September 1, 2015

A magical evening at La Chèvre D'Or - or where we finally had foam!

When I started researching our trip this year, I wanted to add in some "fine dining" to our itinerary. After a little research, it was clear that the destination was La Chèvre D'Or.

Sean and I both sold a kidney so we could afford to order the "tasting menu" at La Chèvre D'Or, a 2-star Michelin restaurant in the hilltop village of Eze, situated between Monaco and Nice. I'm just kidding about the kidneys, but it might be a future plan so I can experience this place again. Like tomorrow. In a word - OMG.

Our dinner reservation wasn't until 8:30, but we arrived around 7:00 PM so we could enjoy the magnificent views from the garden and an appertif from the terrace as the sun started to set. The views were amazing and the gardens did not disappoint. Apparently Walt Disney spent quite a bit of time in Eze and particularly loved the jardin boutanique.

Sean was particularly fond of this oversized chess set and I kind of had to drag him away from wanting to play a game.

The garden was terraced down the hillside with many picturesque stone steps, rod iron railings, fountains, sculpture and lots of bronze statues of animals. I suspect you could spend a couple of hours just wandering the grounds around the hotel.

The sun was starting to set, so we headed back up to the top of the hillside to enjoy the view from the terrace while drinking an appertif. Not wanting to blow our budget on our appertif (bottles of champagne started at around $350), Sean had a beer and I enjoyed an Apperol Spritz, seemingly a popular choice given the number of others I saw being served.

Soon it was time to be seated at our table. The dining room is small and intimate with approximately 10 tables, but each with a spectacular view of the sea.

This was the view from our table (we could see the "golden goat").

I'll add another one from later in the evening after the sun has set. The view truly was spectacular.

Now is the time you should stop reading if you don't want to overdose on my own version of food porn. I know it was tacky, but I took pictures of every course so I could remember forever this magical evening. And perhaps try and recreate the fantastic dishes at home. Did I mention we finally had foam? Sean has been teasing me for years that I have never made a culinary foam for a dish after watching many seasons of "Top Chef" and seeing various types of "foam" being served atop delectable dishes by the contestant Chefs. Loved the drawing on the menu.

Once we were seated, the sommelier approached us with the wine menu that was the size of an Encyclopedia Britannica. I was a little nervous about asking for his recommendation because I was afraid of the bill! What if he chose a wine that was $400? $1200? They had wines in that book that were thousands upon thousands of dollars. After a brief discussion about what we were planning to eat and our tastes in wine, he recommended a French pinot that was a "reasonable" 120 Euros per bottle. I might have swallowed just a little bit, but no coughing. Sean and I were joking around later saying we'll probably see that same bottle of wine at "Total Wine" for $12 per bottle. Hah! If so, I'm buying a couple of cases. It was really lovely; nice and light, dry and a bit fruity.

We had already decided before our arrival that we were going to order the chef's tasting menu. After all, we were dining in a 2-star Michelin restaurant and we wanted to experience dishes we would not normally order. I won't share the price with you per person because my Dad will be reading this and I want him to continue to live for a long time and not choke on his coffee or have a heart attack, so we'll just leave that detail out. I will disclose that I have never spent this much money in my life for a meal, but I will say absolutely it was worth it and when can I go back?

Our first course was the "amuse bouche" (a starter to "amuse" our palettes). Starting from the red bite in the left corner, it was something creamy and cheesy? with some kind of tomato coating; almost like freeze-dried; but it completely melted in your mouth. The "cone" was made out of phyllo dough and filled with some kind of spinach and topped with a creamed "something delicious" and the last one was something creamy on a parmesan shortbread. Horrible descriptions I know, but it's kind of a blur now.

They had the most creative way to serve some of the dishes. It's hard to see in the photo, but there was an outer ring, then a small plate that was placed inside the ring and then lifted out using a specially designed fork (there are two tiny holes on the plate) to whisk it away. Ingenious!

The service was amazing. We wanted for nothing. I loved the little glass domes that covered each course and like a well-rehearsed symphony were lifted away at the same time. (This wasn't our dish, but I found a photo on the internet so you could see how cute they were). I'm pretty sure I need some of these cute little glass domes.

