy amuses-bouches. As a starter, I had smoked féra (the local lake fish), which was served with a féra and potato raviolo - excellent. My husband had an homard bleu (Conte is from Brittanny) with a vin-jaune sauce and pistachio mayonnaise. The mayonnaise wasn't necessary but the lobster was a magnificent specimen, cooked beautifully, artfully plated. I then had the "truite feux d'enfer", which was served with a carrot raviolo (a nod to Veyrat), carrot purée, and pieces of slow-cooked carrot. Both the trout and the carrot variations were extremely good and flavoursome and this was a stunning dish to look at as well. My husband had a "déclinaison" of Alpine lake fish: perch with morels; crawfish claws and morel gratin; crayfish tails with tomato; féra (more lightly smoked than my starter) with tomme cubes and shabu shabu broth. We skipped dessert and satisfied our sweet teeth with the mignardises cart. Overall, this meal was perhaps the dining high point of our trip -- certainly the fine dining high point. Compared to Jean-Paul Jeunet, Conte seems vastly more current and sophisticated, with a lighter touch and more chic aesthetic. Not one dish disappointed in our dinner and, what's more, you felt like you could have been happy ordering any of the generously-sized dishes on the à la carte menu, which was very appealing. The one negative is the heavy mark-ups on the wine list, which has a good selection of natural wines (and, strangely, a lot of wines off-the list the charming sommelier can infom you about-- perhaps he couldn't be bothered to load them onto the wine list iPads).

The next day, we ate breakfast on our terrace (featuring a delicious bread pudding and better viennoiseries than at the Colline du Colombier) and packed before driving up to the chalet de Pricaz. Praised some time ago by Kim Severson in the NY Times, this is an excellent, all-organic tartiflette joint. We shared the tartiflette and a salade du chalet, featuring more reblochon melted onto little toasts. Both excellent. We admired the fabulous view.

We then drove to Lyon and had dinner and lunch at Daniel et Denise, where we'd eaten last summer. For dinner: the paté en croute (delicious as ever), the rabbit gâteau en gêlée (served in a glass jar - good but wouldn't order again partly because it had a lot of little bones in it); gras double (incredible!!); a quenelle sauce nantua (perfect, much better than @ Abel); and a perfectly ripe saint Marcellin. For lunch (the next day), we took more risks and ordered some things we weren't sure about: tête de veau (too much of an acquired taste and texture) and the tablier de sapeur (likewise). The salad of lamb's sweetbreads and poulet de bresse with morels and vin jaune sauce were both great, however -- as was a very chic dessert of madeleines and petits pots de chocolat. We then picked up a very large box of Bernachon chocolates before driving to the airport to fly back to London.

Jun 23, 2013
johannabanana in France

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

on to the Jura:

First day:
Gastronomically not much to report about at lunch and dinner, with our leftover beef sandwiches for lunch en route, and an underwhelming table d'hôte dinner at our chambre d'hôte in Poligny, run by the wife of the winemaker Ludwig Bindernagel of Les Chais du Vieux Bourg. However, we went to Pupillin and did manage to score a tasting with Emmanuel Houillon for the next day; had excellent chocolates sitting outside Hirsinger in Arbois; and drunk a glass of Michel Gahier 2004 vin jaune at the charming Bistrot des Claquets.

