Restaurant Clairefontaine, Luxembourg – 31 july 2012

“School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces”
Alice Cooper 1972

Even though the termometer reads 19 degrees, its high summer at this point and the boys have started their summer vacation. So I decided to continue the tradition I started last year. Going with them to my favourite terrasse in town for a boys lunch , even though – to our disappointment the dining was going to commence inside this year. Not a surprice since the weather is really tricky this year. Nevertheless, the sun came out and people arriving an hour later were blessed with both sun and al fresco dining.

Big boys….they really are growing so fast.

We were joined by Angel, the big boy of Chef Arnaud and host Edwige. A big boy himself now at 12. Nice to have some grown up chat at the table. Thanks for your company Angel.

I forgot my camera, so I apologize to you readers and to Arnaud if the photos are not quite up to par. Two rounds of (very nice) amuses – which were both tried and almost liked by the boys 😉 –  were followed by my starter:

Variations of tomato

A summer dish, typical for the style of Arnaud, and it was very nice if not out of this world. The crunchy bisquit was a great combo to the delicate tomatoes. A decent starter where the southern or even Italian  influences were clear with pesto and mozzarella etc. 7.5p

Cheeks of veal, macaroni stuffed with tender small pieces of veal shoulder or leg. Can one call that rilette of veal ?

Great dish, the meat so tender, the reduction VERY tasteful, the different preparations of carrot fitting. Really up there among the top for such a simple dish 8.5p

The menu was followed by the usual sweets and 90 min had gone, the boys, mostly due to Angel, had behaved fantastic, even though I forgot the entertainment in the car.

.

Emil and Oscar both had veal on basmati rice with vegetables and as soon as the green leaf on top was removed they loved it…

“Well we got no class
And we got no principles
And we got no innocence
We can’t even think of a word that rhymes”
Alice Cooper 1972

Well we had class today. And so did the menu and wines. The wines today were chosen – and served blind as I like it – 2 white chardonnays were followed by a beautiful red. To get such a great taste from a simple appellation. Well chosen dear Julien

Nice drop.

Conclusion:

I hope dear boys we can re-do this traditon every year for many years to come. It was good practicing for the upcoming lunch at Lameloise. And you did well, if not perfect. The food was in good Clairefontaine style. I do think that meat cooking is one of Arnauds strongest sides and the veal today was no exception.

As most times we were today given the seperate salon, which allows the boys to fool around a bit. Didier was his usual charming self, playing with the boys. The staff on their toes and nothing really to complain about. Was the food out of this world ? No. but it didnt need to be. After all it was just “family guy” establishing a little bit of summer tradition and – “an education” for two aspiring gourmets. And they tried both amuses today, and the first one even without any kind of pressure. Well done my boys. You make it all worthwhile. Restaurant Clairefontaine is still holding on strong to its position as the best (terrasse!) dining in town – and among the best anyway. Thanks for having us.

My rating for this visit;

Food 8p (10) service 5p (5) ambience 5p (5),  Total Score  18p (20)

Advertisements

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)

Mark Wright – Live in Luxembourg 9 June 2012

So – celebrating our 10th Anniversary, the upcoming birthday of the missus and life in general, I had booked Mark Wright to come and play for us. Old and new friends were invited and around 40 people gathered in our garden on a sunny day – if not hot.

The idea was the food wine was offered and that our friends would chip in to pay for the performance of Mark Wright and hopefully that would leave a little something for donating money to Dan Harrison, who was the reason I originally met Mark at a memorable evening in 2011 in Birmingham, where the online Bruce Springsteen fan community had put together a fund raising evening for Dan´s treatment in Graz, Austria. Please do take a moment to read the story of Dan here helpdan.com

Back to our party here are some shots of happy people – our friends.

Mark warming up in our living room – with an Astrid favourite “Two Faces”….I wept.

Torben preparing the BBQ. He did a GREAT job. Thanks Torben – again.

Jesus, Marianne and Jörg….

Music to hold hands to…

– or dance to.

Mark did two sets. The first one he performed Springsteen classics among some of our obscure Springsteen requests. The River, Thunder Road, I wish I were blind, 57 Channels and nothin´on, Paradise, The fuse, Born to run, Reno, One step up, Tougher than the rest, Tunnel of love, Red headed woman, Fire . Because the night…the list goes on. I cried – as Mark stated it – to every second song. But it was very emotional to have a lifelong list of your best friends sitting there listening to the music that have meant so much to you over the years – in your own backyard.  And Mark´s voice, performance and storytelling was just as good as I had hoped it would be. A hilarious moment in the video below occured at 0.10 when Torben cannot seem to hide his excitement over Denmark´s goal in the opening match of their group in the European Football Championships…..check it out.

The second set of Mark was changed from a pure Elvis set – to a set including classics from the 60´s up through the 90´s. It started by my request with Here comes the sun – included Vienna, Comfortably numb, Rocket Man, Streets of Philadelphia, In the Ghetto, Suspicious minds, Ring of fire, Not fade away, Blowin´in the wind etc. – and it ended with a mindblowing version of our wedding song – If I should fall behind. All in all Mark performed close to 40 songs, I am happy to have captured most of those songs on video, and the rest deep deep deep in my heart. The missus and I was so happy that most of our friends took the effort and time to spend the day with us. This day ranked emotionally way up there with our wedding. And since many new friends have come along since 2002 – it meant even more sharing all those beautiful song on this day.

We managed to pay Mark and to be able to send a little something to Kev Harrison, for the upcoming treatment of Dan. We wish him all the luck in the world.

Mark will be back next year in July if we find a way – we will simply have to.

So – thank you Astrid for all those years and love, thank you dear friends for being such a prominent part of our lives, thank you Mark for making this day a day  we will never forget.

Speaking of forgetting…..We forgot to sell some wine, but luckily a few orders have come in afterwards – we thank you for those and hope for your ongoing support in that respect as well 😉

I shall end this little private review with Mark´s perfect version of one of my favourite ligther Bruce songs…

My rating for this day. As good as they come.