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TEX'S TRAVELS #1 France Austria Germany Spain

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TEX'S TRAVELS #1 France Austria Germany Spain

TEX | Nov 7, 2000 02:27 PM

TEX’S TRAVELS PART 1 : France(Montpellier, Strasbourg), Austria(Solden), Germany(Regensburg,Berlin), Spain(Cadaques,Barcelona).
This winter I am going to be traveling alot, primarily filming a documentary about Female Alpine ski racers, which
enables me to also partake in one of my other loves, that of food from different places, from the best restaurants to
the most humble bistros. Hopefully these posts will not bore you.
Arrived Barcelona and drove up to the French side of the pyrenees where I have a house, I called in my local bar on
the way up the mountain and struck lucky with the landlord who let me have a hare that he had been given by a
hunter. Stopped by my friends the organic farmers and ended up that night with a wonderful saddle of hare in a
Banyuls sauce with fresh Chantrelles ( they have just started appearing in the woods) and organic potatoes. A simply
marvelous meal for about $6.
Next day drove towards Austria and stopped in Montpellier for dinner at Le Jardin Des Sens ( 3* Michelin).
This restaurant which recently graduated to its third star is the house of brothers Jaques and Laurent Pourcel who
cook together in the kitchen under the title “Cuisine en Duo” Jaques takes care of Fish and Desserts and Laurent the
Entrees and Meat.
I had called earlier that afternoon and managed to get a reservation for myself for 7.30 p.m.
From the outside the building looks as little like a Restaurant/Hotel as you could imagine, a corner building with an
earthy concrete facade,and set in a pretty unassuming suburb of Montpellier on a street of houses and blocks of
apartments, it was difficult to imagine what lay inside.
Designed by Bruno Borrione, a partner of Phillipe Stark, the restaurant itself is like the bridge of a spaceship, the
floor is staggered downwards on five different levels of about a foot or so difference, the walls are sloping floor to
ceiling glass and on the outside, but within the concrete facade, is the “garden” which consists of alot of water. The
doors to the kitchen slide noiselessly and the two sets work in perfect harmony so that no sound escapes from the
kitchen.
I went for the menu at 490 Fr francs. The amuse bouche was a tri level concoction served in a martini glass, a layer of
fresh pureed Tomato Sorbet, then a layer of Cream of Whitefish and floating on the top was a chilled Tomato ball
(like a melon ball) sprinkled with olive oil and it was delicious. As I waited for my next course the couple on the next
table immediately sparked up cigarettes and I thought how facist America is with its anti smoking laws and how
civilized it was to be back in France. Next came Ravioli de cepes, fume de Jambon, Fricasse de sot-ly-laisse et Cepes
Poeles, Bouillon de Volaille emulsione au jus de truffes ( ham smoked mushroom ravioli , poultry emulsion broth in
the juice of truffles). Le fillet de turbot roti, barigoule de petits artichauts violets relevee de citronelle, tomate confite.
(fillet of turbot, small purple artichokes, sauce of Citronelle and tomato confite) This is the house specialty and it was
a dream, the citronelle sauce was an incredible taste of some memory lost in my childhood and I was thoroughly
entertained by this wonderful dish, the fish was cooked to perfection. Le filet de Cerf roti en poivrade, tombe de
choux rouge au vinaigre, galette de semoule et compote de golden ( roughly translated fillet of deer loin falling from
cabbages red from vinegar, a pancake of semolina and the compote of Golden.) I couldn’t get to the bottom of
precisely what “Golden” consisted of, but the sauce was unbelievable, it was so rich and deep, like waking up in a
dark forest with a blindfold and having to smell your way out. Next came the cheese trolley which the unfortunate
staff had to lift every time they moved it up or down a level, and as it looked like it weighed about 200 lbs must be
the absolute bane of the waiters lives. The cheese selection was good and fresh. Following that came two masterful
desserts , Quince sorbet in quince compote with four pieces of caramelized popcorn with a warm raspberry coulis
topped with cream. Followed by a Praline nougat with a chocolate sauce, pressed mint leaves and petite fours.
