Another productive day of vacation. Woke up late, ate breakfast, shopped for lunch (cheese at Barthelemy’s and meat at Gilles Verot ), had a picnic in the Luxembourg Gardens (see below), and started to think about dinner.

The breaded, penile-shaped morsel is yet another andouillette de troyes. This one I had to eat cold and, I must say, it was a bit too pungent for my liking. If you’ve ever cooked tripe, imagine that sensation when it is first boiling and begins to release all its pent-up stinkiness into the air. Now, imagine someone has solidified that smell into a thick slab of sausage and you’ll have a sense of what I was tasting. Liz liked it though. On the top we have a fromage de tete. Yummy, but way too much for me to put down myself, and Liz wasn’t touching it. And then at the bottom a rillette d’oie. I still don’t know what that is, but it was my favorite of the three. Tasted like some sort of heavenly combo of pulled pork and chicken salad.
Today’s real treat was our dinner at Astrance. It is currently ranked #11 on the San Pellegrino list of the top 50 restaurants in the world ( a list that Liz and I almost exclusively plan our vacations around). They call it L’Astrance, but the sign on the door says Astrance so I am going with that. The menu is small. In fact, you only have two choices: dinner with wine pairings, dinner without wine pairings. We went with the latter. No information on the meal is given, you simply inform your waiter of any dietary restrictions and off you go. Here is what we had (no pictures, we thought it might be tacky):

shortbread cookie, apple, and candied almond
shot glass of layered melon, mango and sweet yogurt puree
(with some kind of 98/99 champagne blend that I just can’t remember any more about. it was good though)

raw mushroom and foie gras tart with lemon jelly and hazelnut oil
pan-seared langoustine, assorted vegetables and flowers, with spicy peanut butter
(with Anjou Chenin Blanc 2006)

john dory fish with thai salad, and papaya puree. on the side: mussels in cucumber soup with shredded crab
red snapper with sweet onion, bok choy, cumin seared green onion, tamarind reduction
(with Fancois Villard Viognier 2005)

pigeon three ways: pan-seared, broiled, liver pate. with white bean salad and coffee/licorice spread. on the side: lemon tea
saffron-poached zucchini flower stuffed with wild fruits over gorgonzola and honey
(with Roc D’Anglade 2004)

honey ice cream with fruit
sugar canoli (i actually have no idea what it was but this comes closest to describing it) with pistachio cream, creme fraiche, wild fruit sorbet and pistachio whipped cream
shot glass of lemon cream, lemon gelee, flowers
sweet pepper sorbet with lemon zest
fresh fruit with jasmine milk in egg shells, madeleines
(with chateau de sarospatak 1999 Tokaji)

Liz and I both agreed that this was close to if not the best meal/restaurant we had ever had/been to. Very creative and there are several dishes that I will remember for a long time. First, the langoustine with the spicy peanut butter. Most of the dishes were asian influenced but this was by far the most successful. So light but still had that pad-thai richness of flavor. The pigeon with the coffee/licorice. The coffee/licorice accompaniment worked very well despite our suspicion and did not overpower the meat at all – but it was so strong that Liz literally did not sleep a wink after the meal. We got home at midnight and had to catch a 7am train so she just trucked through. The stuffed zucchini flower – goddamnit. Goddamnit. I know the description sounds good, but its hard to describe how much better it tasted. I could eat this every night and be happy. Finally, the jasmine milk. Probably the single best tasting beverage I’ve ever had. There, I said it.
Every dish had a unique flavor combination and I was just sad that it couldn’t go on longer. Tomorrow we’re off to Chamonix to hike and eat like loggers.

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