Hotel and Restaurant Les Florets, Gigondas, France – September 2013

This one has been sitting in my mind for quite some time. I actually thought I shared the wonderful stay we experienced there – but it seems I only shared it with you in my head.

I was at Les Florets the year before, and swore I would be back with my family. As it turned out it had to be the year after. As things went, I got to decide on how to spend the last few days of the summer 2013 vaction – and my mind was so made up. Gigondas, Hotel and Restaurant Les Florets, with a stop-over in Beaune driving down.

We got to stay here 3 nights. We visited the area, we got on top of the world, we dazed by the pool, had lots of great wines, and stunning food and service in this little paradise on earth.

I shall break the photos of the tour up in three chapters, one for each day and leave you to indulge in the photos rather than repeating my sentiments of the first stay.

Day one – 31 August 2013 – arrival, lunch pool and dinner.

The quiet romantic hotel with the al fresco dning.

The quiet romantic hotel with the al fresco dining.

Big boy Oscar

Big boy Oscar

and hungry Emil

and hungry Emil

The view from the restaurant is simply breath-taking, the valley, the hills, the rocky mountains, the flowers – the perfectly set tables.

My lamb

Aubergine in some fashion

Tomato, Avocado and I think Salmon

Tomato, Avocado and I think Salmon

Fish for Emil - somebody remove that lemon foam :-)

Fish for Emil – somebody remove that lemon foam :-)

And the smile was back

And the smile was back

After dinner rest and then the long awaited pool.

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Lets finish day one with some shots from the evening.

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*

Day two – 1st September – Breakfast – Mont Ventoux – Gigondas – rest – Dinner

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Breakfast is great here, great selection and as mostly in France, great Croissants

Before we left for the mountain – I took some of the nicest shots of the boys ever, the colours where amazing, you can feel that Provence is just down the road.

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After that we took the car up to the top of the world. Quite a ride – not as tough for us – as for the bikers, but all those curves get to you in the end. But the view from up there is worth the hassle. It was a windy day, still when we started the climb it was a nice 23 degrees celcius. On th top it dropped to 13 (!) No wonder, Mont Ventoux rises nearly 2.000 meter above sea level.

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After those crazy hights  – it was nice to hit the valley of Gigondas – only to find there was a local festival, which came handy because the boys could use some of their saved energy, the restaurant I chose was close to crap, the wine not as nice as it should be – or could be, but all in all, sun was out, the missus pretty as ever -

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After a rest and a shower I got to sit down – rest and endulge in a bottle of Condrieu from nearby Saint Cosme.

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And right there in the middle of the beauty of all this, while waiting for the missus to come and join me, sipping the wine – I saw this old man reading his book, ever so quietly – and I thought – could there be any more quiet and beautiful way to spend your autumn.

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Dinner was enjoyed inside, the mistral had arrived. I shall not bore you with too many details. We had open wines, they were all great. I had one of the best pieces of meat EVER.

What a piece ...

What a piece …

and it was good night.

Day 3 – 2nd September 2014 – Breakfast – Crocodile Park – Avignon – rest – Dinner

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The crocodiles came in all sizes, I think there was around 400 of them. Funny thing occured after 30-60 min. when Emil proclaimed. That one is alive !!! – He had not realized that apart from the wooden ones he sat on, – they were all maybe not moving alot – but most definetely alive and not to be taken lightly.

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Avignon is worth a visit, great local food at Lou Mistral, not so funny incident occured when I left to look at a shoe-shop across the street while the others was on the toilet. Emil chose a different toilet, and came out first and thought we all left. I rushed back feeling like the worst daddy in the world, as Astrid and Oscar just emerged from the other exit. It can easily go wrong.

Back at the hotel – freshening up, playing games, and our last supper at Les Floret for this time.

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Conclusion:

Like last time Thierry and Dominique and all the staff made sure we could concentrate on us and relaxe, endulge in the quietness and romance of the place and – just enjoy the good food and the great weather and the stunning views.

The kitchen even went the extra mile and cooked me the dish I had fallen in love wiht the year before, even though it was not on the menu. The chef came to the table, and I explained it to him in my poor poor French. And it was just as good :-)

Just as we were all happy with Potsdam the week before, I think we were all quite happy here, focus was on relaxing and the good food, and that is of course more my idea of fun :-) So I thank you dear Astrid, Oscar and Emil – for coming with me on this long ride to the Southern Rhone and coping with all that food and romance.

I wish I could be back this year. Hotel and Restaurant Les Florets comes with my highest recommendation.

So with that wish I shall leave you with an oldie but goodie – One Summer Dream, written by Jeff Lynne a good 38 years ago.

Rock on dear Thierry and Dominique.

 

 

 

 

 

The Chagny Situation, Bourgogne, 25th-28th April 2013

The Fox Force Four was back in Beaune, back at the beautiful Hotel de Remparts in the center of the city. Good to see the old friends, good to be back in Beaune. We were spoiled with 26 degrees celcius and sunshine, allowing us to spend a wonderful evening at the terrasse of a little place I found last year. Nothing fancy – but decent food. Uffe and I ordered 2 starters and waited a good 90 min for the Norwegians to arrive.

