If you’re a food lover but the sheer number and variety of Paris restaurants overwhelms you, or if you’ve been to them all, or if you want to refine your palate and learn about the origins of your meal in an intimate and convivial setting, you can do no better than to attend a le Foodist dinner. Though the company also offers classes and tastings, its dining experiences stun both the eye and the palate.
I attended a “Once upon a Table” dinner, set on a boat named Daphné, just under the shadow of Notre Dame. As the sun set over the Seine and waves rocked the boat gently, a small group of about a dozen fellow travelers gathered on the deck alongside me, and we were given an apéro of sweet white wine to clear our palates and get the conversational juices flowing. Our sommelier, Stephan, welcomed us with boisterous warmth and informed us that he wouldn’t tell us the name of the wine just yet. Instead, he wanted us to learn how to appreciate a good wine, insisting we simply taste with our eyes, nose and mouth rather than judging based on price, year or appellation.
After getting to know one another and the wine (which turned out to be a sprightly delicate Jurançon), we descended into the cabin of the boat and were seated at a beautifully set table. The cabin has a charmingly nautical vibe, from its wooden plank floors and wooden grand piano to the portholes where one can see the other boats on the Seine floating past the church. One note, however: passengers especially prone to seasickness may find the experience less than ideal.
Our other host, Fred, introduced us to some history of both Paris and French food as our next wine and first course, a cauliflower soup decorated with expertly cooked mussels and saffron, was served. As we ate the savory, hearty soup, Stephan told us about the importance of terroir in French wines, and boasted that “Tonight, I’m gonna give you the abilities to show off to people in your own country,” teaching us how to detect certain notes in a wine’s aroma and, most helpfully, what to say when you’re not sure. (“Just say it’s very complex,” Stephan said jokingly, “or something about white flowers. It’s so vague that nobody can protest.”)
Our fish course was salmon and seasonal asparagus three ways: diced, shredded and simply whole. Marinated with a miso-sake blend, the fish retained a mellow, gentle flavor, and, accompanied by the asparagus and drizzled with a citrusy yuzu vinaigrette, each flavor and texture held the others together. The only way it could have been better was with a glass of Sancerre, which we were served as a complement to the dish.
Fred explained the history of nouvelle cuisine to us, noting that the term was actually first used in the 17th century, and what we now consider nouvelle should actually be called nouvelle nouvelle nouvelle. Our taste buds well piqued and our glasses now filled with a spicy, fruity red wine, we were served a ridiculously tender stew of lamb infused with Mediterranean spices, dusted with couscous and resting along a strip of mint purée. The masterful blend of textures and flavors, from the weighty, strong lamb to the teasing and light couscous and mint, was a delight to the palate, a dish nearly distracting to conversation because it demanded attention.
With our cheese course, we were treated to stories about the history of each region the cheeses came from, and by this fourth course and as many tastings of wine, in the candlelit cabin of the Daphné, we had all become good friends. The setting was small enough to get to know one’s neighbor, as though we were all just attending a truly fabulous dinner party.
After our final course, a simple, refreshing scoop of vanilla ice cream sprinkled with homemade granola, balls of peach flesh and raspberries, we brought our full stomachs and sated taste buds back up to the deck to enjoy a warm summer’s night. Stephan broke out a bottle of Champagne and we toasted to perfect weather, a perfect meal and Paris.
In a nutshell: For a meal that is a charming, intimate and purely French experience, hop on the boat for le Foodist’s “Once upon a Table” dinner.
Price check: 150 euros per person.
If le Foodist sounds good, you’ll also like Crave Supper Club. Read the review. https://girlsguidetoparis.comarchives/paris-restaurants-crave-supper-club/
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