Sunday, July 1, 2007

Paris dining: Drouant

Organizing a dinner for 20 people in Paris is no easy feat. Twenty people cannot just stroll into an establishment and expect to get some tables. It requires advance planning. Happily I was given this task (my only other skill besides cooking is being a planner...oh and speaking enough French to be dangerous or at least to understand when French men are being charming).

After some research, I decided to book the table for 20 at Drouant at place Gaillon. Drouant has been recently acquired by the French celebrity chef Antoine Westermann. The staff was extremely helpful and courteous. The service alone is worth a dinner either for a group or a smaller party.

That the food was outstanding is almost a given since it was 1. France and 2. Antoine Westermann's place, but preparing a set menu for 20 people is no guaranteed success. Happily, the culinary execution of our meal was nearly perfect.

We started the dinner with amuse bouches in the form of crostini with a fish mousse and crostini with nicoise olives. The first course was chilled asparagus soup. It was silky smooth, full of cream, seasoned with a hint of cayenne and garnished with chives, a dollop of creme fraiche and butter-drenched croutons.

The main course was perfectly cooked chicken breasts (although we could not quite figure out how it was cut so that bones were sticking out. Maybe these French chickens had arms or something. I don't know) in a delicately seasoned sauce made with butter and drippings, of course. Chicken is not the first thing I normally order on a menu because it can be overcooked and generally boring. At Drouant, the chicken was moist, fleshy, and flavorful. The sauce did not overwhelm but rather enhanced the taste. The chicken rested on a bed of carrots and zucchini, cooked tender but not mushy.

For dessert we had a rum-soaked yellow cake served with whipped cream. It was so delicious that, overcome by enthusiasm, my mother and I both forgot to take pictures! After dessert we had coffee and dark dark chocolate served with preserved oranges. I'd eaten preserved lemons but never oranges. They were spectacular served with the dark chocolate. I did have enough wits about me to get a picture of that plate.

Unfortunately I had no say in what wine we drank. The gentlemen were handed the wine list of course. They made an excellent choice but I have no idea what it was. As an independent woman who regularly picks her own wine, I was a bit antsy about not seeing the wine list at any of the group meals.

The best part of my dinner was the company. I had a tall, handsome, blue-eyed stranger sitting next to me. He had fine lines at the corners of his eyes which I imagined he acquired from smiling a lot. He even had good table manners!

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