Second day:
We went to our Houillon tasting. What a kind, thoughtful, unpretentious winemaker! We had read his profile in a wonderful issue of The Art of Eating focussing on vin jaune. As we had just tasted his 2009 Poulsard in Paris, we were able to very easily compare it by memory with the 2011 he poured for us. Houillon Poulsards are perhaps my favourite wine, if I had to choose. We also tasted the 2009 chardonnay, and an extraordinary 2003 vieux savagnin ouillé. The tasting was the highlight of a very rainy and cold 5 days in the Jura. For lunch, we picked up some delicious comté and tomme de Jura, and a dried sausage, at the highly recommended Epicurea in Poligny's place des déportés. This is a very good cheesemonger and natural wine shop (which has a little bar where you can drink and nibble in the early evening or at lunchtime), with perhaps the best natural wine selection we've seen in France -- even if its Jura selection is less extensive than the well-known Jardins St Vincent in Arbois, they have a wider selection of Macle and Ganevat, and even a little Houillon. We got a huge slice of 3-year aged comté for only 5 euros. The Epicurea owner gave us Macle's phone number and we tried to arrange a tasting with Mme Macle, sadly in vain. We ate our picnic on our way to Château-Chalon in one of the few moments of Jurassic sunshine we experienced. For dinner, we went to la Balance in Arbois. The restaurant's signature dish, coq au vin jaune et morilles was excellent and copious. A starter of asparagus with tomme de brebis (seemingly a classic Jurassic pairing) was also good.

Third day:
We received an email from the Hotel Faurie, where we expected to end our trip, saying that they were cancelling our reservation. (I posted about this previously.) Lunch was more cheese from Epicurea: the leftovers of the comté and a local semi-soft goat's cheese.

Dinner was at Jean-Paul Jeunet. You have the sense that this restaurant thinks of itself as the fanciest place around, and resultingly displays a little too much pomp in its slightly unnatural service -- but the waiters aren't unfriendly. We ordered à la carte and the food was uneven, perhaps, like at l'Arpège, hampered by the weather and the slow start to the vegetable season. The amuse-bouches were very good. My artichoke starter with summer truffle and and barigou gelée was excellent, the best dish of the night. My husband's écrevisses starter, though, was the weakest -- and meanly portioned. Just 6 little écrevisses on parsnip rounds that completely dominated the flavour of the shellfish. The écrevisses themselves were lacking in flavour, far inferior to ones we had later at Yoann Conte in the Savoie. I then had agneau de lait fillet, shoulder and breast, the fillet a little dull, but the shoulder and breast very good. My husband had veal in two courses, the first course of cheek excellent, the second course of sweetbreads less successful for being served in a strangely soupy format with beetroots. We shared an ok dessert based on multiple preparations of strawberries. Overall, the food felt at times too fussy and dated: the chef has a mania for "tuiles" of vegetable or fruit that resemble fruit roll-ups; with the exception of the artichoke starter, each dish contained too many components so that the food lacked deliciousness from each component being so small. Given the pricing, it was hard to be uncritical and we wouldn't rush back. The wine list, though -- at least the Jura wine section -- is fantastic and very fairly priced and we ordered a 2008 Houillon Poulsard.

Fourth day:
We drove to Besançon after some morbier and a more aged goat's cheese for lunch from Epicurea, where by now we had become regulars. Le Fooding had recommended a restaurant in Besançon called Monsieur Victor, not mentioning it was now exclusively vegan. (The restaurant evidently used to serve meat and Le Fooding's write-up mentions a terrine "parée de gros morceaux d'animal mort, du foie notamment"!) After visiting the musée des beaux-arts, we walked around the town and then showed up at Monsieur Victor as the sole diners on a rainy night. The vegan salad plate was nonetheless very good, carefully prepared and probably just what we needed healthwise after so much meaty Jurassic food and all that cheese we'd been eating.

Fifth day:
Lunch at Le Grapiot, our favourite restaurant in the Jura. The prices for food and wine are very fair, the wine list is brilliant for such a small place. We had a bottle of the 2011 Houillon Poulsard we'd tasted -- the restaurant is almost directly across from Pierre Overnoy's house so it must be the restaurant the shortest distance from the domaine's cellar. The atmosphere is better, more lively than that at la Balance. I had an artichoke and skate starter, and my husband a pea soup served with toast and smoked goat's cheese. And we both had rascasse with vin jaune sauce. We then shared a very solid cheese plate -- indeed the cheese cart, together with other touches, suggest the restaurant is aiming higher than its bib gourmand. For dinner we went back to Epicurea just before closing and had a couple of glasses of 2000 Philippe Butin vin jaune with a last plate of comté.

Jun 23, 2013
johannabanana in France