With my wife, we are back in the Paris region. The garden has suffered, plants are under hydration while televisions show areas devastated by torrential rains. Climate madness joins the madness of government instructions to deal with the pandemic. The world is nervous.
Just after the day of our arrival, I have lunch at the Taillevent restaurant to prepare the menu for the 244th dinner which will be held there in four days. It was a dinner that was scheduled for March, just a week after Covid lockdown began. It is planned this week. The Taillevent restaurant having a new chef, Jocelyn Herland, who has worked in great restaurants, including Le Meurice, I want to study his cuisine to prepare with him the menu for the next dinner.
In my mind, I was considering having lunch alone. An organizer of trips to France for foreigners wanted to meet me. Why not have lunch together? A regular at my dinners wanted to see me again after these months of barrier distances, why not include her in this lunch? The instigator of the 244th dinner having known that I was making this lunch of exploration of the chef’s cuisine asks me if he can follow my step, why not be four instead of one? The table is set up.
I arrive at the restaurant at 10:30 am to open the wines I have planned for lunch, which also allows me to deliver the wines for the dinner which will be held four days later. By the way, I note that the discipline of wearing a mask is very strongly respected. The opening of the wines is done without my usual tools but with less efficient backup tools. The corks do break, but I manage to collect the crumbs and broken pieces without them falling in the wines. The openings being made, I have time to go and greet the members of the Pages restaurant teams, all smiling and ready to bring Parisian gastronomy back to life.
The lunch table at the Taillevent restaurant is taking shape and we start with a Bérêche & Fils Champagne, Les Beaux Regards Chardonnay disgorged in 2012. The champagne arrives a little warm and, oddly enough, this does not take away the slightest hint of its charm. The nose is intense and marine. The word that comes to mind is: « wild » followed by the word « salt ». This champagne is extremely tense, with a rare personality. Anastasia who brought it from the cellar tells me this is the last bottle of this date of disgorgement. We feast on this vibrant and authentic champagne, marine and salty but above all « wild ». I have an idea that this champagne could advantageously cooperate with the white wine that I brought, the Coulée de Serrant Savennières Madame A. Joly 1970. It is one of the five white wines crowned by Curnonsky, the Prince of Gastronomes, a wine that improves dramatically with age. Its color is pronounced honey, its scent is noble and the purity of its message is extreme. It takes you to territories of tastes that are seldom explored. Drunk alone he is lively and noble. It will change little when paired with champagne, whereas champagne on the other hand becomes much larger when drunk right after Loire wine.
The gougères are as good as ever, the artichoke leaf accompanied by a little cream is ideal for Madame Joly’s wine, while the crunchy little tart goes better with champagne.
We order all different dishes so that I can nibble at other guests’ dishes to get an idea of Jocelyn Herland’s cuisine. My menu will be: wild mushrooms, chestnuts and watercress / breast of lamb Allaiton, artichokes, bulgur and sweet spices. The friends will take lobster sausages, foie gras, a filet of Saint-Pierre and a mallard duck, dishes in which I will take samples at the source, as Bercy does with our taxes. Clos de la Coulée de Serrant is a perfect accompaniment to mushrooms and rather well to lobster. It is a strict wine, of great dignity, which appeals to the intellect to be fully enjoyed. He is tall.
I opened a 1964 Aloxe-Corton Charles Viénot three hours ago. The nose at the opening was a bit ungrateful and uncertain. It is now glorious and much more potent than one would expect from its appellation. The wine is rich and wildly Burgundian, as wild as champagne was earlier. I love this expression of Burgundy, peasant, earthy, with harsh evocations. It is divine on the remarkably executed lamb back.
For dessert, I brought a Tokaji Aszu Eszencia 1988. At first glance, the crêpe Suzette is not the spontaneous friend of this wine, but we choose this dessert, for pure greediness. And the harmony happens to be between the acidity of the orange and the indecent mellowness of this lustful beverage. This Tokaji is pure happiness.
Discussions went well between the four of us, none knowing all the other three. It was a cheerful lunch. The wines, all different, were brilliant. My heart will go to Aloxe-Corton, whose glass with the very concentrated bottom of the bottle has proved to be of exciting richness.
Immediately afterwards, with Baudoin Arnould the director, Jocelyn Herland the chef and Anastasia, head of the sommellerie, we put together the menu for the next dinner. We each have different backgrounds and different tastes but we have come to a synthesis that I hope promises a nice 244th dinner.
(the pictures of this lunch can be seen accompanying the report in French, just below)