Archive for Unfermented

Prohibition Pig, Home of Craft Beers, Comfort Food And Classic Cocktails

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I stumbled upon brew pub-restaurant Prohibition Pig on my last trek to the green mountains of Vermont.  From the moment I walked in, I knew I struck gold. A beer selection a mile deep, not to mention their own beer offerings, this local brew pub, influence by the deep South, features shrimp and grits, brisket, pulled pork and pork rinds among other Southern specialties.

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IMG_0843The bar was packed three deep and all the tables packed with people and laden comfort foods, pork-related or otherwise.

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A barbecue joint that serves classic cocktails, craft beers and offers an array of comfort foods, Prohibition Pig also brews its own beer in a building behind its restaurant.  Among the selection of beers are several draft offerings from Prohibition Pig’s own brewery, including their Multi-grain IPA and Vanilla Bean Porter.  They began brewing in 2013 and the reaction from locals and visitors has been overwhelmingly positive.

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The brewery is just behind the restaurant and also offers some food alongside its selection of draft beers, made from the kit shown below.

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I couldn’t help but notice that the bar was stocked with some of my favorite micro-distilled spirits.   The food passing by me courtesy of the milling wait staff convinced me that the 30 minute wait for a table was a no-brainer.   Luckily, I was able to secure a table quickly and could settle in to enjoy some of Prohibition Pig’s offerings.

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Below, a peek of their menu.

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Our table opted to start with some pork finds and to start with an Old Fashion.

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IMG_0826IMG_0826IMG_0826IMG_0826IMG_0826IMG_0827IMG_0849Now for a little fry action.  On offer are some duck fat fried french fries.

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Now our entrees, a pulled-pork sandwich and their jumbo Hot Dog:

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And lastly, the meal ended with Prohibition Pig’s Key Lime Pie.

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All in all, a great place for brunch, lunch or dinner.  Great beer, cocktails and Southern inspired food always hits the right spot.

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A Quick Overview of Southern Iceland, Along with Some Cool Spirits and Beers

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Stepping off the plane and onto the tarmac, I was enveloped by the purest air that I had ever breathed. It was as if the constant stream of exhaust emitting from the multitude of commercial planes taking off and landing were fully contained in invisible bubbles.

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Iceland–that one word seems to convey a feeling of purity.  Inhospitable, but starkly beautiful, Iceland is a land littered with glacier-covered mountain tops, waterfalls, rivers, lakes,  geysers and thermal pools.

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The Secret Lagoon

The size of Kentucky or South Korea, Iceland is defined by its active volcanic systems that on one hand, provide cheap geothermal energy to its residents, But on the other hand, poses a very real threat to the lives of its roughly 334,000 inhabitants.  In fact, the historic volcanic eruption of 1783 was responsible for killing a fifth of Iceland’s population.

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Iceland seems to be a place where nature both brutally gives and takes. The romantic side of me conjures up images of Vikings, the original settlers of this inhospitable land located just outside the Arctic Circle. Independent,  fearless and individualistic, from a bygone era where forcefully seizing life, and in many instances, your future bride, was just how things were done.

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In some ways it is still possible to envision that time.  The people of Iceland today are the result of those initial settlers and the Icelandic language hasn’t evolved much since the ninth or tenth century when Iceland was first founded.

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So, you are probably wondering what this has to do with wine or spirits…or food, even?  I’m getting there.

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The clean purity of the waters mean that the fish are some of the best you will eat.  Anywhere.  Icelanders are rightfully proud of their pristine environment and glacier sourced water.  And as a result, they are able to leverage this asset in their beers, whiskies and liquor production, not to mention Icelandic foodstuffs.

In their quest for food independence, green houses along with geothermal technology are used to provide nutritious, pesticide and GMO free produce and spices for residents and export markets alike.  In fact, many of the distilleries are operated using only geothermal energy.  How is that for a zero carbon footprint? Bottom line, although you will pay a pretty penny for the privilege, you will eat some of the highest quality food obtainable anywhere in the world here in Iceland.

Case in point, my first meal in the country was at one of Reykjavek’s top restaurants, the Fridrik V. The five course tasting menu changes constantly, reflecting the availability of the freshest of ingredients.   Below are pictures without comment, after all, a picture says a thousand words.  Needless, to say, it was topnotch and a uniquely Icelandic experience.

