Day 53 – Jazz, chocololate and Spring

After yet another late sleep-in, we made our way to Saint Germain to attend a jazz and chocolate degustation hosted by chocolatier Michael Richart. I was expecting it to be a fairly tragic event but in actual fact it was surprisingly good.

15 of us huddled into the small upmarket chocolate salon (the word shop just doesn’t suit this establishment) and the event started with an introduction from Monsieur Richart. In all honesty, we were there for the novelty factor and the chocolate so the fact his introduction went for 15 minutes (it was a one-hour event) was a little perplexing. I say perplexing because we had no idea what he was saying expect that he repeated the words “flavour”, “chocolate” and “jazz” several times, and judging by his eyebrows he seemed very passionate about whatever it was he was saying. Still, how much could there possibly be to say? You eat, you listen right?

We were given five homemade chocolates and for each there was a two minute guitar performance (that would match the chocolate) followed (and preceded) by more intense speeches by Monsieur Richart. Possibly there was a question or two for us but considering most of the small group did not speak French (and thus could not have worked out that he was in fact asking us a question) there weren’t many replies. If he wasn’t asking us a question then I guess he just liked moments of silence a lot.

As silly as it felt at times, the chocolate was damn good and I hate to say it but each piece did match the music. We started with bold caramels, moved on to angry chocolates, romantic roses, energetic passionfruit, and exotic spiced chocolates. For 10 Euro a person I would say it was definitely worth it, especially as a box of 10 chocolates alone cost more than 20 Euro.

Later than evening we had our long awaited dinner reservation at Spring. Spring is a fairly new and modern restaurant and one of the hardest places to get a booking at. It has a fixed menu that changes daily depending on what’s available at the market and is everything a restaurant should be.

We were seated in the less popular downstairs (as were not fussy) and have to say that I preferred it to the more crowded and dark upstairs. Downstairs is like a light coloured cellar with smooth wooden tables, white-washed walls, light bricks and a rustic bar. There’s only a handful of tables so the service is excellent yet you still get a good balance of intimate vs ambiance.

The food was sensational. The matching wines (all French) were equally sensational and so very perfectly paired.

Our amuse bouche was a couple sticks of crispy asparagus which you dipped into a garlic and anchovy sauce.

This was followed by a foie gras served with peas and mint in beef broth (my second favourite dish)…

Then, poached hake served with toasted crutons, clams and wholegrain mustard (sounds weird but it was the best dish by far)…

Then, duck served with orange rind, white fennel and a cucumber emulsion…

Then, a plate of five different cheeses (optional extra course)…

For dessert strawberries and cream with toffee biscuit…

Followed by pistachio ice cream (hands down the best ice cream I have ever eaten) served alongside strawberry soup with a dollop of olive and vanilla granache.

I could not fault the meal even though I truly tried. The only fault I could give the restaurant was that they didn’t have a hand moisturiser in the bathroom (and their scented soap dried my hands out).

Equally impressive was that once again their dishes didn’t come with dairy (apart from the cream with strawberries which wasn’t strong and easily shoved off…and the optional plate of cheese of course….). They asked at the beginning if we had food allergies and I mentioned I didn’t like to eat too much dairy in my meals to which they scoffed and said the chef does not cook with dairy.

And that’s honestly what I have found here in Paris.

So many Sydney restaurants are French inspired and they are hanging on to this classic French idea that butter and cream etc must go in meals. But modern French has moved on and the best chefs are utilising oils and fresh ingredients rather than traditional and heavier dairy products. I haven’t even come across a baguette that’s had butter in it so that must be saying something. I never in a million years would have believed that I would have less trouble in Paris than I do in Sydney re the whole dairy situation. And also feel so much more justified in my taste choices…if the top Parisian chefs scoff at butter than who can dare point the finger at me?

Probably the most entertaining part of the night was at about 9.30pm when a young American couple were seated at the table next to us. Straight away the woman started complaining that they had booked a month in advance and would not spend so much money just to sit downstairs. The host explained that they were told at the time of booking they could be seated anywhere and that upstairs was unfortunately full…so the couple walked off in a huff. I just don’t get it – you would think they would book to come for the food (which was the same wherever you sat) and the quality but clearly they just wanted…what? I don’t know. Oh well, it provided a good five minutes of drama.

Anyway, suffice to say we left Spring extremely full and extremely content. I now have a good handful of Paris restaurants that I can safely say are the best meals I have ever eaten…what more could I hope for from this trip? If this is what the rest of my life is like then I feel very very privileged and pretty damn excited.

Tomorrow we are off to have lunch at two Michelin-star restaurant followed by a somewhat unusual theatre/dance experience. There’s not a lot I can say about it now but let’s just say its experimental, would never be allowed in Australia and involves complete nudity (not on our behalf…at least I hope not…).

Just your average Wednesday, followed by your average Thursday…

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