Special Sub-Topic: Deciphering the menu
|The first course started with an 'Amuse Bouche'. What does 'Amuse Bouche' mean?|
Mouth amuser. That's right. Amuse Bouche literally translates from French to 'mouth amuser'. Basically, it's a bite-sized hors d'oeuvre chosen by the chef, not the person ordering the food. It is served at the start of a meal to excite the tastebuds and prepare the diner for the style of the food to follow.
In this case, my 'amuse bouche' was a teeny tiny piece of bocconcini cheese, a small piece of what I think was some sort of olive puree which tasted more like basil flavoured icecream (without the cream), some truffle crumbled onto the plate (in fact it just looked like dirt) and, the only recognisable thing on the plate, a roasted cherry tomato.
Luckily, I made the right assumption in that I wasn't about to eat a funny looking small tree!
|The next course was 'warm vichyssoise, pont l'evêque en croute, brussels sprouts and truffle'. Ok, I get that vichyssoise is potato & leek soup, that truffle is very expensive fungus, and brussel sprouts - well we all know what those are. But what the heck is 'pont l'evêque en croute'?|
Cheese on a cracker. This was seriously the best soup (sorry, vichyssoise) I have ever tasted. I could have eaten a bucket of the stuff (in fact when I told this to the waiter, he offered to serve up the same thing for each of the following courses!).
'Pont l'evêque' is a kind of French cheese, which looks similar to Brie, or Camembert. 'Croute' is literally translated from French as 'crust'.
The cracker was extremely thin and topped with one (yes, one) leaf of a brussels sprout, some crumbled truffle and an impossibly thin slice of something on top (the origins of which I am unsure). I'm also unsure where the cheese came into it, I think that might have been it underneath the cracker, sticking it to the edge of the bowl.
The idea was to dip the cracker (with topping) into the soup (sorry, vichyssoise) then eat it. YUM! Only thing was, there was more soup (sorry, vichyssoise) than cracker and, as my husband said I wasn't allowed to pick up the bowl and drink from it, I had to use a spoon. But I didn't get a soup spoon?! Oh no, shock horror! I had to use a dessert spoon. Imaging the 'tut tuts' from the chef when told I had used the wrong cutlery!
|As I don't eat seafood, both my husband and I had different entrees. He had the 'Kingfish, giant cous cous with bisque and crab, curry leaf scented yoghurt'. This was served with a Pinot Noir wine. Which of the following wines is the Pinot Noir grape NOT used in?|
Muscat. Pinot Noir is a black grape used in both still and sparkling wines and used in blends with both red and white varieties, as well as on its own.
The Pinot Noir we had was a rosé. Pinot wines are apparently among the most popular in the world. It was served in a very small glass, but it wasn't too bad to drink and was a very pretty colour.
|I loved my entrée. It was absolutely stunning and I hated letting my husband share with me. I had the 'confit chicken croquette, pear relish, radish and frissé salad'. I had a bit of a chuckle when it was put in front of me. Why was I laughing at my 'chicken croquette'?|
It was basically a chicken nugget (with some filler). A croquette is a small fried food roll often encased in breadcrumbs.
Now, if that doesn't describe a chicken nugget, I don't really know what does.
My husband and I discussed whether our son would like having 'chicken croquette' served up to him instead of 'chicken nuggets'. His answer when we asked him the next morning? "I'll have the chicken nuggets thanks Mum".
|The main course was 'Braised lamb neck, barigoule, radicchio'. Lamb neck? Radicchio? Ok, I'll try those (with only a bit of trepidation). But I'm not sure about this barigoule. What is the main ingredient in barigoule?|
Artichoke. The actual menu read 'Braised lamb neck, artichoke barigoule, radicchio'.
Barigoule seems to relate to artichoke. It is either 'slow roasted artichoke topped with bacon and vegetables' and/or 'artichokes that have been braised with white wine and vegetables'. Quite a strong taste, but not unpleasant.
Served with a Shiraz to drink, quite a pleasant combination.
