After a long day of riding around Paris, tasting the best oysters, bread, pastries, pâté and chocolates we could find, we warmed up back at my friends' apartment, then headed out to our dinner reservation at Pierre Gagnaire. He's an unbelievably creative chef, and I make it a point to dine there every year, so I was excited to see what he was up to this fall.
As soon as we entered the dining room, we were greeted by the warm smell of a pink peppercorn candle. Gagnaire knows just how to set the tone. There was a little bit of jazz playing on low volume, and other than that the dining room was superquiet. At Gagnaire, you know that people are there for just the food. We decided on a tasting menu and just let him cook what he wanted us to eat. Our first course was a crushing tour de force of amuses bouche, at least 12 different items at once, from raw to cooked and back to raw again, including a perfect bite of tuna, beets and cèpes.
Every plate was a representation of the chef's sensibility, the ideal blend of the French and Japanese aesthetics. The dinner flew by as if part of a dream. Even within the context of a perfect meal, there were a few standouts, like poached Japanese mackerel with mustard seeds; a roasted squab served with Savoy cabbage, morels, goat's milk and seaweed; and a chocolate tart that had a perfectly brûléed crust and was garnished with about 20 tiny fraises des bois (wild strawberries).
As tasting menu participants, we let the sommelier choose glasses of wine to complement each course. Although, unfortunately, I was not keeping careful tabs on each glass he poured, I do remember, and will always remember, the combination of a Côte-Rôtie and the squab dish. Such a perfect pairing is arresting, an opportunity to stop and take a moment and realize how rare and wonderful a perfect pairing can be. I think of it as creating a story in your mouth, and that's what happened for me that night in Paris.
Dan Jaworek — Chicago — January 29, 2007 2:18pm ET
Mark Francone — CA — January 30, 2007 1:18pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — January 31, 2007 1:15pm ET
David Myers — February 2, 2007 2:21pm ET
David Myers — February 5, 2007 10:29am ET
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