Oh, I almost forgot about the bread. They offered us a selection of warm breads, which included a mini baguette, a roll that looked like a cinnamon roll made out of croissant pastry, but instead of cinnamon and sugar filling, was filled with olive tapenade (that was my favorite) and some other kind of roll that neither of us tried.

Our next course was a vegetable medley of both raw and cooked vegetables (served cold) atop a delicious puree of eggplant, then topped (from a cute little white pitcher) with an aged Barolo vinegar. Divine.

Our next course was the only one that I didn't really love. It was a Scottish bay prawn that might have been raw served atop a gelée of some kind; then a dollop of some famous caviar. I tried caviar for the first time in high school at the insistence of my English teacher Mr. Bumstead during a Shakespeare course and I disliked it then, so this was definitely something I would not have ordered. But I did try it and I ate most of the prawn and gelée, but only a smidge of the caviar.

This next course was divine and I completely forgave the chef for feeding me fish eggs. It was a sautéed zucchini flower stuffed with goat cheese, oregano, lemon confit and served atop a tomato coulis.

Our view continues to take my breath away. We noticed one of the yachts below had a disco ball of sorts on - must be party night on his boat!

Our next course was a wild Mediterranean sea bream (similar to a sea bass) that was poached in lemon oil, served with pureed celeriac (which tasted kind of like a pureed parsnip, but sweeter), and a cream made from a Japanese citrus fruit (unsure the name) that was heavenly; on the side is an Oyster ravioli. This dish was worthy of licking the plate. I seriously did not want to leave anything behind.

This might be the point in our meal when we said "what the hell" and ordered another bottle of that delicious French pinot.

Now here's where our food went from fabulous to "I think I just felt the earth move." Marinated and pan fried foie gras served atop a fig compote and artichoke ravioli with parmesan foam. Foam! It was incredible. Simply divine. So yummy, so yummy, there's a party in my tummy!

This next course made Sean practically sing opera at the table. As a side note, our wait staff were really getting a kick out of us Americans. Our enjoyment of our meal was written all over our faces and they were cracking jokes and laughing right along with us. We even got a "that's what she said" joke from one of our attendants. This is in stark contrast to the diners behind us who barely ate any of their food and wanted to make changes to each dish they ordered. They clearly were not having "the best meal of their lives."

This next dish was milk-fed smoked and grilled lamb chop served with lemon confit, roasted fig and a delectable little spicy pork sausage. There was some kind of creamy sauce atop the fig, but unsure what it was. On the side was a bowl of a cold chickpea soup with some deliciousness with it that I forgot to take a picture of. I wanted to pick up the little bowl and drink it -- it was that good. And whatever sauce that was on the plate I wanted to lick clean as well. Seriously YUM! Probably the best lamb I've ever had. Where do I buy milk-fed lamb? Sean is wondering why I never roast figs. So. darned. good.

Next up, a delightful little bite of goat cheese that was slightly sweet, served atop a compote of olives with fresh olive oil poured on top. They must use a lot of tweezers in the kitchen to so perfectly garnish these cute little plates. I thought there was also something with the olives on the bottom - something fruity, but I can't remember.

Now we're "transitioning" to dessert. This was a vanilla sorbet on top of a fruit compote; not sure what kind of fruit - fig? The sorbet was creamy like a gelato and really, really, good.

This dessert just blew us away. Roasted cherries, with a layer of white chocolate, pistachios and mini little meringues. And something saucy - maybe a cherry reduction. Sublime. So good I wanted a huge bowl of it to take home. I loved the different textures of the soft cherries with the nuts and meringues. So clever.  And it was beautiful. I love beautiful food.

Sadly, we're just about done. We were both very full, but not in a bad way. Definitely satisfied and stuffed. Just when we thought we were actually done, they rolled over a dessert cart with delectable little chocolates. I forgot to take a picture of these little heavenly bites, but I had a dark chocolate mint bite and Sean had a lemon one at their insistence. Apparently we could have tried as many as we wanted (I think there were about a dozen varieties) but we were both too full to really indulge ourselves in more than one. It was the perfect ending to a spectacular meal.

We both had an espresso and marveled at what just took place. So lovely. Truly the most spectacular evening and one I shall never forget. Sean said he felt "ravished". It was worth every single penny and an experience I hope to share with others in the future. To quote Arnold, "I'll be back."

À bientôt!