Thursday, April 01, 2004

A Divine Dining Vacation…

For me sometimes...

Food is love.

And every once in a while - it's sex.

Last night I went to Bastide, which according one of the myriad waiters, all from France, means, “house in the country”. With the graceful olive trees planted throughout the courtyard that is the front dining patio, it felt like I was in another country. The night was cool, but not cold, and as I settled at the table and ordered a glass of champagne, my mouth watered with anticipation.

We began with an Amuse Bouche of thinly sliced smoked salmon with red and white slivered, pickled onion and a dollop of soft herbed cheese under a cucumber gelee. It arrived in what looked like a shot glass and rather than cut it up and eat it daintily I loaded my fork – specially provided for this course – and wrapped my tongue around the whole bite. It was an explosion of fresh brightness with the vinegary snap of pickled onions and firmly fleshed salmon mixing lightly with soft cheese and a caress of cucumber. Mmmmmm, off to a very good start.

Next to arrive was seared Foie Gras Torchon on Apple Compote with toasted Brioche. It was paired with a spicy Gewurtztriminer from the Alsace region of France. I’m not a huge fan of foie gras – it can be a little much – but this was firm and smoky and the gelleed apples were the perfect sweet compliment on the tastebuds. The party in my mouth was kicked up a notch when I followed each bite with a sip of the wine. It is amazing how the flavors expanded – truly a heady experience.

Throughout the entire evening the wait staff – all handsome young men - attended to our every need, anticipating our desires. It was so divine – like a fantasy, and probably why I flirted outrageously – I love men whose only desire is to meet my every need. The sommelier would place the glass for the next course as I was just finishing the one before.

Prior to the third course he appeared to pour the Pouilly Fume “les cris” from Domaine Cailbourdin, a phrase he crooned with a perfect French accent, and explained that he had selected it because it’s bright light flavor compared beautifully with the Maine Lobster with crispy tarragon, wild mushrooms and pea emulsion. And he was right – it did. I have to say that to dine like this anytime is always a treat, but to do so in the spring when vegetables are so fresh is sublime.

The fourth course looked like a piece of art – a beautiful piece of Wild Truite de Mer on a leek ragout, topped with parsley jus and perfectly round dark circles of Black Truffle sauce. The fish was a light firm pink and the leek was bright green – my plate was a palette of color and flavor and in my glass was a big Bourgogne Blanc from Domaine Morey Coffinet. Explosive, effusive flavor.

Finally we reached a bit of a respite with a palate cleanser of grapefruit sorbet and Noilly Prat vermouth. I needed a breather since it had been non-stop action since we started and I was feeling giddy and lightheaded akin to a post endorphin afterglow. I sat back and enjoyed the golden light created by the hurricane lamps over white pedestal candles on all the tables. It was as if, in immersing myself in the sense of taste and smell all my other senses were heightened, I was so aware of the soft crispness of the fine linen napkin that my hand rested on in my lap and a flush on my face.

The wine guy – at this point I couldn’t say “sommelier” – appeared and poured out a La Courtade from Cotes de Provence and advised us that it would need to breathe before our meat course came out in a few minutes. The meat course, when it arrived, was a delectable piece of Colorado Lamb accompanied by a chickpea panisse topped with garlic confit and black olive sauce. I made the most perfect bites combining all of them, and it was like laying in a feather bed with the exactly perfect weight of covers – if it is possible to feel snuggled by food I was feeling it. The red wine was mellow and grand and perfectly matched the mood of the meat - you gotta love that.

By the time the cheese cart appeared I was running out of gas. Didn’t think I could eat another bite, but as soon as he started describing a beautiful sheeps milk double cream cheese that had just come into season – the juices started flowing again. And of course, wine guy showed up to pour the Prunelart from Robert Pageolles Gaillac that he had selected especially for this course.

How could I say no?

So I was back at it with a pungent goat cheese, a sharper cow cheese and of course the double cream sheep cheese – delectable with dried fruit and walnuts on a dark raisin bread. The wine was slightly sweet and mellowed the cheese in my mouth while my nose went on an arousing ride – wow.

And just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore it was time for dessert – what the hell! Wine guy was describing his selection and I heard the word Grenache, which put me in mind of chocolate so I ordered the chocolate soup. The wine, a 1985 Banyuls “Veillies Vignes” Docteur Parce from Domain du mas Blanc was sweet and salacious and went perfectly with the small ball of vanilla ice cream around which was poured warm, dark chocolate soup. Thank you Willy Wonka! Heaven!

But sadly when the Petits Fours arrived all I could do was look at them. Stick a fork in me Alain Giraud – I be done.

Merci et bon soir!

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