We had 5 tastings planned for the coming days, among those three new smaller wineries – with amazing wines as we would discover.

As it turned out the tastings were very successful, meaning there was a slight logistic problem, which good friends Pernille and Patrick solved by letting the Northern friends have a few square meters of their garage for a while.

Here are some impressions from the trip

Athos, D´Artagnan and Porthos at the cellars of Michel Caillot.

Athos, D´Artagnan and Porthos at the cellars of Michel Caillot.

Aramis at the vineyards of Michel Caillot

Aramis at the vineyards of Michel Caillot

"Brigitte Bardot" at our service...

“Brigitte Bardot” at our service…

Between two tastings we went back to the hotel and opened a bottle of red – well Julie (almost) did. Julie was besides being very pretty, also a sweet and service minded receptionist, – bus as we learned, – soon to go back to her real line of business, – a travel agent. So, the day we left it was also her last day at work :-(

Kjetil entertaining a group of very kind American and Canadian tourists.

Kjetil entertaining a group of very kind American and Canadian tourists.

As always the last evening we had our last dinner at Lameloise. I love Lameloise. I will never get tired of dining here. Its like coming home. The familiar faces of the staff and the warm welcome by Frederic Lamy.

Home sweet home...

Home sweet home…

We had hoped to find the nice Chicago couple we met at Cave Madeleine the evening before, because we understood they were set to dine here. I suspect an audible error – and they might have been dining at close by Levernois, I guess for an American – the twang – those can easily be mistaken – Levernois – Lameloise – but food wise – there is no compare. And we were in for the better part of that comparison. Still I hope you had a great stay and dinner dear Mary and Frank.

The top moment of the entire trip occured when Hubert, the sommelier asked us whether we had made our wine choices (from the great wine list).

I answered him, we will like the same as last year. A big smile was his reply, and he elaborated – I was hoping for that.  Now that meant we gave him free hands too arrange some bottles to be tasted blind, and within a certain total price limit. He said, I have been thinking about it all day, which wines to choose etc. Now that is – beside the effort of checking or remembering – an outstanding level of service – and you are bound to feel special, and so we did.

Here are some shots from the menu

Champagne...

Champagne…

A little fois gras lollipop

A little fois gras lollipop

Second round of amuses

Third round of amuses

Scallops and crab - still not started the menu.

Scallops and crab – still not started the menu.

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Fois Gras with oxe-tail

Second best dish of the evening, what a dish.

Saint-Pierre

Saint-Pierre

Lobster

Lobster

The last piece of the best bread in the world.

The last piece of the best bread in the world.

As mentioned in my prior posts about Lameloise. This bread is to die for.

Langoustine

Langoustine

Lamb

Lamb

Lameloise & Lamb – a perfect marriage. Always. Best dish of the evening.

At this point a personal issue arised – known by  insiders as “The Chagny Situation” – the cheese would be my last dish of the evening. No sweets for me tonight – which is probably good for my hips – but cheese at Lameloise, is also always perfect selection and perfect maturity.

Kjetil making his selection.

Kjetil choosing his selection.

What a drop, best wine of the evening. I almost had it, guessing Bonnes Mares.

What a drop, best wine of the evening. I almost had it, guessing Bonnes Mares.

So, dear Frederic Lamy and all your exceptional staff. There were absolutly no flaws this evening. Everything was perfect and as always, I hope to be back rather sooner than later. Please extend our thank you to the whole team. Eric Pras, thank you for a great meal. As good as it gets.

So this wraps up a great trip – well almost – because the following morning we had a last tasting at Mischief and Mayhem in Aloxe Corton where good friends – wonderful Fiona and warm Michael Bragg had prepared a brunch to go with their exceptional wines.

What more do you need a Sunday morning.

What more do you need a Sunday morning.

So, this was it – I shall leave you with a picture to fit the situation, Athos checking out…

The Three Musketeers..

The Three Musketeers..

Thanks for your friendship guys…see u around.

Whisky Tasting Dinner at La Distellerie, Bourglinster, Luxembourg – March 2013

“I am going, I am going
Any which way the wind may be blowing
I am going, I am going
Where streams of whiskey are flowing”

Streams of Whisky – The Pogues 1984

Just around Christmas time I ran into a friendly guy at the local Supermarket. He attracted my attention – because he was standing in front of a large selection of Malt Whisky – a drink I have enjoyed on many evenings in front of the open fire – back in the days where we had a cottage in Denmark. The perfect threesome in my opinion, Malt Whisky, Cold weather and open fire.

The name of the friendly fellow was Herman, and he was in fact representing the Whisky Club Luxembourg. We chatted a bit and the following day I received an invitation to a Gastronomic dinner at the beautiful Chateau Bourglinster hosted by WCL

I have not been back here for a long time. It is among the best set restaurants, when you cross that small bridge to the Castle, you feel transported a few hundred years back in time. The new chef René Mathieu has been awarded with a michelin star a few years ago.