Service was extremely good no it was better than that it was THE best, the waitstaff and wine waiters were on top of
everything and there was not one instance when I thought to myself, ah well they missed that. Staff ratio was about 1
to 4 , the ambient music was at perfect volume level, not even being audible when there was conversation but being
present enough to avoid awkward silences. It was a Tuesday night and the restaurant was full. I complimented my
meal with two half bottles of St Aubin Hubert Lamy 1’ere cru en Remilly 1995. The total cost including water was
935 French francs about 125 bucks at today’s wonderful exchange rates. The restaurant has a’great a la carte menu
and prix fixe running from 260 fr to 680 fr. As I left I thought that was probably the best meal I had ever eaten, the
balance of the meal was very clever and intricate and it was woven so artistically with subtle light flavors and deep
rich monsters, All in all quite exceptional and incredibly good value considering that I would spend that in my current
local new york favourite ( Fresson) for dinner with wine.
Le Jardin Des Sens 11 avenue St Lazare 34000 Montpellier 04 99 58 38 38
Also a hotel offering about 12 rooms, open all year , closed all day Sunday and Monday lunch.
Next day I drove through Switzerland and on into Austria to the town of Solden where the first world cup race of
this season was taking place on the Glacier high (11,000 feet) above the town. I spent four days in Solden and took
every opportunity to sample the local Austrian Fare. There are no real Gourmet restaurants in Solden but plenty
serving good mountain food. Best restaurant is probably s’Pfandl where my ski pal Lena and myself enjoyed Lamb,
Beef and “ Baby Moo” was the waiters translation .The main problem is that everything comes with the same sauce
of cream and mushrooms at virtually every place you eat, and whether its fish or meat the same inescapable sauce
seems to turn up. The Austrians do have an excellent history of homemade noodles (Krauternudeln) which come in
many varieties and are delicious, up here we are only about 30 kilometers from the Italian border. The other main
staples are Wurst, ( sausages) in all their many splendid and varied varieties, usually cooked in water and served with
a wonderful tarragon mustard. I must have had a daily intake of at least half a dozen of these a day and up in the
restaurant on the glacier after a few runs nothing is finer than popping in for a couple of Wurst and a bowl of the
other main staple, the Bouillon mit frittaten, a warming soup broth with a thin fried pancake chopped into very thin
strips and dropped into your bowl of soup. Other possibilities are with the traditional Bavarian specialty the Knoedl
dropped into your Bouillon. The knoedl is a dumpling made from bread, butter, milk, egg, onion and comes primarily
in three forms, the Kaasknoedl (Cheese), Speckknoedl (smoked bacon),or the schinkenknoedl (ham). Top notch fare
and something that puts ski resort catering in the U.S.A to shame, especially when topped off with a cup of warm
gluwein. Prices in Austria are very cheap, for instance our meal at s’Pfandl for two (and we had the “Baby Moo” just
to try out for tasting purposes) including wheatbeers and a bottle of Antinori Chianti Classico 1995 was around 50
bucks.
Left on the Sunday to drive up to Berlin and stopped in Regensburg (Germany) for lunch with my friend Melanie who
studies there.
Had an good lunch at a family run restaurant the Alte Munz . Fischmarkt 7, 93047 Regensburg : 0941 54886.
There was a nice crowd of “out for a Sunday lunch after church” groups and the place was packed, the proprietor
was cooking on a counter in full view of the restaurant and was continually clowning around. All the staff were
dressed in Bavarian style Leiderhosen and frilly shirts. We had Lammreucken provenzial and Schwammerlschnitzel,
both cooked in full view by our jolly chef, although I was amused to see the appearance of the ubiquitous wild
mushroom cream sauce turn up again on the Schwammerlschnitzel. Lunch for two with a beer for my guest and water
for me was 24 bucks, in Germany tax and V.A.T are included in the price and tipping is basically unknown other than
people leaving the loose coins to round up.