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That brings me to the Scandinavian tradition of aquavits and other botanical infused liquors.  Here in Iceland, there are a few distillers producing interesting liquors using Icelandic botanicals or Icelandic fruit.  The most commonly available of such spirits seems to come from Foss Distillery, whose focus is in using birch sap along with adding birch twigs to their spirits for final maceration in the bottle.

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The first liquor I tasted was Foss’s Björk liqueur.  Made from distilled grain spirit infused with Icelandic birch and finished off with a touch of its native birch syrup with added sugar. Clocking in at 27.5% this liqueur is quite sweet.  It would make a great addition to a cocktail.

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Foss’s Birkir has nice viscosity, is nutty with just a whiff of cocoa powder alongside a woodiness imparted by the Birch twig left macerating in the bottle.  Finishing with just a perceptible amount of sweetness on the palate, this is delicious on the rocks or as part of a cocktail.

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Micro-distillery 64° Reykjavik Distillery has a line-up of interesting Aquavits and liquors.  One of their liquors is made with Crowberries, an Arctic berry. Their motto is to “use the very best seasonal ingredients; unspoiled and pure - steeped in Icelandic tradition – purify and distill those incredible flavours utilising renewable energy and crystal clear glacial water. Bottle them, and package beautifully.”

I have only been able to taste the Brennivin Akevitt or Aquavit.  Some light anise and caraway flavors, light pale lemon color.

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Flóki Young Malt comes from organic Icelandic barley grown in volcanic soil at the Artic circle.  This is young and a bit sharp, but interesting…

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I really like the Einstok Pale Ale, probably because it is light and crisp with some maltiness, but not too much.  This brewery blends a mix of American and European influences along with great Icelandic water to create this thirst quenching beer.  It is astonishing to know that until 1989, beer was illegal in Iceland!

For fun, I made a small video with some of the pictures and video I took when I was touring around Southern Iceland.  The dog in the video is Ozzy, the only Portuguese Water dog in Iceland.

Iceland is a very unique and beautiful place and definitely worth a visit!

Purefoy Arms: A Gastropub with a Spanish Twist

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Hungry and a bit lost driving in the Hampshire countryside, I was relieved to find a lone pub open for business and still serving lunch.

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The pub was warm and inviting, a fire burning in the big brick hearth, wooden country-looking tables and chairs mixed with more contemporary style furniture; the place had the casual elegant air of a bygone era.

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On the chalkboard near the bar,  I was astounded to see written the range of Lustau sherries on offer.   Sherry?!

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Not really in the mode of drinking too much as I had to drive, I was interested to see the wine list offering English Sparkling wine by the glass and an assortment of other mineral driven, food friendly wines by the glass.

It was then that I realized that the Purefoy Arms was no ordinary pub.

The establishment’s owners combine Spanish tapas concepts with British pub staples and all done to the highest of standards with the best of ingredients.   The menu changes all the time, but most items have a Spanish twist like their Candover pheasant served with red cabbage, morcilla & potato croquette and wild mushrooms.   Not surprising, their sister restaurant Pulpo Negro is, in fact, a Spanish Tapas bar, located in a town about 15-20 minutes away.

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I started off by ordering the Chorizo Scotch Egg, a pub favorite, but with the added dimension of Spanish Chorizo.  It came out piping hot, the chorizo flavors married well with the egg and breading, my only complaint being the sauce was a touch bland.

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The olives were some of the plumpest, sweetest and juiciest olives.   I ended up ordering two orders of this.

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The pea soup tasted as good as it looks.  It seemed like it was just cooked to order, as it had a fresh out-of-the garden taste and was pureed to perfection with a garnish of ham.

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The hamburger was well-done and satisfying, but given all the other great things on the menu, probably not the best or most interesting choice.

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The fish in the fish and chip dish was crisp and the fish nice and flakey.  The mushy peas were fresh.  All in all, a solid version of a pub classic.

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There are truly some interesting items on the menu that need more exploring, examples from their February menu including sparkling Albarino…And, rabbit and clam paella with serrano ham!   The desserts didn’t sound half bad, either and there is a chocolate room on premises for those with a sweet tooth.

A New Treatment for the Vine Disease Esca?


