Heavenly Reality

To celebrate my birthday (a couple days early), I went to lunch at West of Paris today with a few friends. I never cease to be astonished by the results of fine food, classic atmosphere and good company.

When you step in the front door, you forget that you are in the middle of nowhere, Idaho. The dirty slush on the concrete sidewalks outside become just a bad dream. Time stops.

Abby and I shared a cheese plate to start, which was incredible. Chef Foucachon came out and told us all about the cheeses, cut them for us, and told us in what order we should eat them. It went from a soft goat cheese through something I can't remember and a Gruyere to an amazingly creamy and tangy cheese with a layer of ash in the middle (not a typo: ash), and finished up with Boursin and Roquefort.* The only two I didn't care for very much were the first and the last. I've just never liked blue cheese. I freely confess that it is my fault, that I ought to develop a taste for it sometime in the future, but I still don't like it. The goat cheese, on the other hand, was very mild and creamy and not what I expected at all.

Then we split a chicken-curry crepe (I didn't have my camera to take pictures, so you'll have to use your imagination). I love curry, I love crepes, and so it was a perfect marriage of flavors. We each had a Turinois for desert -- a chestnut-Grand Marnier-hazelnut-chocolate mousse dessert with a sauce of crushed raspberries. Have I ever mentioned that my favorite fruit in the world is raspberry? It is.

The capstone of the whole meal, however, actually arrived right after we placed our order. I had no clue what kind of wine would be best with the cheese and crepe, but I knew that I had to get a glass of wine with my meal. It's not a celebration otherwise, and if one is at a French restaurant (which will certainly have the best wines) one must have wine. So I asked for a glass of whatever wine the Chef recommended, and he came out with a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau. Apparently they don't normally sell it by the glass, but he said that they would open it for us.

I remember reading some article about Beaujolais Nouveau last year, so I was quite excited to try it. It was delicious! I'm not a wine-expert, by any means, but I knew it was good. I can say that it was very light and almost crisp, but at the same time a very (how-do-you-say?) real wine. It didn't taste thin at all, which is what I usually dislike in chilled wines. Along with the cheese, it made my afternoon.

When we stepped back out into the Moscow afternoon air, it was like stepping off a cloud and plummeting back to earth. We had enjoyed a dose of un-reality (or heavenly reality, I wonder?), and had to go back to the business of everyday life. But it was fun while it lasted.

*I don't know if correct grammar allows for the capitalization of cheese names, but it should.


Ruth said...

I was more than a little shocked to discover that two hours had gone by. That was a very enjoyable lunch.

Daniel Foucachon said...

The one you can't remember is probably Etorki, a sheep's cheese from the Basque region in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain. And the one with the ash is called Morbier. Little farms were scattered in the Comte region of France, and the farmers didn't have enough milk from only the morning milk, so they would sprinkle wood ash over the half-full vats, (to keep the crust from forming), and then put the evening milk on top of that to fill the vats.

You don't like Roquefort??! (just kidding - it is strong. It is the king of the cheeses. It also is a sheep's cheese, and comes from Roquefort France, which is not too far from Bordeaux. It is a very rocky, craggy region.

Daniel Foucachon said...