Continued up to Berlin and arrived later that evening.
Only stayed in Berlin for two nights and had a marvelous smoked goose dinner at a friend house the evening I
arrived. My friends ( Kai and Christina) have just moved there from New York and Christina was eager to try out her
new smoking device that she had brought over with her. She had decided to smoke a goose and it came out
delightful. We had a marvelous dinner with some great Spanish Navarre wine, the name of which escapes me at the
moment. Unfortunately I was a bit zombied out from my 12 hour drive so I didnt last long.
Monday night I took Kai and Christina out for dinner in the top rated Berlin Restaurant ( top rated by the Machelino
guide, which is the Berlin equivalent of Zagats). First Floor Palace, located appropriately enough on the first floor of
the palace hotel took a reservation from me earlier that afternoon. A pleasant and spacious room with nice wood
surfaces and a large glass ceiling. We were served a plate with three small amuse bouches, a fish ball in a foaming
sauce with truffle oil, a small piece of fois gras in gelatin and a miniature bowl of cream of garlic soup. Both Kai and
Christina went for the Baby deer entree with noodles and potatoes with chantrelles , whilst I had the saddle of Rabbit
wrapped in crepe with olives and Mediterranean vegetables. The food was extremely good, the deer was extremely
tender and melted on ones tongue, it had a nice game stock /red wine based reduction sauce and the presentation was
in very large bistro sized bowls about 14 inches wide. The rabbit was not what I was expecting. I’ve cooked a fair
few rabbits myself, but had never come across one like this. It seemed to have been compressed and squeezed
somehow by some machine into a perfectly cylindrical tube and was indeed wrapped in a thin crepe. It tasted decent
but the texture was less that of flesh and more that of sausage. Presentation was again good and the vegetables were
very well dealt with. A couple of average desserts rounded out the meal. The wine list was very good with some great
bargains in the Spanish, South African and Austria’s sections, the French was very pricey. I took a bottle of the
Austrian Weingut Brundlmayer Cabernet Vincent 1994 which was exceptional so we had a second and at 120 Marks
a bottle ( $52) was a wonderful bargain. Finished it all of with 3 glasses of wonderful Banyuls dessert wine.
Total for 3 people including wine tax and Vat 705 marks ( $310)
A pretty good restaurant service was not so hot , but I think well worth checking out if you are in Berlin.
First Floor palace: Im Europe Centre, 10789 Berlin 030 25 020.
Left Berlin Early on Tuesday morning to drive back down to the pyrenees and heading for an overnight in Strasbourg
where I had managed to get a reservation at the famous Au Crocodile (Emile Jungs 3 * michelin) for a 7.30 seating.
Drove at around 100mph for 9 hours and arrived miraculously in time to have a quick shower and walk in on the dot
where I was taken to an upstairs room to my table. As I sat down a man with a dog came in and I thought oh well
here we go France again, The chap was getting the dog to go under the tables when I realized it was wearing a
Gendarmerie vest, and as Strasbourg is full of politicians I presumed some big wig was having dinner. Cigarettes?
O.K., dogs, well I didn’t think that even the French would be that tolerant in their three star establishments. Au
Crocodile is an old almost Tudor style house, with lots of small rooms, stairs, nooks and crannies as well as a few
ghosts I would imagine. The room that I was in had 8 tables and was staffed by 8 waiters and a Sommelier. Staff
were very friendly and efficient. The menu is based very much in the traditional Alsace kitchen and was very difficult
to decide on. I ended up taking the Prix Fixe “Gutenburg” a menu celebrating the 550th anniversary of the inventor of
the printing press , who had come from Strasbourg. Some of the recipes on the menu were based on the first cook
books printed by Gutenberg at that time.
