«Les Prés d’Eugénie» Michel Guérard 2
October 23, 2012
We had an excellent, memorable experience at Les Prés d’Eugénie four years before, so Linda and I were expecting a lot when we arrived for a two night stay on September 11, 2012.
It was mid-afternoon when we gave our name to the guard at the front gate and drove through to the pagoda. Our room was in the outlying building, Le Couvent des Herbes, as it had been the last time. Linda had time to go to the spa for a treatment, while I took a nap, tired from our drive from Toulouse and midday stop in Auch. We were refreshed when we took the lovely short walk to the main building for dinner.
Our table was in the Belle Epoque Room, where we had also dined four years before. We started with glasses of the excellent house Champagne while we looked at the menu and the enormous wine list. The 79-year-old chef came out of the kitchen and shook our hands. He seemed to be in good form.
The Empress Eugénie looked down on us during our meal.
We ordered the menu “Jour du Fête.” After consultation with the sommelier, we ordered a white wine from nearby Bergerac, Château Tour des Gendres “Anthologia.” This all sauvignon blanc wine was interesting and went well with the cuisine. It was eventually followed by a half bottle of 2000 Château d’Issan (Margaux), appropriate for the meat course.
The amuse-gueules included vegetable cones, deep-fried sage leaves, good ham and little carrot cakes. Very nice.
Linda’s first course was
L’Oeuf Poule au Caviar à la Coque
Chaud-Froid de Pomme de Terre sous la Cendre
The baked and smoked potato filled with mashed potato and caviar was Linda’s favorite part of this Michel Guérard special. But she also appreciated the egg, lightly scrambled with crème fraîche, refilled in its shell, topped with local caviar and wild asparagus. An un-announced small glass of “white armagnac” was poured, probably as an Aquitaine substitute for vodka, but it was too strong on the palate. (It is clear as it is not aged in wood.)
My starter was
Le Zéphyr de Truffe ‘‘Surprise Exquise’’ en Nuage
sur une Délicate Crème Potagère
This was a truffle-flavored, savory “floating island.” The delicacy of it allowed the good truffle flavor to predominate. Michel Guérard uses seasonal ingredients, including many from his own kitchen garden, but he also has a program of conserving ingredients for other seasons, such as regional black truffles, or the morels used in the following course. We found that the conserved flavors came through nicely.
Our second course was
L’Oreiller Moelleux de Mousserons et de Morilles aux Asperges de Pays
Une Symphonie, imaginée au Retour d’un Voyage en Chine
Morels and asparagus are a standard springtime combination in France. This dish has been Michel Guérard’s year-round version of it for some time. The frothing of the creamy sauce brings out the deep flavors.
Our next course was
Le Demi-Homard Rôti, Légèrement Fumé à la Cheminée
et l’Endive Douce-Amère, Confite au Lait de Coco
This lobster has also been a specialty here for many years. It is partially cooked and halved lengthwise. The meat is removed, sliced, sauced, put back in the shell (with the whole claw in the head cavity) and smoked just before serving. The sweet and sour endives in coconut milk are a recent change to the accompaniment. Superb.
An elderflower granité was then served as a palate freshener, but it was of little interest.
Linda’s meat course was
Le Suprême Soyeux de Caneton Rôti ‘‘à la Goutte Rosée’’
et le Foie Gras Brûlé au Sucre et au Genièvre,
Trois Zestes à Déguster
The roasted duck breast and its accompanying foie gras were superb. The foie gras seemed to have been grilled over juniper and sugar; Linda said it was the best foie gras she can remember. She thought that the three citrus purées were a bit too sweet to go with the otherwise fabulous dish.
La Belle Côte d’Agneau de Pays Grillée ‘‘en Manchette’’
Oignon Doux au Four, Petit Ragoût de Gros Haricots
The lamb chop was beautifully presented on a grill over a bed of wood coals on a tray.
The flavor from the grilling of the top quality lamb was exquisite. With it were diced vegetables and a roasted sweet onion filled with a parmesan cream. Alongside was a bowl of white beans cooked in a lightly curried sauce. The dish was superb.
We did not have the optional cheese course.
Linda’s dessert was
Le Millefeuille Comme un Palais Feuilleté aux Framboises d’Eugénie
Chantilly Crémeuse au Citron Râpé
The feuilleté pastry with crème Chantilly and fresh raspberries was excellent. The crowned E, for Eugénie, was pochoir powdered sugar.
My dessert was
Un Baba Bouffi d’Orgueil
Dans une Nage de Verveine et de Petits Fruits – Nénuphars
The rich sponge cake was soaked in a bath of verveine and diced fruit. The verveine, like many of the herbs in Guérard’s cuisine, came from the kitchen garden.
Here we are enjoying our dessert at the end of a superb meal. The roses come from the extensive flower cutting garden in back.
The mignardises were coffee-flavored.
Les Prés d’Eugénie is one of the world’s greatest experiences in fine dining. The miracle is that it has been so for over thirty-five years and shows no signs of age; traditions, refinement, yes; age, no. The welcome, ambience, service etc are all excellent. As we strolled back to our room through the artfully lit garden, Linda and I were looking forward to our meal the following evening.
To see our meal at Les Prés d’Eugénie four years before, click here.