Thursday, December 2, 2010

Une Etoile for Chaque Frere or A Star for Each Brother

Last night we did something we've never done. We treated ourselves to a pre-Christmas dinner sans enfants at the only Michelin starred restaurant in Montpellier. In the entire Languedoc region for that matter. Because it's so famous around here and so well, starry, we decided we had to see for ourselves. It's a restaurant and hotel owned by twin brothers, les freres Pourcel, both chefs and both enjoying notoriety throughout France.

Super fancy, super delicious, super expensive. It was two out of three. Delicious and expensive to the super, but fancy not as much. And that was nice. It wasn't homey or rustic by any means but it wasn't over-the-top, make a couple of Texans feel uncomfortable fancy.
The service was impeccable. Just like you'd imagine when you pay 21 euro for a glass of 2002 Moet. It was fascinating to watch them work...a dance where everyone knew their part and performed perfectly, silently moving to and fro, being in the right place just when you needed them, refilling, brushing crumbs, removing plates.
We ordered the taste of the region menu which included a glass of wine from our region with each course. There were four courses and a tasty selection of nibbles for an apero with our 40 euro worth of Champagne. If you'd like to see the  menu for yourself, here it is. But if you'd rather me tell you I can do that too.

For starters we had little parmesan toasts that tasted like sausage balls (we didn't think they'd like to know that), goat cheese puffs, guacamole and brandade de morue (cod dip) in shot glasses like they love to do here, and fried cubes of pork and foie gras. Don't say a word. Don't judge. It's Christmas. And it's more delicious than you can even imagine.

Next, an amuse-bouche. Isn't that so perfect and adorable? Something that amuses your mouth and makes it feel all happy is a good way to start a meal. It was tiny cubes of sea scallops with clementines, also served in shot glasses. They really do love them. And with that we had a white wine from Northeast Languedoc that was a blend of chardonnay, grenache and a couple of other tasty grapes. Sublime.

Each course was presented by our waiter with an explanation. He'd place the food in front of us and then, with flourish, describe what we were about to eat and how it was prepared.

Then, a crayfish bisque with crayfish know, foamy crayfish cream fancied on top. Tasty and we got more of the white wine with this course. The wine and bisque fell in love with each other. I wanted to take photos for you with my phone but Mon Mari said it would be too embarrassing. You'll just have to imagine the rosy sunset orange soup with foamy clouds floating on top, two crayfish heads perched happily on the edge of the deep bowl, smiling delightedly that they'd been made into soup for my supper.

On to the main. It was a seasonal, bien sur, duck dish...layers of different parts of said duck artfully arranged with perfectly cubed (they dig cubes) butternut squash. There was a smallish roasted breast, perfectly cooked; a light, wafer-thin crouton with three heavenly slices of foie gras, again, have you tried it?; and then a three dimensional cone of thigh meat, braised, shredded and formed into a cone then battered and crusted in pistachios, fried crispy pale golden with a hint of green; a gilded peridot swaddling rich umber. With this we had a deep red minervois--perfectly rich and not at all fruity.

Not being a big dessert person, I'd have been happy to stop here. And then.
They brought out three plates of various sweeties. Donut holes (beignets) filled with cream, shortbread wafers shaped like leaves dappled with pine nuts, tiny chocolate planks sandwiching fruity conserve, madeleine shells with raspberry jam, a champagne glass of cold pineapple and coconut froth, white chocolate disks that gently melted in your mouth stuck like party favors on the ends of wooden sticks and tiny cones of ice cream poised in a glass of white sugar. All served in pairs, holding hands on the assorted plates; a Noah's Ark of confectionery. With this we enjoyed a sweet muscat, a wine famous in the region and served as an aperitif and digestif. It's very strong, dense and sweet but not to the point of cloying like some dessert wines can be.

We had a couple of 12 euro cafes and were ready for bed. Eating like that makes you sleepy. So we rolled ourselves home, thanking heaven we're in the South of France even though it's freezing cold like I hate, and tumbled into sweet dreams of plates of food, spinning around on silver trays, bow-tied waiters flitting in and around, pouring wine and presenting delights with a flourish.
Et voila!

ps funding provided by chez travaille for a job well done. merci!


  1. Oh geezzz is all I have to say! Sounds absolutely fabulous...really, great descriptions. Almost makes me want to get in my car, drive south, & book a table :) Maybe when the weather warms up, lol.
    You did a wonderful job with this post..felt like I was there having dinner with you, & I didn't even have to pay :) Thanks for getting my foodie dreams going!
    ps. And I'll be sure to save room for dessert - what a sweet feast, oo la lahhh

  2. That sounds fantastic. And foie gras, they really know how to do it. We had a caramel foie gras at one place, came out looking just like a creme caramel, but all the custard part was actually foie gras. With the caramel it was divine, and I'd have never thought to do that. They certainly give you new taste sensations.

  3. Tuula,
    there's no better compliment than that...thanks! it really is worth a try i have to say. deliciousness, and how often do we get to eat like that? have you ever been to a michelin starred restaurant before? it was my first, as you know.

    Caramel foie gras...i love salty and sweet together so that sounds really 'interesting' as my French friend always says. it is pretty incredible the things they do with food over here. and boy do i love it. jeans, snug.

    bon weekend,
    aidan x

  4. Yum. And depressing. After watching previews for the Victoria's Secret fashion show this past week in the US, I've decided to go on a diet. Before X-mas. But a little foie gras won't hurt? Right? Right?

  5. Samantha,
    Don't be depressed...just know I'm right there with you. All we have to do is jog a bit more. And really, those models?...don't you think they'd rather eat foie gras for a change!


  6. HEAVENLY!!! And I would love some of that crayfish bisque.
    Next time you get out sans enfants, check out Restaurant l'Olivier on Rue Aristide Ollivier, it's delicious!


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