Posts Tagged ‘Michelin stars’

Is the 320 € Vegetable Tasting Menu at Arpège Paris Worth It?


 The colorful amuse bouche

After seeing chef Alain Passard’s Arpège, a three Michelin star restaurant in Paris, featured on the PBS show I’ll Have What Phil is Having, I was curious. Is it possible to make a truly spectacular vegetarian meal that justifies the 320 € set price for a tasting menu that only uses seasonal produce?

Photo May 04, 10 53 28 AM

Beetroot sushi flowered with geranium and Kalamata black olive

Fortunately my husband and a few of my foodie friends were alway interested in finding out. We booked a reservation and went to Paris to check it out for ourselves.

One thing I despise is how at some fine dining restaurants in Europe the woman is handed a menu devoid of prices. I was disappointed that Arpège, which is so groundbreaking on so many levels, went the “women don’t get to read the prices” route. Not only is this sexist, but it left me out of the conversation about some of the other items on the menu (such as the Aiguillettes of Chausey Lobster lobster for 165 €) which was a bummer, and misguided since I was only blogger at the table.

But I quickly got over the menu slight as soon as the amuse bouche arrived to brighten up the monochromatic table at the restaurant. They were vibrant, delicious and highly refined. I was convinced Chef Alain Passard was onto something with this Spring in the Garden menu. The staff which was so friendly I think they would have happily handed me the menu with the prices if I had asked.


Mesclun with hazelnut praline Mibuna, mizuna, choho…

The first course, beetroot sushi flowered with geranium and Kalamata black olive, was perhaps the most memorable of the evening. It was creative yet sublime and highly flavorful. The beet was as silky as sashimi and the velvety olives were a nice contrast to the rice.

Next up was course was a mesclun salad with hazelnut praline Mibuna. While this was one of the more basic looking dishes, it was definitely next level because of how flavorful it was and it’s lovely combination of textures.


Fine multicolored vegetable ravioli vegetable consommé

I’m not much of a cook, but my friend, Felix, is. He tried to place the flavors in the third course, the fine multicolored vegetable ravioli in vegetable consommé. The broth had some umami earthiness that he attributed to mushrooms. The ravioli had a nice bite as well.


White asparagus from the Sarthe region with olive oil and Timut pepper

The fourth course in the tasting menu was white asparagus from the Sarthe region served with olive oil and Timut pepper from Nepal. This was perhaps the most straightforward of the courses served yet still delicious. I like perfectly prepared asparagus, and this course worked in a traditionally refined fashion.

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Louise Passard’s “Parmentier” with kasha grains

On to the next course, which as described as “Louise Passard’s ‘Parmentier’ made with kasha grain.” I found this to be the least memorable course. While it was good- everything was good- I think the wine pairings were starting to catch up with me at this point and I was getting a bit full.


Palco spinach with hazelnut butter and laurel butter

Next up was Palco spinach with hazelnut and laurel butter. This course looked a bit like baby food but boasted bold and sophisticated flavors.

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Vol-au-vent with Côtes du Jura wine, peas, turnip, and mangetout peas

The next course, a puff pastry vol-au-vent with Côtes du Jura wine, peas, turnip, and mangetout peas was perhaps the most beautiful of the evening. The perfectly froth and vibrant greens stood out and the puff pastry was both delicate and satisfying. This course left clean plates all around.

Spring cabbage stuffed with nettle leaves and fresh thermidrome garlic

The eighth course was spring cabbage stuffed with nettle leaves and fresh thermidrome garlic. This visually resembled the beautiful previous course and was perfectly seasoned, yet not as memorable as the previous course. I think the puff pastry added that magical French carb factor.


Arlequin Jardinière with Argan oil, young carrot, kohlrabi, Selma fennel

I was getting uncomfortably full by the time the ninth course arrived. It was artful, colorful and delightfully complicated Arlequin Jardinière with Argan oil, young carrot, kohlrabi, and Selma fennel. This was satisfying to my eyes as well as my taste buds.

Garlic crème brûlée with candied lemon

Portions were appropriately sized for a tasting menu, but I decided to bow out of the first dessert course, a garlic crème brûlée with candied lemon. I’m never a fan of the texture of crème brûlée and was losing steam. My friend, Thomas, said this was “the best crème brûlée I’ve ever had.” This is saying a lot as Thomas is seriously well-traveled foodie. Maybe I’ll save room next time.


