It’s Tough, Really Very Tough – A Night of 2 Michelin Starred Gastronomie in Carcassonne!

2017-05-23 17.09.35I’ve been to Carcassonne before, a couple of years ago when I was last a guest at The French House Party. It’s a magical place Carcassonne, having a similar feel to Tallin in Estonia (highly recommended too, had a day trip there on a cruise a few years back). Narrow cobbled streets, Coffee shops to sit outside and watch the world go by, we arrived late in the afternoon when the majority of the crowds had gone home, it gets very busy here!Photo 23-05-2017, 19 50 30How can I describe La Table De Franck Putelat…………Bloody Brilliant!  The whole experience is just so different.

I have had the pleasure of eating here before, a restaurant with 2 Michelin Stars you expect it to be good, but it’s the theatre as well as the food that takes it to the next level. From the Flame in the Glass Cabinet, that warms the Bread Basket placed on top it’s an amazing experience that, given the chance I would recommend to anyone.Photo 23-05-2017, 19 56 17Hmmmm,  a little Appetizer was passed to each of us the waiter then described what was in our hands…………..Duck Foie Gras Lollipops with a Grapefruit Emulsion….. Gulp! How they made the Emulsion stick in such a uniform way was mind-blowing, it tasted pretty damn good too!Photo 23-05-2017, 19 58 41Ah, I am sure I didn’t have these the other day!…… Tapioca Crisps perfumed with Aioli, Tapenade and Mushroom Cream, crispy and very very tasty, my mouth was already salivating after the previous tastes and textures. The others in our group were also amazed at these little tasty delights.photo-23-05-2017-20-02-29.jpg‘What’s this’ we all declared as a bowl of ‘Smoking Something’ was placed before us! Dry Ice used to great effect, the delights were Cromesquis of Pig Feet (errkk)! Crispy Morsels that had a lovely light crunchy coating they are like a Croquette, and a soft melting pork centre with some lemon jelly they were so so good, and this was just another appetiser!Photo 23-05-2017, 20 25 51Bread is the life blood of France, just ask my occasional Tutor and owner of Bertinet’s Cookery School in Bath Richard Bertinet, I am sure he will agree. There was a great choice of Bread, all homemade and displayed on the ‘Fire Cabinet’, with the waiter cutting on demand as we all tried to decide what to pick!photo-23-05-2017-20-27-45.jpgMy Choice was the Spelt Bread which had a great crust, and the Thyme Bread which was like a Croissant but shaped like a traditional Beehive they were both really delicious. There are little ‘nods’ to the surroundings and very obvious was the ‘chain mail’ place mat, and wooden butter knife being linked to the Knights that used to occupy the City.Photo 23-05-2017, 20 28 44The ‘Theatre’ carried on, not a dish with a block of butter, or the usual ‘curls’ they have a paddle like wooden butter dish, with ordinary and one laced with Seaweed to provide the salt component, very tasty on the home-made bread.photo-23-05-2017-20-29-53.jpgThe last delight before the 1st course was ready, came in a beautifully designed porcelain Chicken Foot,  a perfectly cooked Egg, covered in a rich and decadent Mushroom Cream with a bit of Truffle for added decadence! Boy it was so tasty, and we had only completed the appetisers, that set the bar high for the remainder of the meal.Photo 23-05-2017, 20 39 57So onto the starter, let’s see if the food was as good as last time. Duck Foie Gras Rougié, Palourdes Cranquettes de Méditerranée, Pistils de Safran à Gégé. It was a full (and I mean FULL) flavoured broth with seared Foie Gras, beautiful Clams and an assortment of vegetable brunois (chopped really small)!

The comments around the table sort of went like, ‘this is amazing’, ‘this is sooo delicious’, ‘oh my god, how do they get so much flavour into this’, ‘Jeez this is really very good’……. We sort of knew ho they got so much flavour into things as the 1st two days of our cooking course had been just that, spending hours frying, boiling, reducing, adding more flavours, reducing etc… The starter was a hit with everyone. Photo 23-05-2017, 21 04 51The main course soon arrived and was equally as tasty. I don’t think I have EVER had a fillet of Cod so perfectly cooked! It fell apart, melted in the mouth, was so light and flaky, no rough or slighty stringy edges it was PERFECT. The flavour of the vegetables and broth were perfect with subtle flavours and did not overpower the fish, it was just fab, and all of us had come to pretty much the same conclusion (until the next day, more of that later)!photo-23-05-2017-21-49-25.jpgIt maybe a personal thing but the thing most people rememeber about a restaurant is the dessert, it’s the last thing they eat before departing and will have (In good restaurants), a significant visual impact as we knew from our own efforts over the last couple of days. Our dessert had visual impact, lots of it! Pavlova ananas, infusé aux bais sancho, sorbet céleri branche. It was a Pineapple Pavola (deconstructed), infused with Sancho Berries (Japanese pepper) and Celery Sorbet (and some White Chocolate).