Esca is an incurable vine disease with very little treatment possibilities.   The disease is spreading at an increasingly aggressive pace to the point that some wine grape growers fear  that Esca could develop into a devastation similar to phylloxera, a louse that nearly destroyed Europe’s wine sector in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Due to the work of a professor in France, there may be a treatment that could help battle the disease.  Elixrr went out to an old Riesling vineyard to explore a possible new treatment for Esca with wine grower and importer, Toni Moran.

Chilling Your Favorite Whisky with Rocks from Vermont

Teroforma Whisky Stones 6 WebHave a friend who is a Whisky aficionado and don’t know what to get him/her? Or, are you looking for something to add to your own Whisky experience?  Whisky Stones are a modern take on an old Scandinavian tradition whereby cold stones are used to chill down the temperature of spirits.

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co-Founder Andrew Hellman came up with the idea of making Whisky Stones after he found a bag of loose stones in his own grandfather’s liquor cabinett and learned the tradition of how they were used to chill down alcohol.

Whisky Stones are handcrafted in Vermont from soapstone by the Vermont Soapstone company, one of America’s oldest soapstone workshops in the country. Soapstone, a talc-schist comprised mostly of the mineral talc has the benefit of being flavor neutral, non-absorbent, and can retain either heat or cold for a relatively long period of time.  The stones are light weight with no sharp edges, so drinkers don’t have to be afraid of the stones damaging their glasses.

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Top Martinis at Dukes Hotel Bar

Dukes Hotel Bar is one of the most famous martini bars in the world.   Of course, there is the allure of the bar’s connection to legendary James Bond Author, Ian Fleming, which adds a certain mystique to the bar.  The hotel has a romantic air, located in a quiet nook in Mayfair; the elegant woodwork giving the hotel a cozy, refined air from a bygone era.

But, the Martinis and other personalized cocktails are what draws the most hard-core martini imbibers.  The martinis at Dukes are made using the best and freshest ingredients; lemons shipped in from Italy and a constantly changing list of the most interesting, cutting edge hand-crafted spirits no doubt keeps its clientele happily returning.

Besides the decision to focus on small interesting, micro-distilled spirits as opposed to the big brands, the charismatic head bartender Alessandro Palazzi along with the help of his capable staff, have to be credited with adding personality and “theater” in its martini making.  At Dukes, martinis are made tableside with the use of small carts.   Patrons get to be entertained watching their own master piece made right before their eyes all while enjoying the banter from the showmen who work at Dukes.

The above video depicts a visit to Duke’s interviewing Alessandro Palazzi about Dukes, his use of Sacred Spirits, and other micro-distilled spirits in their personalized cocktails.

A Visit to Sacred Distillery

Sacred Distillery started in 2009 and was one of the first, new distilleries in London to establish itself in nearly 200 years.  Now, one of the smallest micro-distillers in London, size hasn’t stopped Sacred from getting its line of hand-crafted, organic spirits distributed in Spain, Australia, New Zealand as well as to over 35 states in the US.

What makes this producer so unique, is its use of vacuum distillation in lieu of the more traditional pot still.  Instead of cooked flavors, drinkers can experience the pure essence of botanicals like frankincense or the juicy fruit flavors of, say, pink grapefruit.   This difference can only be appreciated when comparing a gin tonic made with Sacred’s gin to a traditionally made gin.  If you like fresh flavors that assault all senses, then this is the way to go!

On a recent trip to the US, I found Sacred Gin featured at Macintosh Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina.   I had the bartender muddle fresh mint leaves and cucumber along with some fresh squeezed lime juice followed by tonic water and Sacred Gin.

Before I knew it, my family was ordering the drink, too.  It was so refreshing with such purity; the perfect drink on a hot, sticky July day in Charleston.  Problems only began when the restaurant ran out of Sacred and had to substitute for another, more traditionally made gin.  The result was near mutiny at the table.

I am now a believer in their use of vacuum distillation…But, don’t believe me, go out and find a bottle.  In the meantime, I have taped my visit to Sacred Distillery above so you can find out a bit more about their operation.

I want to thank Ian Hart for his time and for letting my team come and film.

Apologies for any sound issues, this is my first video project and I need to resolve better how to get good quality sound in noisy, windy places.