Chateau Bourglinster

Chateau Bourglinster

Herman was there on chilled evening, in quilt and all – and greeting meant welcoming a good 100 people that was coming to the event.

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Herman in the left middle

The dinner was set up with a 6 course gastronomic menu with a corresponding Whisky to each dish. No wine. No wine. No wine. That was quite a challenge for a wine lover. I was excited to see if it would work, and if I would cope without the wine.

After a glass of a Luxembourgish cremant, and looking at the Whiskies on display we were shown to our table, that apart from Gijs and I consisted of 2 young Scandinavians, a youngster from Belgium and 2 mixed couples. One of the mixed couples – had litterally just arrived in Luxembourg – 4 days before. I can barely remember that feeling – a good 24 years ago a young slim man flew in with great expectations, but I dont think he ever imagined he would still be here 24 years burning down the road. Good luck to the both of you – it was a pleasure meeting you.

I shall show you some of the dishes but not go too much into details.

Saumon...

Saumon…

The second best dish of the evening and a good start. The salmon worked very nicely with the Whisky.

Fois gras poellé

Fois gras poelé

The best dish of the evening. My photo does not give full credit to the dish, I forgot my Canon and had to use my old I-phone.

Next up was a funny dish, Gambas in a letter. Well it might be a funny presentation if you are a smaller table, But we could see the waiters struggling with the opening of 96 envelopes – and that did effect the presentation of the dish in some cases. But funny it was.

An envoi recommandé

Un envoie recommandé

and voila...

and voila…

Next up was the veal, not an outstanding dish, and by this time Gijs and I were REALLY craving wine….I know now how lucky I am to be able to drink a glass or three every evening.

Veal

Veal

Herman was a great host, coming over to our table, being only one of 20 tables or so – to make sure the dishes and corresponding whisky was explained in an understandable language. He never seemed stressed, I am sure he was. Great respect goes to you my friend.

After the veal, we were getting really tired, I had a rough night with no sleep before and we were just about to say our goodbyes, but Herman managed to convince us to stay for the dessert and the following digestive, the 30 year old highlight of the evening.

Dessert...if you zoom in you can real full menu and the corresponding whisky selection.

Dessert – if you zoom in you can red thel full menu and the corresponding whisky selection.

Conclusion:

A great evening. Hats off to the event manager WCL, check them out at http://www.whiskyclublux.com/

If I have any complaints about the night it would be that it was even more difficult for me on a personal level to dine without wine. I know Gijs felt the same or even worse lol.

Some of the dishes went well with the whisky, some were more well borderline. I know many of the dishes would have improved with a glasss of the right wine, but was it a funny experience. Yes indeed it was. And I again met some beautiful people I hope to see again, and apart from the whole dining experience I think that is what good food is also about. For what is good food without friends, and new friends.

I shall not rate the food and restaurant as such. Serving 96 people at the same time in a room laid out for that does not give a fair impression about what the kitchen and chef is all about. The food did not scare me away for sure, and one fine day I will return to La Distellerie with a more private setting.

I was impressed by all the different whiskies – all provided by a good friend of mine – Rossi.

One thing I did take away from this evening, was my urge to swap that Grappa di Prosecco out once in a while with a good malt. So, Herman, my friend – I am sure you will be happy to hear that since that night in March I have aquired meself a bottle of Glenmorangie Sherry Cask and a bottle of Caol Ila.

Slainthe Herman :-)

A different take at Restaurant Clairefontaine – Take 4, Luxembourg – 16 March 2013

“Old friends
Winter companions
The old men
Lost in their overcoats
Waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city
Sifting through the trees
Settle like dust
On the shoulders
Of the old friends”

Simon & Garfunkel 1968

Luxembourg city was showing itself from its prettiest side on a Saturday morning where we were again invited behind the curtains of our favourite local restaurant, the pride of the city – Restaurant Clairefontaine. Parking below the market, I just had time to shoot a few shots of one of the greatest thing city life has to offer – Saturday markets.

The Saturday market at Place Guillaume

The Saturday market at Place Guillaume

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Say Cheese !

The Cathedral

The Cathedral

And below the square, the morning sun on Clairefontaine.

And below the square, the morning sun on Clairefontaine.

So – old friends gathered at 10 am, greeted by Arnaud and William, waiting to see what there was expecting us today. Input had been given but apart from that we really do not know what awaits us on these cooking sessions. Catherine, Susanne, Morten, Torben, Klaus, Gijs and I were so ready and happy to be back.

As it turned out today – we were gonna make

Frog legs Parisienne – classic but deconstructed with Carrot mash, Parsley and Garlic

Scallops  Parmentier with smoke

Sweetbreads of Veal with Morilles

Grand Marnier Soufflé

Lets start with some frog legs ….not my favourite by far – but hey we are here for the fun and to learn.

Legs all lined up,....

Legs all lined up,….

Torben doing a Man´s Job.

Torben doing a Man´s Job.

William showing us how to prepare the other ingredients...

William showing us how to prepare the other ingredients…

The girls chatting...

The girls chatting…

Legs in the pan...

Legs in the pan…

The parsley creme almost finished. WHAT A COLOUR !!!