This dish divided the group, it was the Celery Sorbet that was the bone of contention. The thing was, if you had a bit of each element the Sorbet worked a treat, cleaning the palate especially with the sweet White Chocolate. The textures were great too, soft, crunchy, smooth melting I personally loved it, a lot. So that was it, multiple courses all great and we had a fantastic time, and experience. But there was a bit more to come yet!!photo-23-05-2017-22-10-51.jpgThe service had been exemplary all night, each dish being described as it was delivered to the table, the final little teaser being little crisp tarts with a fresh Raspberry filling, and some light jelly delights, I cannot remember what they were but I think coconut from memory, we had eaten so many tasty flavours it was still delicious.photo-23-05-2017-22-13-04-e1495818627716.jpgAll of a sudden, our waiter came to the table, picked up the flower pot which the delights were resting and threw it onto the table, more theatre the pot was made of Chocolate smashed into pieces and threw more hand made delights all over the table, we all burst into laughter not having experienced such fun as the Chocolate cracked, and various delights were exposed…….!!

That’s it for now, I landed back in the U.K. last night and only have one more post to write, the final day and another restaurant review, that of 1 Michelin starred Chef (and our tutor for 2 days), Jean-Marc Boyer.

…………………………Until next time………………L8ers……………..

 

 

 

The French House Party – A culinary adventure to France (Day 3) Part Deux

FHP Day 2 and 3 078I was thinking about popping out to ‘le boulangerie’ for a Pain d’Epi but that isn’t going to happen, I am back in the UK but at least the sun has briefly shown itself, the next best thing (and its very good), is a Richard Bertinet loaf which is available from some Waitrose stores, if you live in the South West (ish).

Continuing on with the ‘adventure’ in Gastronomy, we headed off to Bize-Minervois to visit a very special place, ‘LOulibo‘. 

L’Oulibo is an Olive producing co-operative and whilst France only produces a very small quantity of Olive’s and Oil,  L’Oulibo produces the VERY best.

FHP Day 2 and 3 052We were treated to a really interesting tour by an extremely knowledgeable young lady who explained how the co-operative worked, the history of the Olive and the end to end process. The best Olives to eat are known as Lucques, which are a green variety and quite sweet.

I will be honest at this point, I LOVE Olive oil but cannot get my taste buds to appreciate Olive’s, I did bring a jar back though as we did use them in one of the recipes during the course!!

FHP Day 2 and 3 054We ended the tour with a really interesting video, and then a visit to the shop to purchase some produce. Along with the Lucques Olives I did get a jar of Olive and Tomato Tapenade, we had eaten some as an ‘Hors d’oeuvre‘ spread on crispy bread, the previous day.

The menu at the top of the post is for La Marquière, which was our final destination after a stroll around ‘Carcassonne‘, the famous medieval city.

FHP Day 2 and 3 060Carcassonne reminded me of Tallin in Estonia, conical turrets a’top long cylinders of stone, hewn by simple tools and medieval grunt!

Sorry about that, had a bit of a moment as Carcassonne is such a magical place, as are the many restaurants spread around the city walls, and inside the protective shroud of stone.

So, what can I say about La Marquière, EAT THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

FHP Day 2 and 3 107First one of the ‘Amuse- bouche‘, Foie Gras, with Gingerbread and and a thin layer of jelly, it was AMAZING………

FHP Day 2 and 3 108Next was local bread, with home made ‘Charcuterie and a lovely spread with plenty of garlic and a soft goats cheese, it was bl@@dy delicious.

FHP Day 2 and 3 110Next was the Foie Gras, sorry, I do love the stuff and when its done well, it’s very good (if you like this sort of thing), it was VERY good and had been prepared with a local Muscat wine an served with two ‘chutneys’, Fig and Onion and Brioche bread.

