Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Bridge too dark!

The Old Bridge hold an annual wine festival weekend themed around a chosen wine region. They have various tastings, a formal meal on the Friday evening and on Saturday night they hold (in their words) “a casual, noisy and good-humoured party” which is what we’re heading for. Last year I had said I was hoping for a French year and they must have read my thoughts and tonight we’re immersing ourselves in all things Burgundy!

Our menu for this evening is:

Duck and orange terrine; Chicken liver and foie gras parfait; onion jam; baguette

Goats’ cheese and endive salad

Boeuf Bourguignonne with Dauphinoise potatoes and broccoli

“Tarte au Citron”

Coffee and nougat

The starter is really good, a meaty duck terrine and the generous bowl of the chicken liver and foie gras parfait is passed around and MC and myself being the biggest pâté fans of our table avail ourselves of a healthy portion. The baguette disappears oh so quickly as it is on the table when we sit down, we hungrily share it out and then realise there is none left when the starter arrives. Whoops! They were persuaded to supplement out bread baskets though.

The raison d’etre of this event is to enjoy our set menu alongside the remaining bottles from the wine tastings. This means that we have an eclectic cellar of half bottles of various reds and whites and a lively debate ensues as to the merit of one over the other. We seem to have more white wine lovers than red wine lovers at our table so they are looking enviously at our larger reservoir of the fine grape.

B has kindly let the restaurant know that D and I just cannot bear anything touched by goat, so they have not just left it out they have substituted the offending ingredient by very welcome pear slices instead – a crisp choice and a great foil between the infusions of meat!

Boeuf Bourguignonne is one of my favourite French bistro delights. I always think the tastiest versions are the chunks of beef, lardons of smoked bacon and mushrooms slow-cooked in a rich Pinot Noir and then cooled and reheated the next day; the flavours being given the opportunity to develop and become richer overnight. Today’s Beef Bourguignonne is one entire hunk of beef, and I cannot vouch for whether it has been cooked yesterday but the non-conventional presentation throws me slightly. The taste is good, perhaps not quite as melt in the mouth and ‘could eat with a spoon’ as I would have liked but B was certainly defeated by the excessive meatiness, I don't know if a more traditional version would have been more acceptable for her. Their take on Gratin Dauphinoise was quite unusual as well; instead of the creamy, unctuous dish much lusted after by me - it was served as a firm dense potato stack, more likely cooked in stock than cream.

The Tarte au Citron is another beloved French dish – and this is a decent example, the crispy pastry and the pleasing tang of the lemon is a vibrant and dare I say 'tart' finale to our rich meal.

This was a tasty bistro meal, devoid of chequered tablecloths and candles stuck in bottles; we are instead in a smart dining room, with deep red walls and curtains and an imposing fire place and attractive brown feathers decorating the pelmets. Unfortunately in my mind there isn’t enough light and my murky photographs are testament to that.

But we're really here for the food, not so I can practice my low-light food photography, and we've had some flavoursome goodies. My star of the night being the chicken liver and foie gras pâté, I wonder if they have any over that MC and I can take home in a doggy-bag? This would be better than rounding up all the remaining wine bottles like last time, eh MC? This sudden decision to 'take-out' isn't undertaken this year maybe because there barely a drop left!

Of course we are all speculating the regional theme of next years, the recent events have been Antipodean, South African and Italian, maybe next year we’ll be tucking into a typically Chilean meal – we’ll have to wait until December to find out!

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