The parsley creme almost finished. WHAT A COLOUR !!!

Table 8 almost ready to go....

Table 8 almost ready to go….

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Frog legs, classic but deconstructed…

I was really happy to see the trick with the foam, the parsley creme was amazing in taste and colour, and I am sure I am gonna reproduce for some of my dishes. Frog legs as such remain something I would never order in a restaurant.

Next up was a favourite of most of my friends. Scallops.

Arnaud learned us how to read and understand the label.

Arnaud learned us how to read and understand the label.

Morteen looked and acted like he had never done anything else. Respect.

Morten looked and acted like he had never done anything else. Respect.

Taking out the delicate piece...

Taking out the delicate piece…

- and voila.

– and voila.

Scallops in the pan

Scallops in the pan

Gijs chekking the reduction..

Gijs checking the reduction..

Come together 1

Come together 1

Come together 2

Come together 2

- 3

– 3

Table 8 ready ....

Table 8 ready ….

Result - Scallops on leek, with potato creme, truffles and beef reduction.

Result -
Scallops on leek, with potato creme and potato chip – truffles and a beef reduction.

This was a brilliant dish, and great to see Arnaud cooking the scallops to perfection, see the smoke canon in use, seeing the wonderful potato creme done from scratch with a secret ingredient…hey we are not giving it all away ;-)

Next up was the sweetbreads, who some of my friends had a slight “issue” with.

Cleaning the ris de veau...

Cleaning the ris de veau…

Cooking them for 10 min. on one side only.

Cooking them for 10 min. on one side only.

make them look a lot nicer and taste stunning.

make them look a lot nicer and taste stunning.

Arraning of the "risotto" with morilles

Arranging the “risotto” with morilles -

adding the morilles sauce and wauw.Ris de Veau with Morilles

Adding the morilles sauce and wauw.
Ris de Veau with Morilles

In the end all tasted the result and I think I speak for all when I say that this is a pearler of a dish. I have never had a better sauce in my life I think. Well at least this morilles sauce is as good as it gets. The sweetbread cooked to perfection.

As for dessert, Arnaud and William showed us quickly how to make the souffle. The result was perfect, great taste. lovely presentation. Not a dessert man – me – but still I was amazed of what you can do with basically just an egg and alcohol.

Grand Marnier Souffle.

Grand Marnier Souffle.

There was a certain vibe in the room today. I think everybody enjoyed being back, Torben joked around, Gijs took notes on his mobile, Klaus served the wine in the kitchen and we all enjoyed the fact that by now – Arnaud and William are pretty confident in letting us participate when we want to, but also letting it be when not – like me. After seeing another friend of mind – Claus – struggling with the scallops a few weeks ago, I felt no need to fight these.

We all had our favourite dish today I think, for some it was the frog legs, some the scallops and some the sweetbread. But in the end we again learned a little something in a few hours. Something we can reproduce, develop or use in other dishes. We also learned tha we have to have two or three more applicanses in our kitchen. And Christmas is far away.

Well the 16th of March was Christmas in some fashion. Thank you Arnaud and William for inviting us again. Thanks to my friends for coming along on this train. And yes – maybe next time we should work on presenting a menu for our hosts. I think that sounds like a plan. Also thank you Julien. Again you succeeded in great wine matches to the dishes. You are one heck of a sommelier and friend.

What a great day it was. Old friends.

Torben´s place – Luxembourg, 24th February 2013

“Once we made a promise we swore we’d always remember
No retreat, baby, no surrender
Blood brothers in a stormy night
With a vow to defend
No retreat, baby, no surrender”

Bruce Springsteen – 1984

*

It is always great fun to cook with my lifelong friend Torben. Besides being my friend and “partner in crime” on many wine tastings, he was also my partner on the German television show, where his great performance almost brought us to the final.

It somehow flows when we are in a kitchen. He was always as wild as me – trying out strange combinations. They did not always work, but like me he seems to avoid recipes, and like me he collects cooking books mainly for inspiration.

I always thougt I was better chef than him, but these days I think that is very well balanced out. His cooking has really improved rapidly the last few years, and the most apparent place he needs me these days is in arranging the food.

Lunch on this day was supposed to happen 12ish, and I entered the house a good hour before to see “what was cooking”.

My role today was merely helping arranging  and being spoiled with good food and great wines.

Salmon & Spinach Pancake in rolled on a salad of young peas.

Slices of Salmon & Spinach Pancake on a salad of young peas.

First up a GREAT colourful starter. It worked so well Torben. Go green. 7.5p

A Benjamin Romero effort...

A Benjamin Romero effort…

I had this one before, and found it more interesting the first time. But it opened up a lot in the glass and shows that BR knows his trade.

Peking Duck

Peking Duck

The missus of Torben prepared this favourite chinese dish of mine. Mrs. Torben – this was the best peking duck I have ever had. Using the confit de canard instead of the breast is a GREAT idea. 9.5p

Argentina...

Argentina…

Great label, great fruits, I think it was 100% Malbec. A very good product. Malbec not being my favourite grape, but Argentina being Torben´s favourite spot on this planet. I would love to see those wineyards with you one day mate.