FHP Day 2 and 3 112For my ‘Plat’, main course in French I went for the Médaillons de Lotte en cocotte, coulis de Crustacés, petits Légumes et pommes vapeur.  Monkfish, Shellfish sauce and Veg!! its was beautifully, subtle, rich and really tasty.

FHP Day 2 and 3 109It would be rude not to have a glass of wine or two when n France, our treat was a 2010 Château du Donjon. Very deep crimson in color, with some toasty aromas from oak ageing, it delivers ripe fruit, vanilla and chocolate aromas, It is full and generous on the palate with a long, powerful finish supported by soft tannin’s. Yeah, it was Awesome……….

IMG_0225I had to order my dessert when I selected my starter and main, I was going for something a bit theatrical a Sphère de chocolat noir de Valrhona, mousse Mascarpone et Girottes. Warm Chocolate Sauce was poured by the waitress and…………. it slowly melts the top of the sphere. Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

FHP Day 2 and 3 111Service was spot on, as was the food. This is a family run restaurant, and was lovely and cosy, un-fussy with impeccable food. If ever you are in Carcassonne and looking for somewhere to eat this place comes HIGHLY recommended.

FHP Day 2 and 3 128We had an amazing time learning from Robert Abraham, our first ‘chef d’excellence’ and Midi-Pyrenees Chef of the year as one of his many accolades.

Our next Chef (above) was to be Jean-Marc Boyer, a Paris trained Michelin star Chef, and named as one of the worlds up and coming chefs ‘to look out for’ by world renowned chef, writer and restaurateur Daniel Boulud who runs Le Cirque in New York, considered to be one of the best restaurants in the world…… No pressure then!!!

………………Until next time……………….L8ers……

 

 

 

The French House Party – A culinary adventure to France (Day 3)

FHP Day 2 and 3 037This post is being authored as I have to depart back to England, goodbyes have been said to all the other guests, the course is finished and as you can tell, I am a few days behind with updates on how things are going. My flight does not depart till later this afternoon so  I have some time free to ‘chillax’, and reflect on what has been a truly amazing experience, and much needed break from daily life back at home.

One of the reasons for booking this course, apart from learning from 2 awesome chefs and meeting some lovely people, was the chance for a brief visit to the medieval city of Carcassonne, a recce for a future trip planned with the family. More about that later.

FHP Day 2 and 3 049Today we have definitely stepped it up a couple of gears as you can see by the pictures above. These two dishes we created on Sunday morning, along with a ‘stonking’ Chocolate Fondant, believe me, it was spot on……

I’ve never used Agar Agar before, but the thought of making an Orange Jelly from scratch, topped with a Salmon Tartare, and then being able to present it, in a way that was going to be appealing seemed an impossible task!

FHP Day 2 and 3 025All the longer cookery vacations I  have been on follow a similar pattern, discuss the menu first, you are then given a task to complete by the Chef, if you finish you can help one of your colleagues with another task, then come together at the end to learn plating  techniques to make everything look pretty.

As usual, if you want to know how we accomplished the dish above (which was bl@@dy good), book the course and come yourself, although you will probably have to wait until next year, these courses are VERY popular.

FHP Day 2 and 3 014The main course was a Dourade (Black Bream from memory), served with a Spinach and Basil puree, and delicious Artichokes. You guessed it, prepping the fish from scratch and trying to create beautiful looking fillets was the order of the day.

It was the same with the Artichokes, I’ve only eaten them a couple of times, stuffed hearts in Egypt many years ago, and steamed with a Dijon mustard dressing on the cookery course last year. Now we were going to learn another technique and the end result was well worth it. I now feel very confident in ‘le’s art d’artichoke’ !!!!

FHP Day 2 and 3 097Two other highlights of our trip were the chance to eat out at a couple of very good restaurants. Both were in Carcassonne, the first was Restaurant La Marquière a beautiful place to taste amazing food overlooking La Cité de Carcassonne, the second was the two Michelin starred ‘la table de Franck Putelat’

Franck used to work at another famous Carcassonne restaurant la barbacane, which is within the city walls and has one Michelin star, so his pedigree is VERY good.

Talking of Carcassonne, the picture above is in the City at the side of the la barbacane, the chefs taking a quick break before service.

Have to dash for the airport now, watch out for next post.

Until next time………..L8ers……………………..