 

 

Mixers and Other Non-Alcoholic Options

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Along with the premium food, boutique wine and micro-distilling movements has been the development of a premium soft drink and mixer category.  What a joy! Finally high quality mixers to go with the newly available super premium spirits.

It is comforting to know that when going out with friends, there doesn’t have to be a compromise on flavor, especially when going the evening alcohol free and the “mixer” or sparkling fruit drink suddenly becomes the focal point.  With drink-driving limits constantly dropping and that seemingly constant battle of the bulge that puts empty high calorie drinks in the crosshairs, a night on the town can seem like an exercise in temptation with no upside.

Now, consumers can find everything from organic, all natural beverages, with a variation of sweet to low sugar and no sugar options.  Best, the variety of options and flavors abound.

Tonic Water

Today, there are plenty of tonic waters on the market fitting a variety of price points, calorie counts and natural or not so natural ingredient lists.  The real beauty of tonic water is that it is flavorful alone.  And better still, whether you are at a social function or a business one, no one really needs to know whether you are “drinking” or not.

The new “slimline” or diet versions that can range from 0 calories to up to 23 calories for 200 ml mean that you can get all the flavor without unneeded calories at a range of price points.

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On the premium end of the range, the Fentimans Light Tonic Water is big on bold, botanical flavors and light on the calories.  Made with sugar and a combination of Quinine, Lemongrass, kaffir lime leave and Juniper berries there are just 23 calories per 200 ml or 7 ounces.  Together with gin, this makes a sublime gin and tonic.  On its own, it is delicious and refreshing.https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=27cf65b508&view=att&th=1407d4f4e6949283&attid=0.2&disp=inline&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P88i4mXXRX_fiXqgzsAE5ix&sadet=1376920521050&sads=--qpMeMje4pswAnK9fmisTAv1-8

 

Q Tonic Water is also a premium tonic water.  It is made with quinine sourced from the Peruvian Andes and sweetened with organic agave.   The sweetness perceives less on the palate than with other tonic waters on the market.  This tonic water’s flavor had a heavier focus on quinine and had a creamy effervescence.  There are 25 calories per 5 oz serving.

A Cucumber Mixer

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Qcumber, not to be confused with the company who produces Q Drinks Company’s Tonic Water listed above, is a cucumber flavored sparkling drink, made from all natural ingredients.  Sucrose is the sweetener here.  All in, there are about 67 calories in every 250 ml portion.  If you like cucumber, this drink is for you.  It captures the essence of cucumber and is great alone or as a mixer.  As there are no preservatives here, Qcumber needs to be consumed within 3 days of opening.

Non-Alcoholic Fruit Press Drinks

If you are in the mood for a fruit cocktail drink minus the alcohol,  Cawston Press makes some amazing sparkling fruit drinks.  Their drinks are not from concentrate, but are made uniquely from pressed fruit.  Cawston doesn’t use artificial sweeteners or preservatives.

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The Apple Rhubarb tastes so fresh, both sweet and tart, it is about 32 calories per 100ml.

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The Cawston Press Sparkling Ginger Beer perceives a touch sweeter on the palate than the Apple Rhubarb and has 34 calories per 100 ml.  Simply made with pressed apple juice, lemon juice, ginger and chili extracts, this is a great take on a classic.

 

Mt. Etna: Great wine from Volcano Country

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Sicily’s Mt. Etna region is rugged and arid, an inhospitable terrain of volcanic soil and brush that somehow manages to nurture the development of intense wines with both age-ability and finesse.   Mt. Etna , the tallest active volcano on the European continent at close to 11, 000 feet high or 3330 meters, has a soil rich in minerals like copper, magnesium and phosphorous along with varying exposures and sea influences that contribute to as much (or more) as a 20 degrees Celsius temperature fluctuation between night and day.   The warmth during the day helps to ripen the grapes, while the cool temperatures at night help to maintain acidity– key to the world class wines Etna is able to produce.  

Etna received its DOC status in 1968, but the potential of the region was not understood until recently.  Prior to the late 1980s, Mt. Etna was not even considered to be a high quality bulk wine producer, unlike other wine areas in Sicily.  What changed Mt. Etna’s fortune was the desire of producers such as Benanti  to begin the production of world class wines.  Once the painstaking work of learning, or relearning Etna’s terroir began, word quickly spread of the regions potential. 