An oldie...

An oldie…

I have fond memories of Pichon-Longueville. Pauillac being my favourite area in Bordeaux. This was a host gift from an earlier occasion from business partner and friend Gijs to Torben and I. And since Gijs was “in da house” – it seemed very appropriate to open it. For my taste it was over the hill. I do like the vibrant young good Bordeaux´s – not the brownish silky old ones. Not a bad drop, but I would have enjoyed it more 5 years earlier Im sure.

Parmesan crusted Cod on Jerusalem Artichokes with a cauliflower creme....

Parmesan crusted Cod on Jerusalem Artichokes with a cauliflower creme….

Very nice presentation, everything worked, except I would have added a small crunchy salad on top. I got the chance to use my sauce dispenser which Torben gave me last year for Christmas. 7p

Another Spanish gem...

Another Spanish gem…

Torben has a few of those Spanish gems in his cellar. This was stuning. What a damn nice wine. I could drink that one every Sunday.

Iberico Porc with Tortilla and Oyster mushrooms

Iberico Porc with Tortilla and Oyster mushrooms

I think this has to be one of the best dishes I have ever had at Torben´s place. Stunning meat. And that with the above wine was simply heaven. The tortilla spot on. 10p

Say cheese....

Say cheese….

To go with this little selection of cheese – Torben opened another stunner. We were not hungry or thirsty at this point, but there is always room for some cheese…

As good as they come...

As good as they come…

I have been lucky to try Opus One on a good five occasions. I always loved it. It was the wine of the day. For me its like a Chateau Margaux or Sassicaia, laid back and straight elegance. Not overpowering, never too  much, but very complex.

My conclusion:

Today´s lunch was way up there with my best private meals. It was balanced, surpricing and some of it damn good.

Torben, I appreciate our friendship, I respect your cooking skills, and I hope for many more of these improvised sessions. You are not only a sarcastic mf´er – you also care about your friends and you know how to spoil them. Here´s to our friendship. Rock on.

Christoph´s Place, Luxembourg, – January 27th, 2013

“Lazy Sunday afternoon
I’ve got no mind to worry
I close my eyes and drift away”

Small Faces 1968

*

I was happy to be invited to cook for a group of wine lovers. The theme being 1st growth from Bordeaux, and the admission was – bring a bottle of those of your choice. Christoph not only asked me to cook, but also participating in the the dinner and the tasting. My admission thus was the time I spend cooking.

Bordeaux was one of my first loves – wine wise. In the early nineties I was lucky to have a good friend whos cellar as in regard to top Bordeauxs had everything you could ever imagine or wish for,

So – expectations was high, and my cooking was adjusted, meaning less pepper and spices than normally, – I did not want to disturb the delicacy of those drops too much.

Here is some shots from the event…

Our own wonderful Mandois, Cuvee Victor

Our own wonderful Mandois, Cuvee Victor 2002

I love this Champagne, and it was a good companion to my small amuses

Smoked Trout Creme with creme fraiche, aneth and horse redish...

Smoked Trout Creme with creme fraiche, aneth and horse redish…

Finding Nemo - again.
Finding Nemo – again.
Mr. and Mr. Akkerman

Mr. and Mr. Akkerman

3 of the best "noses" in Luxembourg...

3 of the best “noses” in Luxembourg…

Haut-Brion 1994

Chateau Haut-Brion 1994

One of my favourites of the day, still vibrant.

1985 Chateau Ausone

Chateau Ausone 1985

Mouton Rothschild 2001

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2001

Having had 3 bottles of this in my own cellar, it was nice to revisit – and to actually feel , I drank it when it presented more of what I like in a wine. Elegang power and energy. In my eyes it was still a nice drop of course. It just hadnt improved.

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A little lamb “cous cous” thing…

Cheval Blanc 1997

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1997

 

Margaux 2002

Chateau Margaux 2002

What a brilliant wine.

Roast beef a la Jamie Oliver

Roast beef a la Jamie Oliver

I love this dish, saw it one night on the telly. Added slices of raw mushrooms.

Lafite Rothschild 2002

Lafite Rothschild 2002

Probably the best wine of the day. And the only one where you thought…this one needs more time…well in my eyes. I like them young. This was so amazing, and full of energy waiting to develop. What a nice drop.

Iberico porc, with roasted garlic and truffles...

Iberico porc, with roasted garlic and truffles…

Say cheese....

Say cheese….

A few more bottles landed on the table, the tired Danish chef was happy people liked his food.

As for the wines….well how could you not like them. I was happy to have had the chance to participate in this extravaganza of top wines. I thank you Christoph for inviting me – here´s to our new friendship. Rock on. And for those of you that was not there on that Sunday. Well, you missed an outstanding tasting.

As for me, I met some interesting new people and that is what counts the most. I still prefer my wines younger, and was confirmed in that opinion.

