In This Issue

Another break in publication
On the food-and-wine trail
Let us hear from you!

Another break in publication

I really regret having to do this, but for a variety of reasons I don't expect to be able to publish the FoodLetter on schedule next week. I do hope to resume publication as soon as possible, at the latest on the following Thursday. Thanks for your patience.

On the food-and-wine trail

Whenever I hit the food-and-wine trail, I do it with a bundle of mixed emotions: I love the food and wine. I worry about the pounds I'm putting on, and dread the sacrifice that will be needed to take it back off. I enjoy eating out in restaurants both simple and fancy. And I miss cooking at home.

We're just back from a 10-day visit to France, where my wife and I toured the Southern Rhone and Provence with a group of friendly wine-and-food enthusiasts and tacked on a couple of days in Paris, and all these elements came into play - not least those extra five pounds that are going to have to go soon!

Since I haven't been in the kitchen for a while and won't be spending much time there for the next couple of weeks, I thought I would try a variation on my usual approach for today's FoodLetter.

Rather than offer you actual recipes that I've tried and tested at home, I hope you'll enjoy briefer descriptions of a number of dishes that we sampled in France - summaries that I intend to craft into future recipes. If you like the looks of any of these and try making something based on them before I do, I'll be in your debt if you will pass your reports along to me at Naturally if any of your E-mail results in a recipe that I use in a future editions, I'll gladly give you full credit.

So, without further delay, let's dive right in. We enjoyed a lot of dishes in France that I don't intend to replicate at home, but here's a quick look at some that I would like to try:

At Bistrot de Sommelier in Paris, an appetizer course of fromage blanc (freshly made mild cheese not unlike cottage cheese or ricotta) was blended with finely chopped chives and formed into a ball, served on bitter salad greens. It went wonderfully with a dry Sauvignon Blanc.

The same restaurant offered an intriguing procedural trick. The dish itself, tiny ravioli stuffed with chopped parsley and herbs on a rosemary cream sauce drizzled with balsamic vinegar, was good but didn't inspire me to imitation. But the garnish caught my attention: Fresh sprigs of rosemary had been quickly roasted, just long enough to make them soft and mild, turning what's usually a throwaway garnish into something good to eat.

Finally, the fish dish added an appetizing element to a simple standard: A thick fresh tuna steak was covered with a layer of poppy seeds before being roasted, then served on a fruity red-wine reduction with a slice of crisp bacon as garnish. The poppy-seed coating added an interesting texture and flavor to the dish.

At Restaurant le Vernet in Avignon (where an inner courtyard shaded by huge oaks made for a beautiful alfresco evening meal), the chef had the bright idea of using thin-sliced, steamed eggplant as a wrapper for a ball of salmon mousse and brandade (potato and salt cod pureed together with garlic).

Brandade turned up again at the restaurant Le Garlaban in Suze-la-Rousse, a Cotes-du-Rhone village near Cairanne, where a fine puree of creamy potatoes and salt cod served as a base for snapping fresh sea bass fillets and a drizzle of browned butter.

Yet another delicious variation on mashed potatoes appeared a few kilometers south at the restaurant La Pitchoune in Maussane-les-Alpilles, Provence, where rich potatoes were mixed with tapenade, the regional specialty, a pounded-to-a-paste blend of black olives, capers, garlic, anchovies and the region's memorable herbs. (Vegetarians could easily drop the anchovies from this dish and still have something special.)

A lavish portion of duck foie gras served at La Vielle Fontaine, the one-star restaurant in Hotel d'Europe in Avignon, was too simple to call a recipe, but it offered an unexpected wine match: After extensive discussion with our group's sommeliers-conseil Lauriann Greene and Jean-Pierre Solin and the restaurant's sommelier, we went with a DRY white of the region, Clos Boucher 1998 Condrieu. This dry but rich Viognier made a stellar match, without filling us up as the usual combo of foie gras and Sauternes might have done.

At Rene Berard's restaurant in l'Hostellerie Berard in La Cadiere d'Azur, above Bandol in Provence, we enjoyed a couple of interesting dishes. One unusual item, a perfect starter for a hot summer evening, was a simple, thick soup of pureed canteloupe laced with fine-chopped mint. A stunning main course featured a fillet of pan-fried sandre (a mild, white freshwater fish) on a bed of simple risotto made with fine-chopped zucchini, surrounded by a pool of "sauce raito," a meaty, rich reddish-brown sauce apparently made by an intense reduction of red wine and herbs.

On our final night in Paris, we met friends at a pleasant little neighborhood spot, La Ferme Saint Hubert, a restaurant associated with a small cheese shop and specializing in cheese dishes. My choice, not for the faint-of-heart, featured andouillette, a pungently aromatic rustic sausage made of, well, innards, napped with a thick and tangy Roquefort sauce. The combination of strong aromas and flavors was a delight, if not one that I'm likely to try to replicate at home. It would have been great with a Burgundy, but after 10 days of intense wine touring, I paired it with an ice-cold beer.

Again, if any of these ruminations inspire you to try to craft a similar dish at home, I hope you'll let me know how it goes. Send me E-mail at

Let us hear from you!

If you have suggestions or comments about The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter, or if you would like to suggest a topic for a coming edition and recipe, please drop me a note. I really enjoy hearing from you, and I try to give a personal reply to all mail if I possibly can. The Ask A Question form at is the easiest way to reach me, but if you prefer, you may also send E-mail to


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Thursday, June 20, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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