To celebrate the end of summer and beginning of harvest season our bailliage met for an evening of countryside dining in the French style. A relaxed repast with rustic ambiance was to make for an occasion of warmth and camaraderie. Our location was the long established restaurant La Petite France overseen by owner and Chef Daniele Crandall for over twenty years. Her native French heritage shows through in the proudly traditional cuisine of sophisticated simplicity where enjoyment and fulfillment takes precedence over the latest trends.
We started our gathering with a trio of hors d’oevres and champagne. Each bite provided a sense of comfort and surprise with scallops in pastry and tiny onion tarts as standouts. The salty flageolets on bruschetta made for a great contrast with the Gosset-Brabant NV, one of many delightful petite châteaux that can be found by those looking past the famous labels for lesser known cuvées of distinction.
For our first seated course the staff presented duck terrine with a refreshing garnish of spinach and balsamic reduction. The terrine had a mysterious spicy quality and slightly chewy texture redolent of cuisine de pays. Daniele revealed her secret ingredient of Grand Marnier, which added a wonderful complexity to the flavors. This was accompanied by Meursault-Charmes 2001 from Boyer-Martenot exhibiting a warm oaky nose. Rich mouthfeel providing balance to crisp fruit and acidity harmonized nicely with the terrine as well as the course to follow. We next were served a seafood salad in a beautiful presentation where a tomato was carved and hollowed out to make a handled basket. This artful container rested on salad greens and was completed with a ribbon bow of green onion on top. The imaginative look was matched by the sumptuous combination of seafood and egg yolks in the dijonnaise.
Our fish course came in the form of ruby red trout fillets with black truffle and crab stuffing topped by sherry butter. With honeyed praline carrots adding a sweet note, the combination of trout and crab flavors was outstanding. We moved to red Burgundy for the trout, in this case a Chambolle-Musigny 2001 from Arlaud. Its youthful indolence came through with notes of cherry pit, full fruit, and heavy oak tannins dominating the finish. This wine may have some time to reach its peak but was well met with the fish.
Our classic menu continued to the meat course featuring grilled lamb chops with mashed Peruvian potatoes and grilled asparagus. Simple and elegant combinations were realized here, where the natural tenderness of the lamb matched nicely with the smooth flavorful potato. Grilling the asparagus added a smoky caramelized note to make this often difficult vegetable an easy match for fine wine. No classic French meal should miss having a Bordeaux, and we were lucky to have a fabulous example. The 2000 vintage is famously regarded and though most are considered too young, our selection of Alter Ego de Palmer 2000 proved a great choice. Made by the renowned Château Palmer, whose claret became all the rage in London clubs by the 1830’s and pioneered the modern wine market in England, Alter Ego de Palmer as their second label is blended with a greater amount of merlot to bring out softness, finesse, and intense fruitiness – the hallmarks of Château Palmer’s terroir – even when young. Its beautiful, deep red color, full-fledged bouquet with overtones of black fruit, spice, leather, and smokiness set the stage for the wine’s broad, generous structure. On the palate, a velvety, mouthfilling texture with ripe fruit overlaid discreet notes of vanilla and oak. Soft richness was perfectly balanced with fresh acidity, resulting in a long and powerful finish.
Daniele has made desserts based on old home recipes for years and, rather than limit herself to one, served us a sampler of three of her best-loved dishes. Almond charlotte, apple filled tarte tatin, and marquis au chocolat shared the plate and the variety of flavors and textures amused our senses to a satisfying conclusion. Hearty congratulations go to Daniele Crandall and her chef Antony Lemarca for a job well done!
J.T. Mayer, Vice Chargé de Presse