Archives For French

A few weeks ago I experienced a wonderful day out on a Gourmet Safari, the French, On Wheels, one.

I’ve enjoyed the list of foodie series on SBS TV with Maeve O’Meara, starting with Food Lovers’ Guide to Australia then Food Safari, then Italian Food Safari, and now French Food Safari (which has just started). Maeve has introduced us to the best of the international cuisines we can experience right here in Australia. And so when I heard about the Gourmet Safaris she organizes, I wanted to go on one of them.

In Sydney Gourmet Safaris has On Wheels Safaris, where you hop on a bus and are driven from place to place scattered over a distance; Walking Safaris, where you’re based in one location and explore on foot; Banquets and Cooking Classes. And then there are more Safaris, around Australia, and overseas to locations such as Greece and Vietnam.

A friend gave me a gift for my birthday an On Wheels Safari which travels on a bus around Sydney looking for some of the best French food places around the city. Here’s the description of the day from their web site:

We start with a coffee and explanation of what makes French pastry so exquisite and meet a master patissier who creates macarons of amazing flavour and beauty; we visit a kitchenware store that has many French gadgets and cookware classics and great cookbooks. We explore some luscious French cheeses, hand-made chocolates and enjoy lunch at a renowned bistro – with a glass of wine of course!

I’m not going to go in detail, or even list all of the places we went, because I hope you get to on the Gourmet Safari yourself, and it’s fun having a bit of a surprise to see where you end up! If this Safari was anything to go by, on the Safaris you get a chance to hear experts of the cuisine talk about their food passions, their food skills. Even if you discovered all of those places yourself, you wouldn’t get to meet the experts, or hear their stories.

Baroque

We hopped on the bus at Central about 8am, heading for breakfast. All we knew was that we were going to a patisserie. As we got closer to The Rocks, we found out we were going to go to Baroque Bistro / Bar / Patisserie. I had been to their patisserie La Renaissance, in Argyle St in the Rocks, but not to Baroque, so was excited to check it out. Coffee and croissants are one of my favourite breakfasts.

We had the place to ourselves the whole time we were there. Baroque were generous with their time, considering they also had to do all of the usual baking and preparations for lunch. The long table set with goodies for breakfast looked a picture, with the morning sunlight streaming in the windows.

Jean-Michel Raynaud (in the photo below, standing, with the microphone), patissier extraordinaire, talked about making the macarons there for both Baroque and La Renaissance. They sell an amazing number of macarons each day.

Jean-Michel was awarded top patissier prize in France in his early twenties, and worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in France. In Australia he has been head chef at Sweet Art and Planet Cake.

The other two people standing in the photo above are Maeve O’Meara at the left, and on the right in the white t-shirt is Christophe Charkos, one of the owners of Baroque, serving us coffee. I don’t know why I don’t have any photos of his brother Olivier, who was there, too. That’s silly.

The table looked gorgeous, with the plates of pastries for us to sample.

We tasted a butter croissant, a pastry with pistachios, a pain au chocolat, and a brioche. All so good.

Then we tasted the macarons (at the top of the post Maeve is serving us). Their current flavours are: chai (the white one with dark specks), chestnut and pear (the one that’s the speckled green and burgundy colours in this shot – looks much better in reality), salty caramel (Fleur de Sel de Guerande) (the caramel-coloured ones at the back of the plate), rosewater, and I think the last one was a lamington version of a macaron. There is also a truffle one at the moment (one of their seasonal macarons).

In the kitchen Jean-Michel described the macaron-making process. Here you can see the beautifully rounded macarons being sprinkled with cocoa before resting.

Mmmmmm… I’m hungry for macarons again seeing these photos again! And then here are some of the other delights Baroque offers:

We didn’t try any of those, so I have to get back there to do that!

Also there were some people there from The Wine & Truffle Co. in Manjimup, WA. They had just harvested the first of their Perigord truffles for the season. This is one of fresh truffles:

We sampled some of the truffle products, including truffle mustard, truffle honey, and truffle honey with hazelnuts. Heavenly. The truffle honey with hazelnuts would make a luscious component on a cheese-platter.

Also for the truffle season, Baroque are offering fresh truffle added to any of their dishes.

