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Ostend area - upscale country restaurants?

Ah well. Next time... I ended up at Auberge du Pecheur in Sint-Martens-Latem. Food was just ok, but the setting was perfect and gave me a nice day off from a solo road trip.

Dec 07, 2014
waldrons in Europe

Disappointed in L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon (Sainte Germaine)

>>The Atelier model was first formulated in Las Vegas<<
Even if it wasn't formulated in Vegas, this is a very good description of the atmosphere and the clientele. Very slick, very flashy, but in the end, an empty experience.
On the other hand, I went to Semilla a couple of days later, and had a wonderful meal... playful, creative, flavorful, lively atmosphere. Just a delight!

Dec 07, 2014
waldrons in France
1

Disappointed in L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon (Sainte Germaine)

It was good, but sadly, nothing memorable.

Dec 07, 2014
waldrons in France

Disappointed in L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon (Sainte Germaine)

>>I think you were disappointed mainly because the restaurant did not meet your expectation of 'fine-dining'. <<
>>L'Atelier does not conform to that.<<
Yes, you're right, my expectations were closer to assumptions. I neglected to do detailed research, I'm afraid.
I was expecting the service to be similar to that at Guy Savoy, my only other big-splurge Parisian dining experience. THAT dinner took something like 5 hours (although it was a multi-course extravaganza)!

Dec 07, 2014
waldrons in France

Disappointed in L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon (Sainte Germaine)

>>The door is usually opened for you when you arrive, maybe they didn't see you. <<
Yes, the maitre d' was away from the desk (the door is glass, so I could see nobody was around). I've just never encountered a restaurant door that couldn't be opened! If that's what they want to do, they need to have a dedicated door man.

>>The apperitiff and bread service seem quite normal, bread arrives with the menu they let you think then you order a drink.<<
Every other restaurant (fine dining or bistro) that I went to offered an aperitif practically before I was seated. I expected one to be offered at some point, but they came to take my dinner order without any such offer. But that's ok, I'm not shy about asking!

Dec 07, 2014
waldrons in France

Is It OK to Leave Butter on the Kitchen Counter?

Years ago I started leaving butter on the counter with almost no problems. I just use a regular covered butter dish (the cheap clear plastic ones that come with the refrigerator). I live in San Francisco, so warm weather is never an issue!

The only butter where I can't do that is the Vermont Creamery European-style with sea salt crystals... the sea salt migrates to the outside of the butter. And it does tend to get an off-taste after even a few days. So that stays in the fridge, but the day-to-day butter is spreadable at will. (And I "will" spread a lot!!)

Dec 07, 2014
waldrons in Features

Disappointed in L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon (Sainte Germaine)

>>In your defense, most of our disappointments are a function of our expectations. <<
I completely agree! But I've eaten at fine dining establishments in France before, and had a completely different experience. (I still remember a lovely extended dining experience at Guy Savoy years ago where it seemed like an hour had passed only to find out it had been five!) I didn't want to go around complaining about the fast service only to have someone say, "Well, that's part of the trend to deformalize fine dining" or something.

And if anyone who learned from this would like to contribute to my education fund..... ;)

Nov 02, 2014
waldrons in France
2

Disappointed in L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon (Sainte Germaine)

>>the long answer no, or people wouldn't keep coming<<
Do people come back, or is it the up-market equivalent of a tourist restaurant that no locals frequent? That's another reason I posted, is that I wondered what their local reputation is currently...

>>I don't think I've gone in years because of their pretention.<<
... and that may answer my speculation.

Aside from the food and service, the crowd was fairly interesting, especially the young woman at the bar who switched her attention from the man on her left to the couple on her right, and then the 3 of them disappeared.

Nov 02, 2014
waldrons in France

Disappointed in L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon (Sainte Germaine)

I had dinner here last night and am posting this because it left me wondering if it was my expectations or their performance that caused my disappointment.