Münster, 21 December 2012

On our way to Rostock – where we for the first time ever were to celebrate Christmas – we had a stop-over in Münster, which like most German larger cities have a Christmas market. Well actually Münster have 5 Christmas markets spread out through the inner city. The big fancy shopping street reminded me of the polished streets of Dubrovnik, and with the cold evening and grey weather, it was not hard to get in the Christmas mood. The friendly woman at the reception by own initiative guided me on a map to her favourite spots of the Christmas markets.

Here is a few shots from the market and from Münster

Beautiful...

Beautiful…

Sweets...

Sweets…

The boys...

The boys…

One of the hundreds of shops...

One of the hundreds of shops…

Beautiful...

Beautiful…

A different square...

A different square…

Night in the City...

Night in the City…

Hopefully not the last time we have been in Münster, but as I said, you will find these markets in most central European cities around Luxembourg. And yes they are as cosy as they look, and the Glühwein is almost drinkable.

Our stay in the central Mercure Hotel started with a mishap – the requested non-smoking room was indeed the opposite – even on the only smoking floor as well. When that was corrected, the room was actually then two connecting ones, with great beds and horrible pillows. The wine selection in the hotel bar – under the motto of Grande Wines of Mercure or something like that – well, I do know my grand wines – and there was no grand wines there – but there was a nice beer and friendly staff. The hotel also has a restaurant with an apparently very popular Christmas buffet, – but we chose to eat greasy stuff at the market.

Merry Christmas Münster.

A different take at Restaurant Clairefontaine – Take 3, Luxembourg – 22 September 2012

1 year after our first cooking class at Restaurant Clairefontaine, Arnaud and William again opened their doors and there “Little box of secrets” for us.

This time around we were 7 students and the menu apart from the requested beef was a secret to all of us.

What was on the working and dining menu today was:

Amuse – Tartare of Tuna with a wasabi/soya dressing
Starter – Lobster carpaccio with redish
Main – Filet of Beef with pepper sauce and a potato mash
Dessert – Creme Brullee

So a very classic menu, – again with a lot of focus on our chances of re-producing most of it at home without too much of a fuss.

After a small briefing and a cup of coffee for those in need of that, it was cooking time,

Cutting the tuna, scallots, choriander…

voila…at the end finished of with olive oil with a touch of lemon, salt and pepper

Cherry tomatoes with a twist…

Finishing the dish…

The finished result…

The “wasabi” sauce was made of wasabi paste, soya sauce and a touch of homemade mayonaice to make it smoother in both taste and texture. A great amuse that you can make in 5-10 min.

Next up – the lobster.

A view to a kill….

Anyone up for a 69 ?

Now at this point we close the cameras and have a moment of silence. 9 lobsters were used – and killed in that process. Yes, Susanne – I shall spare you the details.

Busy hands…

Dirty work…

What followed next was the slizing of a monster redish, and explanation about how to do the lobster reduction to enhance the flavour of the dish, crushed dry rosemary as well as the crushed dried orange skin added the “genious” factor to the dish. The cleaned lobster cut into carpaccio style slices, the salad bowl on top done with a thai tempura flour.

Great little extras for an outstanding dish

Mind your fingers…

Put aside to rest for a while…

This ones for you Susanne

Making a salad “bowl”..

So three-4 steps of arranging the dish

Step 1 – arranging the sliced and boiled redish over the lobster…

Gijs adding the classic vinegar/honey/oil dressing

Adding the crunched dried Rosemary and Orange – with a touch of chives…

The salad bowl on top – inside the salad a claw of the lobster….

Now this dish might seem a bit complex for amateurs like us… with the homemade little extra seasonings, the killing of the lobster, the tempura salad bowl, the wonderful lobster reduction etc. etc. But I think that even if one cut some corners here and there -it can be reproduced at home. And it for sure was a dish to die for. Or to kill for. In this case the lobsters left the world for a good reason. Susanne, I am sure they went straight to lobster heaven. I know we did. The blanched cruncy redish mixed with the texture of the lobster and the tempura on top….Arnaud and William. I loved this dish so much.

Next up was the slowly cooked beef. After preparing the whole filet of prime Luxembourgish caddle, it was quickly sealed and put into a vacum to cook at 48 degrees in slightly over and hour. Finished off at high heat. Peppersauce was done with a pre-produced reduction, and man what a sauce it was. The mash consisting of potatoes, butter, butter, butter and chives.

Heres a few shots of that preparation

First cleaned, then strapped up, then cut into 250 gram pieces…

Sealed off and with butter, herbs and garlic into the “solarium”….

Pepper and scallots braised off, cognac added and after a small fire, the pre-produced reduction was added. Man what a sauce….

The mash…

arranged in a genorous way….

and table 1 was ready to go…

To say I love this dish would be the understatement of the year. Perfectly cooked prime beef. The worlds best sauce, and a simple mash. What more do you need ?

To finish of a classic menu, you off course need a creme brulee. I shall not bother you with all the details of that one. Just say that from the two variations we made – one with burned sugar and one where rhum was added and lit to make a more fun presentation – I prepared the classic bunselbrenner version…but the flamy one of course makes a nicer picture

Arnaud showing how to prepare my favourite dessert..