Crispy millefeuille with candied rhubarb garden angelica

The next course was also sweet, a delicate and crispy millefeuille with candied rhubarb garden angelica. It was delicate but not as memorable or as visually appealing as the savory and umami courses.

I was fully tasted out so the final course, a post-dessert of sweets including macarons, biscuits and caramel. This is the point in the meal where I always seem to forget these epic meals come with multi-course desserts. To me it seemed like overkill but I lack a sweet tooth and never require multiple desserts. I forgot to photograph it.

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Chef Alain Passard came to greet us after our meal (photo credit: Felix Kam-Chung)

After our meal Chef Alain Passard came out to greet us and he is charming and truly an artist. So was the 320 € Spring in the Garden vegetable tasting menu worth it? For me it was a firm “yes”, as much for the experience for the food. It was definitely eye opening to see how creative and refined a vegetarian meal can be. I would order the beetroot sushi and vol-au-vent again if they were available a la carte. When the bill arrived we all agreed we were glad we came.

2016 is the 30th anniversary of the restaurant and there is much to celebrate at Arpege. But you don’t need to bring a jacket to celebrate. Arpege breaks almost all the rules and there is no dress code, not that anyone showed up in jeans and a t-shirt. It’s lovely and upscale but not in the least bit stuffy. The service was friendly and vegetarian tasting menu justified the 360 Euro price of entry. I can’t eat epic meals like this often and I’d like to return to Arpege in another season to see how chef Alain Passard masterfully handles winter vegetables or perhaps check out the 165 € lobster from the a la carte menu. Now if I can only get a menu with the prices on it….

Arpège Restaurant

84, Rue de Varenne
75007 Paris
+ 33 (0)1 47 05 09 06

The Restaurant is open
from Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner

No valet parking.

Reservations : or online via web-site booking form.

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Things to Do in Puglia: Spend an Evening in Ostuni

Vino Rosado at Relais La Sommità made a nice sundowner

Ostuni may be small but the Puglia’s White City isn’t short on things to do in the evening.  While the city may only have year round population of just over 30,000, the city swells during the summer months. Ostuni has several charming dining choices (including 8 restaurants with 2013 Michelin Stars) within the city limits of La Città Bianca.

Flowers at magic hour

Flowers at magic hour outside Caffe Riccardo

Not only are fine dining options plentiful, but they’re a bargain compared to larger cities in Italy. I ate at two of Ostuni’s Michelin starred restaurants and dinner for 2 (excluding wine) ran about €65 for two and can recommend both.

Watching the sunset at Cielo

Watching the sunset at Ristorante Cielo

Ristorante Cielo,  located at Relais La Sommità, earned chef Sebastiano Lombardi his first Michelin star. His menu features specialties from the region, and during the summer months you can dine outdoors under the the olive trees. It’s rather romantic and the pasta and lobster were spot on. Be sure to book a table ahead (Phone +39 0831 305925)- they fill quickly and only do one seating a night.

Left: the breezy terraces of La Sommita Right: One of La Sommita’s terraces at night

Cielo is one of Ostuni’s Michelin Starred restaurants

Apulian cuisine is the specialty at Ristorante Cielo

Osteria del Tempo Perso is also located in Ostuni’s historic center. The restaurant is situated in a few charming grotto-like rooms in an old tavern and is very atmospheric. They have an excellent wine list. While not all the staff speaks English fluently, I had no problem getting fed well and particularly enjoyed the eggplant parmigiana. Reservations are recommended (I was turned away the first night for not having one). Osteria del Tempo Perso is closed in January. (Phone +39 0831 304819)

Candles in a cave- that’s Osteria del Tempo Perso

Vino at Osteria del Tempo PersoVino at Osteria del Tempo Perso

If fine dining isn’t your thing, chillax in one of Ostuni’s indoor/outdoor cafes. They are easily spotted by the brightly colored bean bag chairs set out on the whitewashed streets. Be warned– some seemingly chic beanbag chairs look far more comfortable than they actually are. Drinks cost around €7. Riccardo Caffe, located in an old 12th century mill house, is a nice spot for a cocktail and a nibble (and had the most comfortable bean bags chairs). (Phone +39 0831 306046)

Relax outdoors in a beanbag chair at Riccardo Caffe

Left: Ostuni’s whitewashed streets at night  Right: Looking down at Riccardo Caffe

Beanbag chairs, cocktails & conversation

Gelato is also a nice option for a hot summer evening and Cremeria alla Scala had the best gelato I tasted during my time in Ostuni, with the peach flavor hitting the spot on a hot summer night.