I had a reservation made by my hotel, and when I arrived, I was a bit flummoxed at trying to figure out how to open the door. There was no obvious handle, I tried pushing, nothing. There was no staff there (although I could see the host stand just inside), but after a minute or so, someone opened the door for me. (A guest going out for a cigarette had the same problem coming back in, so I don't think it was just me...)

I gave my name to the host, who said he'd be with me in a minute. Much rushing around on his part ensued. When he came back, he asked how many people and asked me to wait again while they "made up my table". It really felt like they either didn't have or couldn't be bothered to find my reservation.

I was seated after a couple of minutes in the little dining area to the right of the bar. I was handed a menu and then left to sit. Nobody offered me a drink, although they did put the bread basket on the table before I'd even ordered. When someone did come to take my food order, I said I'd like a glass of champagne while I decided, which they did bring quickly.

I was eyeballing my neighboring tables, and noticed that the gentleman to my right was literally still chewing one course when the plates were cleared and the next course plopped in front of him. As I watched a succession of courses appear in a very short period of time at their table, I figured they were having the big tasting menu. Unfortunately, the portion sizes were also not what I'm used to in a tasting menu (ie, just a bite or two), but were only slightly smaller than a California main dish (ie, not massive, but larger than appetizer-sized).

There's no way I could eat 11 courses of that size, so I went with the "a la carte tasting portions", which is an idea I really like. After ordering, it took maybe 5 minutes for my first course to come out. No amuse bouche, which I found odd, as I've had them at other fine-dining restaurants in France. After I finished the first course, my second course arrived within a couple of minutes. I knew from watching the next table that I wasn't being treated any differently, but it seemed rushed for a nice restaurant.

I ordered dessert, and after the longest wait of the night (except for trying to order an aperitif), the waiter came back and said, "The pastry chef couldn't make any more tarts tonight". I wasn't all that hungry, so said that would be fine and ordered espresso. The waiter did then go the extra step that I associate with a nice restaurant and comped me a glass of Moscato di Asti while I waited for my coffee. And they didn't serve the coffee immediately, but gave me time to enjoy the wine, which I appreciated.

But it just seemed the pacing was not what I expected (or have experienced at other restaurants in France). All-in-all, my four courses were probably served in an hour and a bit more. Then it took 45 minutes for the rest of the meal -- the wait for dessert, then the wine and coffee.

When I told the hotel concierge about my experience, he said something like, "Oh, they're known for that." So, is this their normal experience -- and if so, is there is a philosophy behind it? Other thoughts on the experience? Thanks, all!

Nov 01, 2014
waldrons in France

Ostend area - upscale country restaurants?

Boury looks great, but I was hoping to enjoy a couple of nights in the countryside, rather than even a small town. I couldn't find any photos of the grounds, but from the map it looks like it sits in a built-up area... is that correct?

Thank you both for the thoughts, and if anything else occurs to you, please let me know!

Aug 23, 2014
waldrons in Europe

Ostend area - upscale country restaurants?

Nancy, I agree that In the Wulf looks very good, but with staying two nights and them only offering a tasting menu, wouldn't you end up with the same meal both nights? Or do they do a la carte (which I could have missed on their website)?

Aug 23, 2014
waldrons in Europe

Ostend area - upscale country restaurants?

edited to redistribute replies to correct posts!

Aug 23, 2014
waldrons in Europe

Ostend area - upscale country restaurants?

I'm enroute from Normandy to Ostend, and decided to change my plans at the last minute. Rather than staying in Ostend, I've decided to look for an upscale country house hotel with a great restaurant. Preferably along the coast, but within an hour or so south or east of Ostend is fine. This would be for 2 nights, starting Aug. 26.

As an alternative, my next destination is actually Ghent, so anywhere south or west of Ghent (a couple of hour drive) would also work.

In a perfect world, I'm looking for something like Raymond Blanc's Manoir des Quatres Saisons or Les Crayeres in Reims. Without the price tag, if that's possible ;)

I'm considering In The Wulf, but the menu seems a bit much for two nights in a row. Is there another good restaurant (doesn't have to be the same type of menu/standard) within a short distance?

