Monday night was dinner at the restaurant in the Palais Royal, which has to be one of my favourite places to eat, anywhere in the World. Or certainly, on a summer's evening, seated outside, between the colonnade and the serried ranks of trees that populate the Grand Cour, watching the games of boule and the people strolling in the evening sunlight. Before you even get to the food, the setting itself is sublime beyond description, with the majestic facade of the palace providing the backdrop to a scene of perfect calm. Paradise!
I had a carpaccio of Sea Bass, dressed in a superb olive oil, followed by a breast of chicken, in african spices. All washed down with a more-then-serviceable aligote. The last time I ate there was probably five years ago, and it was all still just as perfect as ever......
And, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Tuesday evening - a work-related 'banquet' - was an instance of the success of style over substance. Lots of theatre, and very few points.
An acceptable Creme d'asperges, followed by a slice of something, in which an amount of foie gras had been sacrificed to no good effect, on top of a bed of salmon (which was the only flavour discernible) and beneath a layer of finely sliced apple in aspic (which was merely pointless). Followed by some kind of beef, possibly deep-fried. I didn't dwell on it. And the grand finale was a presentation of something over a glass filled with liquid nitrogen. Lots of dramatic vapour - as though something had escaped from BBC technical effects - but at the end of the day, it was just a serving of strawberry trifle....Oh dear!
And on Wednesday, sanity was restored with a visit to 'Anahy'. I don't know the street, or even the arrondisement, as I was taken there by car. But it was, in its own small way, perfection. Simple and unpretentious: a perfectly grilled steak on a wooden platter, accompanied by a green salad of an incomparable softness and flavour; preceded by a n Omelette Parmentier , with a firm exterior and a meltingly runny inside that could not have been bettered. The bottle or two of Maalbec that went with it certainly helped the quality of the evening. Another one for Dr Pomiane, I think.
Back in Pisa now, Jennie is here for our annual Masterchef weekend, where we all have responsibility for one course in each dinner. Competition is relaxed, and we all end up quietly de-structuring over a glass (or two) of homebrew grappa. I must say, it's good to be home!
Salade tiede of calves liver, with pine-nuts and sultanas in a dressing of sherry and extra-virgin olive oil, over a bed of roquette leaves.
Saltimbocca with sage leaves and prosciutto, with sweet-and-sour Fagioli Sant'Anna.
Caramelised peaches in a pistachio cream (recipe to follow tomorrow; too tired to include it now.....)