By the way, the lamb neck was fantastic! It seemed to melt in the mouth, an amazing experience by someone who generally cooks meat until it is a nice shade of charcoal on the outside!
|Next course was our refresher: a sorbet. I always thought sorbet was kind of like icecream, but without the cream part. I wasn't too far off but one of the ingredients in this sorbet I had never heard of before: tonka bean. What the? After doing some research, I have found that this interesting bean can be quite lethal in large doses. Why is that?|
Its seeds contain an anticoagulant. The seeds of the Tonka bean contain coumarin, an anticoagulant used in blood thinning drugs such as warfarin.
Its fragrance is similar to vanilla, almonds and cloves. It is used as a substitute for vanilla, perfume, and used to be in tobacco until banned in some countries.
Tonka bean and lime sorbet: the verdict? Different. It wasn't horrible but it wasn't nice either. It kind of left the aftertaste of toilet freshener in my mouth.
|Next was the cheese dish. 'Gorgonzola, thyme crostini, dehydrated grapes'. Ok now, Gorgonzola is cheese. Dehydrated grapes are sultanas, right? Apparently not. Thyme is a herb, but what are crostini?|
A thin piece of crispy toast. Crostini literally translates to 'little toasts' in Italian. They are made by thinly slicing bread and toasting or grilling it until it becomes crispy.
Thyme crostini = 'little toast' with thyme. Not too bad, if there was enough there for me to have more than a nibble I could actually have tasted something. Dehydrated grapes seem to be half-way between a grape and a sultana. Not dry, but not full of moisture either.
Our cheese was served with an Iced Riesling. Very cold, very strong, but very nice.
|Lastly, we have dessert. Something I was looking forward to all night. 'Prune & Armagnac tart, honey fig icecream'. I was a bit put off by prune, as I have always known it as an 'old persons' food, but it was pretty good. The honey and fig icecream was nice too, especially considering that honey and fig aren't on my list of foods I generally eat. The one I was confused about though, was the Armagnac. What on earth is Armagnac?|
A French brandy. Armagnac is produced in the Armagnac region in Gascony, France. It is distilled from wine and made from a blend of grapes using column stills, instead of pot stills (as used when producing Cognac). It is then aged in oak barrels.
The tart was warm and, with the cold icecream, was a delicious end to a lovely evening of food. The only part I didn't like was the accompanying Muscat. It was very strong and burnt the back of my throat so much it took me back to my teenage years when I drank an entire bottle of Vodka in one sitting. Boy was my throat sore the next day!
|Now, after all this amazing food we have just eaten, I have asked my husband to take me back to this restaurant so we can try some other things on the menu (I have even brought a menu home with me so I can decide in advance what I would like to try next). I think next time I will try the 'Braised duck "Quatre Epices", poached lettuce, quince, duck bolognaise'. Sounds like an interesting combination. One thing I am uncertain of is the 'Quatre Epices'. Does this mean that my duck will be cut into four pieces?|
N. Quatre Epices is a spice mix used in mainly French and Middle Eastern cooking and literally means 'four spices'. It is made up of ground pepper (either black, white, or both), cloves, ginger and nutmeg, but sometimes using either cinnamon or allspice instead of the pepper. So, I am assuming the duck will be cooked in this mixture and used either topping the bolognaise or in the bolognaise.
The quince is an interesting ingredient as well. I have just learned that quince is related to apples and pears and, when ripe, is a golden, pear-shaped fruit. I am guessing this is used to sweeten and take away from the spiciness that will come from the duck "Quatre Epices".
I am unsure of eating 'poached lettuce' though. My experience with lettuce is that if you don't keep it cold, it goes yucky very quickly.
|The dish that I know my husband will try next time is the 'Oxtail pithivier, cauliflower puree, orange and juniper juice'. It all sounds nice but can you tell me what 'oxtail pithivier' is?|
Oxtail pie. My husband's oxtail pithivier' will come as a pie.
A pithivier is made of puff pastry and is a round, enclosed pie. The pie is finished with a shine either by brushing with egg or by caramelising a thin layer of sugar at the end of the cooking process.
Generally speaking though, a pithivier is usually filled with a sweet frangipane (an almond flavoured custard-like filling) but occasionally can be used for savoury foods such as meats or cheeses.
It is thought that the 'pithivier' originates from Pithiviers, in France.
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