June 23, 2001
Dinner started with an absolutely incredible tomato aspic with a cherry tomato buried in it. It had a combination of different flavors -- salty, sweet, tart all at once -- that was startling in a good way. Next was a big ravioli filled with a puree of very sweet peas, the sweetest I've ever had. The first fish course was a perfectly browned piece of sea bass (or sea perch) served with chanterelle mushrooms and verbena butter. Verbena is an herb with a lemony taste. I thought is was delicious, but my husband associates verbena with soap, so this was a problem for him. He loved the next course, which was shrimp grilled on an edible skewer (a raw Chinese noodle, I think) accompanied by sweet new fingerling potatoes. The main course was half a pigeon taken out of the oven at the nanosecond that it was done. It was perfect.
Then the show began. The cheese cart was wheeled over, and we chose from perhaps 30 different cheeses. The waiter was very good about explaining the characteristics of any we asked about. I ended up asking for a fresh creamy goat cheese, a strong runny cheese and a semi-hard Pyrenees style, which gave me a broad selection. Then came a pre-dessert of caramel cake with fresh raspberries. Then a large silver bowl of a variety of thin, crisp cookies. Then the fruit cart arrived, and we were allowed to choose from about 15 different fresh and cooked fruits. These were arranged artfully on the plate, and then the waiter made a design with fruit puree and creme fraiche. After the fruit cart came the pastry cart, and we were allowed to choose as many pastries as we wanted. Of course, by this point we were pretty full, so decorum was not all that limited us to two or three apiece. And there was more. We were also presented with a choice of about ten flavors of ice cream and sorbet as the next course. Finally, we were given a plate of candies and little pastries with our coffee. Whew. It was quite a meal.
In my opinion, all was wonderful until the parade of dessert carts. Then it went over the top and started to resemble a Vegas buffet, just too much of a good thing. Nevertheless, it was a meal to remember. Service was perfect, the room was elegant. And the best thing was that when we were done, we could just walk upstairs to our room and collapse.
From journal Learning French in Roanne