Tag Archives: French restaurant

Fleurie, Charlottesville

Spending one night in Charlottesville, Virginia didn’t leave us much time to explore – so we headed straight downtown to check out the bustling pedestrian mall and see the sights before dinner.

Charlottesville downtown pedestrian mall

Charlottesville downtown founding fathers

Charlottesville chalk

Charlottesville City Hall had installed a huge chalk wall for the public to celebrate the First Amendment of the US Constitution. We took a moment to exercise our freedom of speech – or freedom to doodle!

Charlottesville chalk writing

Then we hit the shops! I was so happy to come across Caspari’s American outpost (the other is in Paris). I used to shop their products at Partridge’s in London – and this was my first visit to their bricks and mortar store.

Where interior design inspiration abounds!

Charlottesville Caspari store

Charlottesville Caspari dining

Charlottesville Caspari showroom

My little head was on a swivel – so many ways to beautify a home!

Charlottesville Caspari dining table setting

Charlottesville Caspari shelving

I had to stop and coo over these preppy dog accessories – and ponder the question ,“Exactly when will we ever get a puppy?”

Charlottesville Caspari dog accessories collars

As the shops shuttered up for the evening, we traipsed down to dinner at a little French bistro called Fleurie.

Charlottesville Fleurie entrance

Fleurie Charlottesville patio terrace outdoor al fresco dining

The perfect quiet little spot to dine al fresco in downtown Charlottesville!

Charlottesville Fleurie cheers drinks

Fleurie Sip Drink Cocktail Final

Chilled Tomato Soup with salmon rillette

Chilled Tomato Soup with salmon rillette

Lobster Bisque with tarragon

Lobster Bisque with tarragon

Gnocchi, Bleu d'Auvergne Fondue, sweet pecans, cherry tomatoes

Gnocchi, Bleu d’Auvergne Fondue, sweet pecans, cherry tomatoes

Herb Crusted Halibut, summer squashes, white wine sauce

Herb Crusted Halibut, summer squashes, white wine sauce

Wolf Creek Grass-fed Beef Sirloin, Gnocchi Parisienne, Leeks, Bordelaise

Wolf Creek Grass-fed Beef Sirloin, Gnocchi Parisienne, leeks, Bordelaise

I’ve been mostly steering clear of sugar and gluten this summer, but when I’m out at a nice restaurant all rules fly out the window.

Not one to be put off by an imminent sugar crash, it was time for dessert…

Vanilla Bean Créme Brulée

Vanilla Bean Créme Brulée

Peach Pithier, Raspherries, Vanilla Ice Cream

Peach Pithier, raspberries, vanilla ice cream

Petit Fours: Chocolate hazelnut truffles, Lemon meringue tarts, Cherry financiers

Petit Fours: Chocolate hazelnut truffles, Lemon meringue tarts, Cherry financiers

lemon_tart

Summer nights like these are the sweetest!

London Spring & Wedding Rings

This Saturday in London started off with some essential wedmin – picking out wedding bands!

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The visit to the jeweler, and actually trying on the ring, was a rather heady experience.

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My favorite bit was picking out the engraving for the inside of the band!

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I was not expecting wedding band shopping to be so exciting but I was breathless and floating above the sidewalk afterwards. We had a long walk to lunch, so I gulped down a coconut water to hydrate for the journey.

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We strolled along the Thames, all the way down to Westminster, where we passed beneath all the spring blossoms outside of Parliament.

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Everything seemed to be coming up daisies!

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We had lunch at a wonderful French restaurant, Casse-Croûte on Bermondsey Street. The name means “snacks”, which is exactly what we were looking for after our grueling cross-city hike.

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Utterly charming inside and out, we shared a tiny checkered tabletop by the cafe-curtained window.

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As London is now France’s sixth largest city (due to the sheer amount of Frenchies living here), I think this place is as authentic a tiny local French cafe as any other on the continent!

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Dandelion salad with lardons and soft egg

Dandelion salad with lardons and soft egg

Quail with tabouleh and frisee

Quail with tabouleh and frisee

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We listened to French radio playing softly as we dined. It was such an authentic and timeless experience!

Côte de boeuf

Côte de boeuf

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Gratin

Gratin

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A nice bottle of wine, and an incredible plate of steak made the perfect late Saturday lunch. We had to walk off our meal afterwards, so we ambled up to Tower Bridge (stopping for some cliché local photo opps along the way)!

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Cutting through the Tower of London on our walk back along the river, we marvelled at the medieval history underfoot.

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After a full day of zealous exploration, we prowled back home to West London, feeling like cats who got the cream.

 

A Pressing Matter: Otto’s Duck à la Presse

When I became engaged, my French mother-in-law offered her heartfelt congratulations, and said with relief “I’m just so glad my son is not marrying a vegetarian!”

The French love their meat, in some cases to extremes. I, on the other hand, have my boundaries. But last night’s dinner really pushed the limits of my culinary comfort zone.

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The French recipe for Canard de Rouen à la Presse, principally crushing a cooked duck carcass in a silver press, is a bit barbaric. But as gourmand bucket-lists go, it’s a dish every foodie must see prepared and taste once in their life.

Pressed duck is the epitome of decadence, involving a complex and careful process which takes over an hour to prepare – mostly in front of the customer. And it goes without saying, that you’d better like duck, as there are three courses of it!

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The ducks are sourced from the House Burgaud in Challans who for nearly 60 years have exclusively supplied these precious ducks to the Tour d’Argent Restaurant in Paris. Otto worked there as a young chef in 1976, where he learned to prepare this celebrated dish – one of the most spectacular in the classic French repertoire.

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As the duck is escorted away to the roasting pan, Otto gets to work on the sauce, reducing red wine, port and cognac (plus, a little pyrotechnics thrown in for good measure)!

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While the sauce simmers, we ordered an appetizer to share – the sea urchin soufflé. Sea urchins are tricky little creatures; they grow on exposed rocks and must be hand-harvested by scuba divers. The best ones dwell in rougher seas, making them very dangerous for the divers to hunt down. They have a spiked spiny shell, but inside they are delicious! Incorporating them into a soufflé with a little bit of saffron? Well, that’s just sheer shellfish virtuosity!

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Meanwhile, Otto has brought up the roasted, finely chopped duck liver and is stirring it into the red wine reduction. Once the liver has thickened the sauce, the bits are strained out and served to us on a crouton, accompanied by a shot of 15-year-old Madeira.

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The duck is roasted to rare and carried to the table where thin slices are cut from the breasts, and the legs removed. The rest of the carcass is pressed in the special screw press.

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A crowd gathered round to watch my strapping dinner date turn the press, extracting all the juices and nutrients from the bone marrow.

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The juices obtained from the press are incorporated into the reduced cognac and liver sauce, thickened with stock, and poured over the slices of breast which finish cooking in the sauce.

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Completing the duck trifecta was the final course, grilled leg of duck with wild mushrooms, mustard and breadcrumbs.

One look at this, and it was clear I would be waddling home like a duck myself.

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Just one parting glass of France’s finest before heading home…

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Otto’s was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience – a treat to watch, and (ooh-la-la!) flavors that leave your mouth panging with food euphoria! If you’d like to try the Canard à la Press at Otto’s, you must book in advance – leaving you with plenty of time to anticipate this magnifique meal!