Creme

– Brulee

So – looking back at now 3 sessions and a good 11-12 dishes…which ones stands out. I am actually not sure. I know for sure that the 4 dishes we had today all ranks up there with my overall favourite classic dishes in the world. But then there was off course also those pork cheeks, that fois gras, – that cod – etc. etc. etc. too praise. But most of all, what I appreciate the most in these cooking sessions – and I think I speak for the whole group is the little things we learn. Extra salt, extra butter, the small tricks – that all improve a dish in so many ways. So Arnaud and William – we especially thank you for that. We also again thank you bot for your precious time, what a wonderful way to spend “A day in the life”.

We also thank Julien, who always amazes with his choice of wines. Today it was absolutely on top. Each wine a perfect match enhancing our FANTASTIC dishes…

Session 4 already seem to far away.

Smiling faces all around…yours truly smiling only behind the camera.

Marbella Club Hotel (Restaurant Club de Playa), Marbella – September 3, 2012

I really had been looking forward to re-visiting this place. Ever since our last visit a year ago I have corresponded a bit with the great waiter – Francisco Javier Doncel – in Spanish !!!  – Unfortunately he had other duties this day – it would have been great to see him again – hasta luego Javier, see you hopefully next time.

We were spoiled with a clear blue sky and 26 degrees celcius.

A few shots from the restaurant and surroundings.

The location, as good as it gets

The beach below

Our table, front row tickets you may say…

Now the 5 star hotel looks like a hotel, where I could survive a few days without a problem, and I can only wish that I will one day be able to afford a stay here. Beside a gastronomic restaurant inside, the attration is the beach club, which has a buffet second to none. Everything is so fresh with an eye for detail and with a great presentation. Beside the cold buffet you have a barbeque where fish of all kinds and meat are prepared to your liking.

Great olives and roasted almonds and a bottle of Rueda…while the boys took a swim

Oscar where he likes to be the most

Emil preferred the slighly smaller version

Back to the other reason for our visit. The incredible lunch that was waiting for us. I greeted the chef, who at least seemed to remember me, and he was on his toes as soon as I – por favour – asked for a plate of Pata Negra and some grilled lenguados for the boys.

A proud chef

At your service…

Freshly cut pata negra.

What to choose…

The quality is really outstanding. I dont even know where to start, – only by saying that I only tried a fraction of it. The artichokes amazing, as the lobster and langoustines. The chef asked me if he could propose a little plate of something for us – I did not understand what he meant, but I was pretty confident we were gonna like it. And man did we like it. We loved it. Simply the most perfectly cooked langoustines of a kind. Grilled around 1 minute only, just enough to leave the colour – but still ever so moist and tender. Best plate I have had in a long long time. All you need is actully good produce and a chef who knows his techniques.

If that doesn´t make you happy…

Oscar loving his sole, not so much the spinach..

Round two from the buffet

This time I actually also tried the paella, which was very nice. I did not manage any grilled fish or meat – my belly was full. The kids had been looking forward to the desserts. As Oscar had informed us…Im going to have my favourite dessert again. Strawberries, raspberries and whipped cream. As it turned out the strawberries were the only flaw of the day, being a bit boring, tired…but the raspberries…have never tasted sweeter or better.

Oscar was a happy chappy

Emil opted for chocolate…

I do think that Emil had three rounds of desserts (!) These two, and two pieces more….

A look at the beach and the Jetty, and it was time to ask for the bill. After 4 hours in Paradise.

End of season, quiet beach

The bar is extended onto the jetty.

Conclusion:

Our visit this time was even better foodwise than last time. We were graced with the visit to our table by Uncle Rudi, previous director and co-founder of the hotel. He was celebrating the birthday of his wife at the table next to us and he came over to congratulate us on our choice of restaurant and me of my beautiful wife. What a nice person and gentleman he was. I bet he had a story or two to tell. Next time maybe Uncle Rudi.

The service is impecable, the settings pure holiday feeling with a classic luxury touch. I thank you again Torben for showing me this spot in the first place.

I shall re-post the great shot I took of our dear friend Javier last year

We missed Javier this time as I mentioned, but if money allows it Javier, please be sure to find us back next year.

My rating for this visit: Food 8p (10), service 5p (5), ambience 5p (5), 1 extra happiness point for a day in Paradise – Total Score 19p (20)

Hotel and Restaurant Les Florets, Gigondas, France – July 2012

Where the stars do not mean anything – or as my friend said – This has to be the best two star hotel in the world.

Hotel Les Florets

First let me set the scene.

The hotel is situated in the Southern Rhone, beneath the rocky mountains that surrounds Gigondas. You have the smell of Provence litterally in the air.

A Smell of lavender is in the air – and the colours – amazing.

The main building of the hotel, most rooms overlooking the terrasse of the outside part of the restaurant as well as the beautiful valley.

If this does not make you happy ? I wanted to stay here forever – had my family been with me.

The hotel has been in the same family for 3 generations and Thierry and Dominique Bernard are indeed the perfect hosts – greeting you warmly with a smile and hand shake every morning – and most of the staff is also smiling and on their toes to give you the best possible stay.

