Thursday, 7 April 2011

An Anniversary Treat

April 6th is a special day for Christelle and me, as it was the day we first got together all those years ago on Fraser Island in Australia. It may have been an alcohol-fuelled beginning to our relationship, but even then there was something much deeper that has kept us together ever since.

Chris enjoying our dinner
This year marked our 6th year as a couple. When I look back over our time together, it is remarkable to see just how big an impact Chris has had on my life; if it weren't for her I would not be in Switzerland now, for example, nor would I be impatiently awaiting the birth of my first child.

It has been an exciting journey full of ups and downs (mostly ups, fortunately), but I have the feeling that the real journey will begin when the little one comes out to meet us in the very near future.
We decided to treat ourselves to a meal in a nice restaurant for our anniversary, which would also be the last restaurant meal as a mere "couple" before the baby arrives (after which the romance might be somewhat disturbed by the presence of a screaming child flinging food everywhere).

We chose to book a table at Les Chevreuils, a restaurant we know well - it was where we held the reception after our wedding in 2009.

I should point out at this time that Les Chevreuils is not a cheap restaurant. Anyone who is just looking for a quick bite to eat or a nice steak would have better to try somewhere else (for meat I would recommend the Auberge d'Etagnières). Instead, this is closer to fine dining than to a simple restaurant meal.

We had not been back there since our wedding, and walking into the restaurant brought back memories of what was a very special evening for us. As we sat down at our table, we couldn't help but notice that the room had not changed at all - the decoration was pretty much as it was when we were last there, which helped us to reminisce about our wedding day.

The waiter asked us if we would like an appetizer to start our evening, and before he had even finished his sentence Chris asked him whether they still had the wine that was served as a welcome drink to our guests during our reception. Fortunately, they did - the sparkling red wine, called Fragolino, was just as delicious as in 2009, and made a great start to our anniversary dinner.

Well, it is amuse-ing...
This was followed by an amuse bouche, which was a cauliflower purée with mushrooms and a green pesto coulis, served in little glasses. I was not convinced by my first spoonful of this little appetizer, but by the time I finished my glass I found that I really appreciated it. The strong initial taste was the cauliflower, followed by a punch of mushroom that slowly disappears on the palate. Very nice indeed.

Chris wasn't quite as happy as I was with the amuse bouche, although she did managed to finish her glass. This little appetizer was improved by the accompaniment of a crusty, home-baked bread roll, which to me was as tasty as the amuse bouche itself.

The very helpful and attentive waiter also proposed to serve me a different glass of wine with the starter and the main course I chose. He made excellent choices - although I can't remember what the wines actually were (only that one was white and the other was red), they both went superbly well with the food on my plates.

Getting back to the food, I think I would be right to say that the menu at Les Chevreuils is for somewhat refined tastes. That is to say, it would not please everyone. You only need to read the choice of starters to understand what I mean by this: a vegetable mix, snails, frogs legs or foie gras. I can see most people opting for the vegetable dish when looking at that list, which is exactly what Chris did. I, on the other hand, decided to try the foie gras.
The foie gras - delicious
To be honest, I made exactly the right decision. The foie gras, served with golden apple slices in a pear coulis and caramelized almond flakes, was exceptional. I have never tasted anything quite like it; I was hesitant about the mixture of salty foie gras and sweet maple syrup, but it was absolutely delightful.
I think I annoyed Chris a bit with my frequent "mmmm"-ing after each bite, but I couldn't help it as I enjoyed this starter immensely. I would heartily recommend it to everyone, and would happily have this again next time I come here. 

Vegetables and ice cream
- a marriage made in heaven?
...or hell?
Chris, unfortunately, enjoyed her starter much less than I did. She chose the Sabayon de légumes au galanga, glace au céleri-pomme, which was vegetables in a lemongrass-flavoured mixture, topped with a celery-apple ice cream. Chris doesn't like celery, so that probably didn't help, but even so the dish was not particularly pleasant to eat.

Imagine eating a lump of ice cream with vegetables, and this is what Chris did. After trying a bit of her starter, I was even more satisfied with my choice of foie gras, which I'm pretty sure I said to Chris at the time, much to her annoyance. 