Thanks in advance! (And I have to cancel my existing Ostend reservation in 48 hours, so speedy replies are good!)

Aug 22, 2014
waldrons in Europe

taste of london, regent's park : anyone want to join forces?

Ok, let's give it a go! I see the afternoon session starts at 12... shall we meet by the entry gate then? Is there a way to send you a private message with more details?
Edited to add: I added my email address to my profile after my blog address. Please email me so I know who I'm looking for (and vice versa)!

Jun 18, 2014
waldrons in U.K./Ireland

taste of london, regent's park : anyone want to join forces?

Have you been before? I'm visiting London from the US and am considering going, but the prices for the "samples" seem high -- 5 pounds and up from what I can see. Are they actually samples, or are they larger plates?

And do you have any experience for how crowded the sessions get -- is the opening session tonight liable to be more or less crowded than tomorrow afternoon?

Jun 18, 2014
waldrons in U.K./Ireland

Saturday Farmers Market at the Ferry Building [San Francisco]

Roast chicken or porchetta from Roli Roti (usually on the right side, outside Sur La Table. Follow your nose (and the line). (This would be my to-go dish, along with their roasted potatoes.)

Food, quiet, luxury, under 300 pounds per night

Now that you mention it... Waterside Inn or Fat Duck were going to be my other splurge, but a couple of weeks later.
So, next question... if I switch things around and do Bray at the end of July, is there a good restaurant with country house hotel attached near any of the Eurostar stops to Paris (maybe Ashford in Kent)?

Mar 14, 2014
waldrons in U.K./Ireland

Food, quiet, luxury, under 300 pounds per night

I was hoping the fact that "food" was my first criteria would let this slide....

Mar 10, 2014
waldrons in U.K./Ireland

Food, quiet, luxury, under 300 pounds per night

Late add: Calcote Manor, affiliated with Barnsley House, is available, looks good and is within my budget. Any comments on it?

Mar 09, 2014
waldrons in U.K./Ireland

Food, quiet, luxury, under 300 pounds per night

I suspect I can only get 3 out of the above 4 criteria, so they're pretty much in my priority order. In between Oxford and London, I'm looking to spend 2 nights this July at a country house hotel where I can lounge outside in a garden reading or strolling if the weather is nice or inside by a fire if not. A spa for massages would be a bonus.

I've looked at Manoir aux Quat' Saisons but the only rooms available on my dates are 900 pounds per night!! Lords of the Manor looks very promising, but is sold out. Barnsley House also looks good, but they're not taking arrivals on the date I need. Gidleigh Park is a bit too far off my route, I think, as are most of the other recommendations in previous threads. (Both the Lake District and Cornwall are off the table, I think, although if I could get a quick train to the Lake District from Oxford, I might be persuaded...)

So, any other suggestions? (Thanks in advance!)

Mar 09, 2014
waldrons in U.K./Ireland

Food-based sightseeing in England/Ireland?

Thanks, Lemons, I'll check out Eating Italy and others. I'd been hoping more for off-beat museums or sites, rather than tours, but you got my attention with "chocolate tour"! And of course, Borough Market is on my list already. I'm looking forward to renting a flat for the week and being able to get wonderful cheeses and breads.

Dec 28, 2013
waldrons in U.K./Ireland

Food-based sightseeing in England/Ireland?

Because I'll be there for such a long time, having a car will be fairly expensive, and I'm not thrilled about driving myself on the "wrong" side (my husband did it on previous trips, but I'll be by myself on this one). I have an open mind, and figure I can rent one if needed (even once I'm there), but I was hoping to be able to use buses and trains to get around. I'm mostly there for genealogy research, so assume I'll be visiting county seats and other centers where records are held, rather than haring off into the depths of the countryside. However, further research may disabuse me of that assumption.