I would not say it is 5 star level service, but I have definetely never ever had better service in any 4 star hotel. Example – at our first lunch shortly after arriving – we asked Thierry how far a drive – to a certain city where our first tasting was gonna take place – would be. He quickly went away to check – only to arrive 2 min after with a colour printed route guidance from the internet. Perfect.

The hotel offer different categories of rooms, incl. family rooms. Wifi, flatscreen television, indoor and outdoor dining as well as an outdoor swimming pool during the main season.

So if the Hotel les Florets is the best two star in the world, this young chef taking a break before service has to be one of the prettiest chefs in the world.

The view from the table where our first lunch was gonna take place minutes after our arrival.

I shall just give you a few more romantic evening shots from the hotel before coming back to our lunch and dinners here….

Evening shot from our table towards the valley. End of day, end of service.

– and the hotel in a romantic light before bed-time. One really did not feel like leaving this at all.

*

Restaurant les Florets

Well, I think you by some of the photos will have an idea of the settings under which the food was to be enjoyed. Let me just say, those settings does not come any better. Truly stunning views and the smell in the air automatically gives you high expectations. I think those expectations were best met and exceeded during our first lunch. However, the evening light, the sun setting, the last warm breeze of the day hitting your face, the happy faces everywhere, the laughter in the air – all that also made both our dinners outstanding experiences as well. The restaurant offers different menus as well as a la carte, and you will end up paying 32-45 eur for a 3 course meal.

Again . if one would not feel happy with this view from the ding table – well….

– or with this view.

– and witth such a pretty waitress – the meal could commence….

I will show you some of the best dishes we had throught our 3 meals here.

Beans, pear, artichokes, hazelnuts, fois gras….

My first dish here….and what a dish. It was a pure 10 in my book. The combination of the pear and fois gras, the perfect vinegar dressing. It was the best dish we had throughout the stay. 10p10p – 10p. It was not the only good one – but it was so good that on the last evening I ordered it again. And since my friend ordered a different dish – and ended up being jealous about my choice – well I did something I have never done before. I called Thierry and told him I had a problem with the dish. Something he probably could not believe since my plate was empty. But I explained to him, that I loved this so much, that I simply had to have it once more and therefore he should halt the main dish for a bit and kindly provide both of us with another round of this beauty. It was just the perfect dish and it had everything that fitted this place and region. I can just underline – I would order it again today if I could.

Lamb and eggplant

Great dish too. Probably the second best. 8p

Rhubart with rillette of smkoed mackrel

Simple but again, fitting and good. I guess by now you have an idea of the kitchen 8p

Duck breast on lentilles

The duck breast – well I do prefer old fashioned slowly cooked – “like our mothers did” – duck – but it was also a very “true to concept” dish and the meat cooked perfect rosé – like most chefs would these days. 6.5p

Filet mignon of porc, on – arh… I do not know the English word – corn of a kind, with Apricots.

Unfortunately, the filet was slighly overcooked.The smaller pieces being close to dry. The Apricots – the black olives and thus the whole balance of the taste was incredible and saved the dish. 7p

Say cheese

Perfect selection, perfect ripeness. A bit more “air” between the cheeses would have made a nicer presentation I think - 8.5p

The pretty young girl from the kitchen came over and said goodnight and I could not help it – my fingers slipped

– but I hope she will be happy with the result.

Conclusion:

Let me say it very very clearly. If you are going to the area of Gigondas. This is the place you wanna be. If you are staying only one night in France (and like me cannot afford George V. and Paris anymore) – This is where you wanna be. If you are looking for the perfect balance between hotel, service, food and surroundings – Hotel and Restaurant les Florets should be your choice.

As it turns out – Thierry and Dominique are expecting a visit soon from the hotel inspectors – that off couser send thoughts to Fawlty Towers. But let me assure you, the family Bernard is prepared. And it would be the biggest crime on earth if they do not get the third star. Lets hope they will keep the price level when it happens.

As for the room I have two minor complaints. My bed was 5 centimer too short. And I missed a minibar.

But – the food – the smiling staff, the views – the nice wine list. All you could wish for. Let me congratulate Thierry and Dominique also especially on the male waiter, that throughout our stay was smiling and helpful. A perfect waiter. Any restaurant or hotel would be lucky to have a guy like him. The only complaint about the restaurant would be the chairs. Romantic looking but not really comfortably. But i actually forgot that during the dinner because of all the rest.

I salute you my friend. Even if I forgot your name

So, to round it up – I surely hope to be back next year. Thanks for making the stay memorable. Thanks Gijs for showing me this place and inviting me on your trip – well you said at one point – this is OUR trip – but hell – you planned it and was in charge of most of the stuff. And you did most of that stuff pretty damn good. I salute you too- YUP ;-) -  and before my rating of the restaurant below that will include a happiness point -  I shall leave you with a goodnight shot.

Last man standing – well sitting -      Gijs Akkerman

My rating for this restaurant visit:

Food 7.5p (10) service 4.5p (5) ambience 5p (5), Happiness point (1) Total Score  18p (20)