Les Crayeres Tasting Menu

Our journey in the Champagne region ended with a night in an incredibly beautiful hotel called Les Crayeres, which just happened to have a Michelin Starred restaurant on its premises.

Le Parc is the gastronomic restaurant at Les Crayeres (there is also the more casual Le Jardin), and after a short nap to relieve us of our tipsiness, Family Fritos and Foie Gras was ready to indulge in a world-class tasting menu. 

Champagne cart before we even entered the restaurant…OKAY! 
There was nothing trendy or cool about this restaurant. It was straight out of The Man in the Iron Mask, with heavy wooden accents, intricate tapestries and …
quite a few crystal chandeliers. You should probably wear a tie here, fellas. 
Champagne
Our server recommended a champagne made locally, in a small vineyard. I told him that I preferred a pinot noir champagne (more fruity and sweet), and my dad liked blanc de blancs the most (more acidic, tart champagnes). As such, our server chose a champagne made with a mix of grapes, and the resulting taste was yeasty and deep but also smelled faintly of berries. It wasn’t at all floral or sour, just very faintly tart, like blueberries can be. 
It was not served in traditional champagne flutes, but these large ballooned glasses, to allow the champagne to breathe. Part of that was due to the champagnes unique flavor, which really developed as we drank it. One of my favorites…
…which I will always be able to remember, thanks to the excellently educated and totally delightful staff thoughtfully “floating” the label of the bottle and laminating it for me. 
Amuse Bouche
These small bites set the tone for the rest of the meal, and were delicious. There was a crisp, tempura fried shrimp that snapped with the scent of the ocean in my mouth. There were Parmesan crisps sandwiching a tomato and basil puree so deep and fruity it was astounding. There was a pepper and egg mousse that was biting atop a crisp pastry crust and there was a goat cheese wafer, grassy and funky in my mouth. It was an auspicious start to the meal. 
My sister and I went through 3 pats of butter during this meal. That is 1.5 pats of butter per person. It is absolutely the best butter I have ever had. I could say that it was creamy, that it was rich, that it was sweet, which it was. but the truth is…mostly, it was buttery. So brightly and vibrantly buttery. I didn’t eat it plain, but I wanted to. 
Bread Selection
Sundried Tomato, Baguette and Seeded breads were all home baked. The tomato bread was soft and studded with salty, moist pieces of sundried tomato. The seeded bread was hearty and texturally pleasing. 
And the baguette was the best baguette that I have ever had, in or out of France. The crust was the perfect combination of crunchy and gently chewy, and the insides balanced sour and sweet with fluffy but not cottony innards. Spread with the soft, sweet butter, I could have made a meal out of bread and butter alone. 
That, though, would have been a huge crime. 
Anglerfish Tagliatelle with Pea Soup 
This was…not my favorite dish. The tagliatelle had an offputtingly fishy aroma and when i put it in my mouth…yep, there it was. A very fishy taste invaded my mouth, and the tagliatelle were bouncy, like rubber. The pea soup surrounding it was wonderfully verdant and pure, like a burst of spring, but I could not get past that tagliatelle. I ate a lot of bread during this course.
Chicken Oysters with Creamed Chanterelles
The most supremely delicious chicken I can imagine. The oyster comes from the underside of the thigh of the chicken, and it is the most tender, robust morsel of the entire chicken. Each chicken only has two oysters, so there were 4 chickens used per dish. 4 whole chickens used for just 4 pieces of meat per dish! The chanterelles used in the dish were tiny but positively bursting with woodsy, earthy, flavor. The cream used to cooked the mushrooms became concentrated and added sweetness to the hearty dish. Shavings of Parma ham over the top added saltiness. Each bite was more meaty and complex than the last, and this was a dish to remember.  
Brittany Lobster with Artichokes and Celery
Artichokes are notoriously difficult to pair with other foods. They are earthy, citrusy, meaty and also difficult to prepare. I have never had artichokes with lobster, but the paring is nothing short of inspired. This lobster was one of the most buttery I have ever had = so rich, I could not even finish my own portion. It was tender but not soft – there was still a bit of a snap, a bite that was pleasant next to the tiny cubes of herbal celery and the meaty, slightly tart artichokes.
Haddock with Smoked Haddock Mouse, Potatoes and Creamy Potato Broth
Haddock is a very mild white fish that worked well in this preparation. The mousse was lightly smoked, which gave the haddock a heartier, earthier taste than it tends to have. The fillets of haddock were flaky and tender, contrasting with the creamy potatoes that still retained a bit of bite. The broth, buttery and mild, toned down the smokiness and potential fishiness of the haddock and mousse, much the way that clam chowder makes calms delicious to people who are funny about shellfish. A delicate and well balanced dish. 
Chicken and Foie Gras Napoleon with Chicken Liver and Homemade Macaroni
This chef is incredibly adept at chicken – it is surely his specialty. First, that amazing chanterelle and chicken ouster dish and then this. White meat chicken, incredibly moist and tender but not mushy, alternating with rich, deeply flavored foie gras. The chef was wise to use white meat chicken here, letting all the fat and minerality come from the foie gras. 
The small toast capped with the chicken liver had the best of both worlds – the intense iron of the liver and the familiar taste of chicken. It was cooked perfectly, with a sticky-sweet caramelized outside, dotted with salt, surrounding the rich orb of liver. The macaroni was toothsome next to the soft chicken napoleon, and the whole dish left me licking my fingers and – almost! – my plate.
Gruyere
Have you ever eaten a cheese that is over 2 years old? Me either. Let me just tell you…if that cheese is Gruyere, the older it gets the more complex it gets. Slightly sweet, nutty and smooth tasting, but also tangy and with an undeniably piquant taste. It was not salty or grainy at all – it had an incredibly smooth texture paired with subtle, developing flavors. Paired with sweet apricots and plump dates, this cheese was absolutely sensational. Really a cheese for people who appreciate the more subtle, under the radar flavors of cheese.
Apricot Tart, Mint Macaron, Fruit Tartlette
By this point, my palate was getting a little fatigued (and, let’s face it…I had drunk my weight in champagne), but I do know that the apricot pastry was deliciously bright and sweet, with a crumbly buttery pastry, and the macaron was repulsive. Like eating mouthwash. 
Strawberry and Chantilly Dessert
Once again…palate fatigue. The dessert tasted creamy and tart, but I couldn’t handle more than a few bites. Jammy, with a panna cotta interior and a tuile on top.
I did, however, eat three of the sweetest, juiciest, freshest wild strawberries on the face of the planet. These actually tasted like Little Red Riding Hood had picked them – that magical, that perfect, that impossible. 
Chocolates
Don’t worry, I rallied enough to take a homemade chocolate, filled with creamy, slightly bitter ganache. It was the perfect end to an excellent meal.
After the worrisome first dish of the fishy tagliatelle, this meal was everything I had hoped it would be. No molecular gastronomy or startling presentations, this was all about classic food cooked perfectly. I have NEVER had chicken cooked so superbly. For the price, this is an incredible value and  a magical way to end a day in the Champagne region.

Comments

  1. Sarah says:

    I'd enjoy that champagne cart in the entrance to my apartment.

  2. Anonymous says:

    SOME would say that the mint macaron was NOT repulsive, but rather refreshing and palate-cleansing.

  3. Sippity Sup says:

    I miss meals like this. Recession be gone! GREG

  4. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Sarah-me too!
    @Anon-mouthwash.
    @Sippity-from your mouth to God's ears!

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