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Mt.Etna has a semi-circular shape spreading from North to Southwest, which means that the sun and sea influence can vary greatly between the most northern vineyards and southwest vineyards. This translate to harvests in the north taking place, on average, a month later than those in the south, while Etna, in general, harvests later than anywhere else in Sicily.  Of course,  the fact that Etna vineyards are located on altitudes between 450 meters to 1100 meters and that rain is practically absent in the summer, but can be very high during the autumn or winter period, all contributes to the concentration and complexity of Etna wines. 

The best of the whites are made with some Carricante and the reds made predominately with the  Nerello Marscalese and Nerello Capuccio grapes, all grapes native to Eastern Sicily, some tracing many hundreds of years back.  The highest quality producing vineyards have old vines or even pre-phylloxera vines, predating the 1880s.  Oenologists on Etna have hypothesized that the volcanic lava, ash and sand of the region have helped impede the louse from wreaking total destruction of the region.   

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There is a unique vibe here in Sicily–its people, terrain and architecture influenced by invaders that included the Greeks, Romans, the Germanic Vandals, the Byzantines, Arabs, Normans and later by the mid -1700s even the Spanish came to Sicily and ruled for a time.   Viewed as a bread basket by many of these conquerors, its Mediterranean climate and location only about 2 miles off of the mainland of Italy to the north and  under 90 miles from the coast of Africa from its southern tip, contributed to its desirability by conquerors looking to feed its armies.  Today, Sicily, and Mt. Etna specifically, are just starting to unlock the potential of its terroir and the results are exciting.

Below, just a glimpse of some of the outstanding producers responsible for putting  Mt. Etna on the world class wine map:

Benanti

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The Benanti family had been producing wines on Etna since the end of the 1800s.  However, it wasn’t until 1988 when Giuseppe Benanti decided to revive the traditions of the estate that Benanti turned its focus to making quality wines.  The quest for world class wine production began with an in-depth and extensive 5 year study of the Etnean soils, the clones of the indigenous vines, followed by analysis of the best modern vinification practices.  On completion of the study, Benanti was able to produce wines with a unique flavor profile; wines that highlight the ancient fragrance and flavors that are quintessential Etna.

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To best understand the work involved with the learning the terroir on Etna and the role their long time winemaker Salvo Foti played Giuseppe Benanti described the process as follows:

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 “Foti, son of Etna, informed me that there was no knowledge regarding how the wine needed to be produced since the Etna wines that were barely on the market, even as bulk wine, were not of great quality. So, we asked the collaboration of Prof. Stefano Rocco from the Experimental Institute of Oenology of Asti (Piedmont) and Prof. Jean Siegriest, now sadly passed away, from the University of Beaune in Burgundy (France). Using their protocol, we conducted 150 tests until we were able to produce our first white wine for the company Benanti, the Pietramarina, Etna Bianco Superiore in D.O.C. followed by our red wine the Rovitello, Etna Rosso D.O.C.”

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Benanti Vineyard

Check out the Pietramarina, the white wine made with Carricante that put Benanti on the map.  Also delicious, Rovitello, Serra Della Contessa,  and Majora.

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A fruit tree in the Benanti vineyard

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I Vigneri, Salvo Foti

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Salvo Foti played a pivotal role in developing the wine region of Etna, not just at Benanti, but ViniBiondi and Gulfi before starting his own estate.  Salvo’s focus has always been in the vineyard and with the exception of a copper and sulfur mix, no fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides are used.   All grapes are harvested by hand and all work is done by hand or with a mule.   Fermentation is done in open oak vats without enzymes and thermal control.  Very little or no sulfur is used on the grapes or must.  Bottling is done under the lunar cycle.  Little to no filtration is used.  The end result are wines that shows the unique terroir of Etna. 

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My favorite wine of the line-up was the 2006 Vinupetra made from Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Alicante and Francisis.  The vines for Vinupetra are located around 700 meters on the north side of the volcano near the town of Calderara.  The climate is very harsh and cold, the summers are hot and dry can be extreme fluctuations between night and day temperatures.  Many of the vines are old with goblet trellising.  This wine had lots of red cherry, red plum, strawberry, floral and mineral notes with a touch of vanilla and smoke.  This wine had a velvety texture and finished long.