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Restaurant Review: Rossellinis in Ravello, Italy

Steamed Slipper Lobster with an edible spoon

When you travel in a region like Italy’s Amalfi Coast, where there are plenty of Michelin Starred restaurants, you need to try one of them. Truth be told, I sometimes find fine dining a bit stuff and overwrought, but when I learned that Rossellinis Ristorante in Ravello (located in the Palazzo Avino) had not one but 2 Michelin Stars– as well as bunch of other awards– I felt it should be our choice for our one big deal dinner.

Epic views and a wine list to match, plus Rossellinis offers dining al fresco

With both an indoor formal dining room and tables on the terrace where diners can spectacular views while enjoying their dinner al fresco, Rossellinis is not as fussy as some fine dining establishments. The service– from the pre-dinner Prosecco to the after-dessert was flawless and attentive without being suffocating. Chef Michele Deleo was born in Campagnia and cooked at multiple Michelin-starred establishments in Switzerland, France and the United Kingdom before returning to Italy.

Left: Prosecco to start Right: The wine pairings with dinner were spot on

You realize how amazing the meal is going to be when the waiter brings by the selection of breads. Forget about passing on the carbs– you have to try the bread with the ham baked right in it. It’s divine. We relied strongly on our waitstaff for guidance with the menu and asked for the suggested wine pairings.

Book on your cheat day- this is one bread basket you don’t want to skip

As a starter, we went with lobster. We tried the steamed slipper lobster and the pasta with peas and lobster (tortello pasta stuffed with leek and cheek sausage, served on fresh creamed peas with molten egg yolk). While rich, the portion was enough to be satisfying.

The amuse bouche was both beautiful and tasty

Rossellinis also has a fantastic wine cellar and an extensive collection of Italian centric wine. We went with the waiters suggestions.

A gorgeous and well stocked wine cellar ensure they’ll be great wine to pair with your meal

Left: Wine by the glass selections Right: Glasses for Grappa

Pasta with peas and lobster

The Chateau Briande for two was prepared table side

For our entree, we had the Chateau Briande for two. It was prepared beautifully table side and served with seasonal vegetables. The beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender.

Perfectly done and delicious, the beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender

For dessert we went with the waiter’s suggestions again– one chocolate, one non-chocolate. The standout was the lager-infused chocolate passion served with a beer gelée, which was tasty while being sophisticated.

A selection of desserts including the Amalfi Sfusato

For dessert: puffed rice served with red fruit compote, carrot sorbet and licorice infused ice cream.

We didn’t have much room for the after dessert course

Rossellinis is great pick both for it’s romantic atmosphere and it’s memorable cuisine. Foodies and wine lovers will approve and it’s worth the splurge.

Lager infused Chocolate Passion, complete with beer gelée— pretty to look at yet delicious

Rossellinis also offers 3 set tasting menus as well as a la carte options. The restaurant is only open for dinner only from March to November. Book in advance and request a table outside for a view that pairs nicely with your epic meal. Prices range from €110-€130 euros per person (excluding beverages).

Rosellinis (at Palazzo Avino, formerly known as Palazzo Sasso)

Via San Giovanni del Toro 27

Ravello, Italy:

Phone + 39 089 81 81 81



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Notes from New York City: Dinner at NoMad

Superstar Roast Chicken for Two at NoMad

Last night I had dinner at the restaurant at The Nomad Hotel and was absolutely blown away by a roast chicken. The Nomad’s roast chicken for two costs $78 and is seriously next level. The classic dish is elevated even in it’s presentation.

You first see the bird when the waiters sweep your table with a little poultry catwalk, so it’s perfectly beautifully bronzed skin can be fully admired. Chic diners turn their heads to notice. Even those above instagramming every meal momentarily become poultry paparazzi, admiring the attractive bird nestled in it’s roasting pan.

The chicken disappears momentarily as it returns to the kitchen to be prepared two ways. The breast meat comes plated and is perfectly moist and unbelievably flavorful. Foie gras, stuffed under the skin, combines with and black truffle and brioche to make a sublime stuffing which sits on a tasty bed of lentils.

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