To give you a feel for the bistro menu here are some of the dishes they offer:

  • Entrees
    • A salad of organic beetroot, breakfast radish, carrot and cumin bavarois
    • Burgundy poached hens egg, speck, beech mushrooms, brioche, Burgundy glaze
    • Grilled scallops, shitake confiture, fried pine nuts, Jerusalem artichoke, butternut pumpkin
    • Charcuterie plate
  • Mains
    • Ricotta gnocchi, zucchini, onion bouillon, rose pickle
    • Grilled yellow eye mullet, puy lentils, olive, grilled fennel, bacon vinaigrette
    • Braised cheek of Angus beef, roast parsnip, fried garlic, vanilla parsnip cream
    • Confit leg and grilled breast of duck, ragout of mushrooms, wilted spinach, onion arlettes
  • Desserts
    • Valrhona chocolate curd, preserved cherries, pistachio
    • Pink lady apple sorbet, yoghurt mousse granola, mint granité, wood sorrel
    • Chocolate soufflé, malt ice cream, salted peanut caramels

Looks good, heh! Baroque’s on my “must visit” list.

Update (Sep, 2011): Baroque has been selected by the Restaurant and Catering Association as winner of the Best French Restaurant category at the Sydney Metropolitan and Surrounds awards. Congratulations!

The rest of the Gourmet Safari

From Baroque we hopped on the bus, and continued our day exploring inner Sydney, looking for some of the best French food places.

We stopped off at one of the best kitchen supply places in Sydney, a chocolate shop making hand-made exquisite chocolates, a place which sells the most incredible charcuterie items, had lunch in a French bistro (including champagne and wines), and a cheese shop with a superb range of cheeses from around Europe. In each place we taste-tested the food, so we were eating almost all day!

I never cease to be amazed at how multicultural Sydney is, and how you can find authentic food from so many nationalities dotted around the city.

The guide for the Safari was Marie-Helene Clauson, originally from Aix en Provence, a food stylist, someone who loves food and cooking. She gave helpful tips and insights about French food along the way.

Maeve O’Meara was at several of the stops along the way, and was just as delightful and warm and effervescent in person as on her TV programs, making sure we were well looked after, teaching us about the food and techniques along the way.

One of the good thing about going on the bus Safari is that you can buy things as you go, and leave them on the bus on successive stops. Some people on my tour (who obviously knew what they were doing!) brought shopping bags and cooler bags with them, to stock up on supplies.

Another element of the Safari which I enjoyed was meeting the other people on the tour. It was interesting hearing stories about their adventures in travel and food. People had come from as far as Canberra and Tamworth and Newcastle for the day. Quite a few people on the tour had been on multiple Gourmet Safaris, and they keep on going back to the places discovered on the Safari.

This Gourmet Safari was a good day out, discovering new food places, learning more, and meeting some interesting people. Now I’m pondering which Safari to do next.

Details

Gourmet Safaris

Here are the details about Gourmet Safaris at time of posting. Please check their web site for more current details.

Web site http://www.gourmetsafaris.com.au
Phone (02) 8969 6555

 

Baroque – Bistro, Bar, Patisserie

Here are the details about Baroque at time of posting. Please check their web site for more current details.

Web site http://www.baroquebistro.com.au/
Address 88 George Street (corner of Hickson Road) The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000
Phone (02) 9241 4811
Open Monday – Friday:
Midday – Late
Lunch* 12 – 3pm
Dinner 6 – 10.30pm
Patisserie menu 12 – lateSaturday:
Midday – Late
Lunch* 12 – 3pm
Dinner 6 – 10.30pm
Patisserie menu 12 – late

Sunday:
Midday – 4.30pm
Lunch* 12 – 3pm
Dinner Closed
Patisserie menu 12 – 4.30pm

*Reduced lunch menu

Menu Entrees: $16-20, Mains: $26-35, Desserts: $16
Baroque | Bistro Bar Patisserie on Urbanspoon


Where are some of your favourite French food places (bistros, patisseries, charcuteries, etc.)?

Update (June 25, 2012): It is with regret that I learned that Ad Lib Bistro, along with the Berowra Waters Inn was closing. See the SMH article for more details. I’ll leave the rest of this post as is, in memoriam! Big changes going on in the restaurant world in Sydney.