Dec 28, 2013
waldrons in U.K./Ireland

Food-based sightseeing in England/Ireland?

Ah, that would have been good info to include... no, I won't ;) And I'll be in the St. Ives area of Cornwall, to be specific.

Dec 27, 2013
waldrons in U.K./Ireland

Food-based sightseeing in England/Ireland?

Next summer, I'm going to be spending time in London (1 week), Oxford (2 weeks), Cornwall (2-4 weeks) and Limerick, Ireland (2 weeks). Aside from restaurants and fresh markets (which I'm researching separately), is there any food-related sightseeing in those areas? In other places, I've found food museums (pasta, sea salt), small-production tours (oystering, mushrooms, chocolates), etc. Not interested in a long cookery course, but a half- to full-day one would be fine. Any ideas?

Dec 27, 2013
waldrons in U.K./Ireland

Restaurant Behavior Advice - Paris

When we first started traveling to France and other "furren" parts, in addition to reading up in advance, we would watch locals around us to see what they did.

In simple cafes, people left the change -- or not. Didn't seem to freak out the waiter one way or another.

The only time I've seen kids frowned upon was when they were running around unchecked (and by French parents, no less!). The owner/hostess took it upon herself to scold the kids into behaving properly -- and it worked!

I'd read that sharing dishes wasn't done, but nobody seemed to be shocked if we did (I think the phrase I learned was "un per deux"). (And I suppose I need to pronounce that carefully so nobody would think I wanted a "one lost".)

Generally, one waiter on staff would speak English, even if nobody else did. And in one restaurant, the waiter knelt next to our table and did animal noises to explain what type of meat the dish was -- mooooo, baaaaa, cluck-cluck, etc.

The easiest thing to goof up that I remember was in a simple restaurant where the cheese platter was a shared item... placed on your table for you to help yourself, then passed along to the next table ordering cheese. It would be easy to think this was "your" cheese plate!

Oh, and there was that time my husband mis-took the sommelier for our waiter and tried to order dinner from him. We laughed about that for 30 years!!

The simplest way to get along in a restaurant in France is to act like a grown-up!
Oh, and the bill won't be brought until you ask for it.

Dec 14, 2013
waldrons in France

Soft Gingerbread Cookes- Where to Buy?

Bakesale Betty in the Temescal district of Oakland has ginger-molasses cookies that are soft and very chewy.

Looking for modern, tasty New England fare in Boston

I ended up having several good and one great meal in Boston, so thanks, everyone! The good meals were Clio and lunch at the cafe at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The great meal was Craigie on Main, which was one of the best meals I've had recently.

Nov 20, 2013
waldrons in Greater Boston Area

Cultured butter lost its flavor and taste... what happened?

I had some cultured butter (from Vermont Creamery) that I left out, since I hate trying to use rock-hard butter from the refrigerator (and don't generally plan ahead for something like toast). After a couple of weeks, I realized the remaining butter was turning white (or colorless) and when I tasted it, it had no butter flavor. What happened and why?

Nov 20, 2013
waldrons in General Topics

Looking for modern, tasty New England fare in Boston

Thanks, everyone, this will give me a great list to start sorting through. The lobster roll search will be more of a lunch thing, so I'm following that thread and making a list of potential stops, depending on where we find ourselves. But for dinner, it sounds like I can't go wrong with any of these, so thanks again!

Jul 13, 2013
waldrons in Greater Boston Area

Looking for modern, tasty New England fare in Boston

A friend and I are visiting Boston in September with just one free night for dinner (I know, I know....). I'd like to go somewhere serving modern, creative takes on New England classics, or at least using unique local ingredients. I don't want to have the same thing that we'd get in a good restaurant at home in San Francisco, in other words.

I don't know where we're staying yet, but somewhere downtown/Back Bay would probably be convenient from whereever we end up. (Transportation will be taxi in all likelihood.) We're willing to spend up to $100 per person for the right meal.

Jul 08, 2013
waldrons in Greater Boston Area