Tenuta delle Terre Nere

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Marco de Grazia

Established in 2002 by famous Italian Wine Exporters/Brokers Marco de Grazia and his brother Sebastian, the estate is located on the northern slopes of the volcano, with vineyards between the village of Solicchiata and the town of Randazzo.   

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Given the extreme climate, the estate focuses on vineyard management first by farming organically and doing everything it can to ensure even and complete ripening of its grapes.  Terre Nere produces 2 hectares of Carricante, 1 hectare of Nerello Cappuccio and 18.5 hectares of Nerello Mascalese and .5 hectares of other white berry varietals. 

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Tenuta de Terre Nere consists of over 30 hectares, divided into 10 parcels in four crus, with a total vineyard area of 23 hectares.  Except for 6 hectares recently planted, the remaining vines are between 50 and 100 years old with a small pre-phylloxera parcel of vines aged 130-140 years old.  The pre-phylloxera plot locatd in the Calderara Sottana is best known as La Vigna di Don Peppino, named after the vigneron who lovingly took care of these old vines for over 70 years. 

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Don Peppino’s house and the prephylloxera Vineyard he managed.

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Volcanic rocky soil

The vineyards are located in Calderara Sottana, Guardiola, Santo Spirito and Fuedo di Mezzo and the elevations range from mostly 600-1000 meters in altitude.  As might be expected, the soils are comprised of a combination of volcanic type soils; ash, sand and basalt pebbles, etc. 

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Check out the entry level Rosso and Etna Bianco, they are delicious and very affordable. But, of course, the whole range is excellent.

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The Don Peppino prephylloxera selection

More pics from Sicily, a must visit for foodies and oenophiles: 

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La Régalade- Still Thrilling

Ok, so while we focus on all types of beverages here, it doesn’t mean that we don’t think about food.  After all, almost any drink is taken to a new level with the right food.  I thought I would take a few minutes to relive a great food experience, especially since I haven’t had one in a while—a good “foodgasm” that is.  On a recent trip to Paris, I went back to a La Régalade after an 11 year absence. It had been “the” place for some of my French wine trade contacts back in the late ’90s.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as the reviews were all over the map, some saying that the place had lost its mojo and then that the chef-owner had left. The news of another Régalade opening across town was also greeted with foreboding.  At least in the past, restaurant expansions outside the original establishment, for me, have often translated into a loss of quality or at least a diminishment of what made the original place or concept special to begin with. Nonetheless, I overcame my quibbles, the mixed reviews, and allowed my curiosity to get the better of me. I had to see if the magic was still there as someone in the wine trade recently assured me it was.

So, while the wine list was small and limited, as before, it seemed to do its best to offer value and quality.  There were even bottle offerings as low as 12 Euros, in addition to, a few very premium wines at the other end of the spectrum.  Of course, the prixe fixe lunch at around 32 Euros made the trek to La Régalade a low risk proposition, long before analyzing the wine list.

The lunch started with their complimentary paté de campagne and cornichons (as seen above), which my husband and I ate heartily.  I ordered the foie gras, (pictured left) which came with a foamy broth of green peas.  The combination sounded a bit bizarre to me, but it turned out to be the perfect marriage with the foie gras, which had an ethereal custard-like consistency and literally melted in my mouth.  Fortunately, the portion size seemed large, as I had to share this with my husband, who claimed to have never tasted anything quite like it, or that good in a long time.

Also delightful, was the crab salad, which was crisp and clean, with a touch a lemon citrus to balance the crisp celery. The touch of mint added a new dimension to the dish.

 

 

 

 

The entrée was exactly what I was looking for at lunchtime, a wonderful white fish, Dorade, on top of a bed of spinach with small pieces of what looked like Clementines.

The pig trotters with lentils were savory, balanced with the perfect amount of salt and spice—my husband who ordered this could only say that it was “food porn.

The Grand Marnier soufflé was outstanding and every bit as good as one might imagine a soufflé made with Grand Marnier must be—light and airy, subtle candied orange flavors teasing the palate. In addition, to the great value and quality, the portions seemed large and the service was friendly.  After a long culinary dry spell, eating at La Régalade was definitely what the doctor ordered.  I would definitely go back to Paris just to eat at La Régalade again.