 

In thinking about what to do to celebrate my “round birthday”, as a friend called it, another decade, I had been debating where I’d like to go for dinner. It had to be something with great food, something special, and something where there would be dishes my nephew and niece might enjoy. There are quite a few restaurants I was looking at, with unique, incredible dishes, which I would enjoy, but then those might be not appreciated as much by younger ones.

Another consideration was how many to invite, whether to invite the majority of my family and friends, or to limit the numbers and keep it more intimate.

French food, and just about all things French, are the ultimate for me, so eventually I settled on Ad Lib Bistro at Pymble, which had the added advantage of being easily accessible by everyone who were going to be there. I had been to Ad Lib Bistro earlier, and found the food delicious, and service superb.

On the evening, I arrived to a beautifully set table, with the menu for the evening there for each person.

As guests arrived, we had some celebratory champagne: the Pommery Springtime Brut Rosé. Loved that! It was a pale pinkish-golden colour, and gentle, subtle in flavour.

For the more than 10 people there for the celebratory dinner, I could choose a dégustation menu, or a table d’hôte menu. I ended up going with the latter, so that people could choose what they wanted. The Ad Lib staff were helpful in the planning of the evening, including letting me make some adjustments to the standard menu to include dishes I wanted:

The Ad Lib Bistro staff provided superb service, in the planning, and throughout the evening.

Ad Lib Bistro - staff

Appetisers

For the appetiser, I ordered the prawns sautéed in garlic butter, baby spinach and Paris mushrooms. It seems to be all the rage to have a foam on a dish, and this had the garlic butter foam surrounding the prawns. Even the spinach tasted garlicky (yum!). The prawns were tender, succulent.

Here’s the sugar-cured salmon, toasted brioche, herb and shallot mascarpone. It looked gorgeous. I’m looking forward to getting back again so I can have more of the dishes!

I heard good reports about that, and the onion soup gratinée:

Mains

I had eaten the duck before at Ad Lib Bistro. Big, big flavours. Normally I would choose something different on each visit to a place, but this was so good I had to order it again. The duck confit is moist and tender, with a crispy skin. The Lyonnaise potatoes were rich and flavourful, having been sautéed with butter, onion and garlic. And then the fresh orange, and the endive and raddichio salad added complementary flavours and textures, with the orange adding sweetness, the endive and radicchio adding crunch and bitterness, which all the more made the flavour of the duck stand out.

The fish fillet meunière was served with almonds, green beans, and beurre noisette. The fish was tender and tasty.

I heard good reports about the grilled sirloin steak, served with beurre café de Paris. One of my friends who doesn’t usually eat steak even ordered it and loved it.

For sides, we had lots of small dishes of mesclun salad, French fries with mayo, and creamed potatoes. Even though I had the Lyonnaise potatoes on my plate I had to try the creamed potatoes, and they were light, fluffy, buttery, creamy, heavenly, melting in your mouth.

Desserts

I had read that the dark chocolate mousse is normally plated at the table, for a bit of showmanship, but I think because of the number at our table, it was served already plated. Light, full chocolate flavour.

I ordered the crêpes suzette, served with macerated oranges. By that time of night it was dark outside, and the light more dim inside, so the pouring of the lit Cognac and Grand Marnier liqueur, with its blue flame, onto the crêpes provided some drama. The rich orange flavours and the lightness of the crêpes were even better than I could have imagined they’d be. Another dish I’d order again because it was so good.

The raspberry souffle, served with a raspberry sorbet, was gorgeous. I’ve had it previously there at Ad Lib. The souffle is incredibly light, and the raspberry so definite. The raspberry sorbet ball rests on tiny crumbles of something like a butterscotch, presumably to stop it from rolling around the plate (and the crunchiness adds texture).

After dessert we were served tea, coffee and petit fours, which were delicious chocolate truffles.

A wonderful evening. Superb food, superb company and superb service. What more could one ask?

Details

Here are the latest details for Ad Lib Bistro, Pymble (details are different for Ad Lib Bistro at Double Bay). Check their web site for current information.

Web Site http://www.adlibbistro.com
Address 1047 Pacific Highway, Pymble, NSW, Australia
Phone 02 9988 0120
Open Lunch: Mon-Fri, 12 noon – 2:30pm
Dinner: Mon-Sat, 5pm – 10pm
Also open from 10am Mon-Fri for coffee and dessert
Menu French, Mains $25-45
Ad Lib Bistro on Urbanspoon


Where have you gone for a memorable celebration meal?