Beef, veg and potatoes
Having thoroughly enjoyed my starter, I couldn't wait for the main course to arrive. I chose Tournedos de bœuf de nos alpages, rosace de pommes de terre, bouquet de légumes. This roughly translates as pieces of local beef with potatoes and vegetables. 

Fairly traditional-sounding food, but served in a posh restaurant style (as you can see from the photo). The accompanying sauce made the dish work for me, and I once again enjoyed my selection. It wasn't as good as the foie gras, but was still a very nice plate of food. 

Scallops and sausages
(there were two shells,
only one shown in the pic)
After her disappointing starter, Chris could be forgiven for having some reservations about her main course choice of Papet de saint-jacques et saucisson vaudois, mousse à la champenoise, or scallops and Vaudois sausage (a speciality in our Canton) with a champagne foam. 

We have tried scallops in the past, notably in a restaurant in Mexico and an attempt at cooking them ourselves whilst living in England, and have never fully understood why all the top chefs and critics are so in love with the rubbery little things.

This time was different, however, as Chris really enjoyed it. She must have been relieved after not being seduced by the amuse bouche and the disappointment of her vegetables and ice cream, and she happily finished her plate.

In keeping with my own tradition, I chose the assortment of cheeses for my dessert. I always pick the cheese plate for dessert when I see it on menus in restaurants; I don't know why, I just like cheese.

Chocolate delight
Chris opted for the Moelleux au chocolat pur Caraïbe, glace aux noix de pécan caramélisées, coulis de caramel au beurre salé, which was a chocolate fondant with caramelized pecan-flavoured ice cream and a caramel coulis. It looked good on the plate, presented in a kind of MasterChef-style way with a smudge of caramel to decorate the plate.

I could tell from her face that she enjoyed her dessert, and the empty plate showed the same thing. For her it was an excellent end to a satisfying meal. 

Cracking cheese Gromit!
...or not, as the case may be
However, this time I was the one who was left disappointed - my assortment of cheese, although nicely presented on a black slate and served with more of the delicious crusty bread - could easily have come from the local shop. It consisted of slices of roquefort, gruyere, camembert and epoisses. 

I did not find any of these cheeses particularly tasty, apart from the roquefort. In fact, I actually left the majority of the camembert on my plate, something that I would never normally do.

Technically this was
our 5th course!
After dessert I ordered a coffee which was served accompanied by a plate with 3 after dinner amuse bouches. The first was a little glass of chantilly cream with panna cotta, which was nice but basically just tasted like standard whipped cream. The second was a square, bite-sized piece of tarte au vin cuit, which was okay but nothing special. The third was the real gem of the piece, a nice square mini chocolate pie topped with assorted nuts - delicious.

Having filled our bellies and settled our bill, we headed back home for bed, but not before chatting to the lady on reception who had recognised us from our wedding (she even remembered the date).

Overall conclusion: a thoroughly enjoyable meal in a very nice restaurant. Would definitely go back again, although we might have to save up for a while.

Just for fun, here are the marks we gave to each item:

Food:  Cauliflower purée with mushrooms and green pesto coulis
Scores:  Paul -  7 / 10   Chris - 6 / 10

Food:  Paul - Escalope de foie gras poêlée, pomme dorée au sirop d’érable, éclats d’amandes caramélisées, coulis de poires
Score:  10 / 10
Food:  Chris - Sabayon de légumes au galanga, glace au céleri-pomme
Score:  6 / 10

Food:  Paul - Tournedos de bœuf de nos alpages, rosace de pommes de terre, bouquet de légumes
Score:  8 / 10
Food:  Chris - Papet de saint-jacques et saucisson vaudois, mousse à la champenoise
Score:  8 / 10

Food:  Paul - Assortiments de fromages frais et affinés
Score:  3 / 10
Food:  Chris - Moelleux au chocolat pur Caraïbe, glace aux noix de pécan caramélisées, coulis de caramel au beurre salé
Score:  8 / 10

Paul -  28 / 40
Chris -  28 / 40

Interesting that our overall scores come out as the same number - also interesting that we are both 28 years old, the age we will be when we have our first child. Is it fate? Destiny? Or am I just crap at maths? I'll let you be the judge of that.

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