Amuses bouches were a small bowl of pumpkin soup with four seeds of anise placed impeccably as if by some as yet
uninvented seed placing tool,a Gelee in which is floating a poached freshwater shrimp,and a small relish of cucumber
with a cheese pastry parcel.
Next came an incredible cold “soup” of Gelee de crystal in which was found cubes of poached chicken and freshwater
eel. I took the menu with the option of “Avec Boissons” so I received four separate wines with my dishes, All were
from Alsace, this course came with a Gustave Lorenz pinot blanc 99.
Imagine my amusement at this point when in came an elderly couple with, yes, you guessed it, their dog. They were
placed at the table in the corner of the room and the dog sat under the table, quite, quite bizarre.
Next came “Sandre aux lentilles comme a Mayenne”
A fabulous thick fillet of Pikeperch (a freshwater fish) in a thin sauce with lentils and freshwater crayfish. the sauce
was brilliant containing what tasted like cornmeal, fish was cooked to perfection. served with a Riesling Kugelberg
97. At this point the Monsieur Jungs wife approached me and asked if I liked to eat alone. Its all about the food
tonight Mme, I replied, though it is a shame not to be able to share tonight’s experience.
Next two perfect almost heart shaped medallions of veal “Jarret de Veau, Facon “Annette Iserin Tur” Poelee de
legumes villageoise” sitting atop white beans, thyme and leeks and a sauce that ,if it were a swimming pool you could
lie on your back all day staring at the sky in it and still never get bored. The veal was so tender you could cut it with a
breath. It really was a spectacular dish with this incredible medieval style sauce that I later found out had a candied
orange and clove base to it . Served with two robust glasses of pinot noir “Adam” 99.
Along came some Cheeses including one that I had only ever seen for the first time in my life the night before in
Berlin. A creamy looking but hard round of cheese with an orangy outside that sits on a round wheel with a metal
spike sticking up through it onto which is threaded a steel arm that you twist round and as you do it shaves a very
narrow band of cheese fron the top. You end up with a flake of the cheese. Great stuff and specialist tools as well,
just up my street. Maybe it is called Tomme de Moines? if anyone is in the know please let me know.
Next a Croustillant D’epeautre aux Pommes et Poires sauce safrane, this was a lovely light dessert and the saffron
sauce was delicious and very enticing on the tongue. Served with a Teller Gewrtztraminer 96 grand cru kirchberg.
Rounded off nicely with a hommage Gutenberg Parfait Glace with almond milk and Pistachio coulis.
A glass of banyuls accompanied the petit fours which were the only thing that seemed to let the meal down. they were
sad and tired and did not have the sparkle of the rest of the meal, also the Banyuls was served cold, in fact chilled
which I found to be odd as well since it is a fortified Vin Douce wine (16%) and benefits greatly from warmth to
release its flavors. Still a couple of petty gripes at the end of what was a super meal.
As I was leaving I could not find the way out and ended up in a corridor sitting talking to the chef Emile Jung for
about five minutes, He was very interested in what was happening with Ducasse’s restaurant in New York and if it
was successful, told me he was friends with the parents of Jean Georges and did I know that he came from
Strasbourg, that the brothers that ran Jardin des Sens were doing good things for the Languedoc Rousillon area of
southern France. He was charming and very pleasant and this is how I learnt the secret of the medieval sauce that
accompanied the Veal Medallions, it starts with the candying process of the orange peels that must be dried slowly
for 12 hours but beyond that my lips are sealed.
Au Crocodile : 10 rue de l’Outre 6700 Strasbourg : (33) 03 88 32 13 02 closed Mondays
Next day I drove back down to the Pyrenees and had dinner with friends Hermann and Gudrun the organic
farmers.Had a total feast on one of their free range organic ducks with Chantrelles and fresh organic vegetables which
Gudrun cooked on the wood stove in a big cast iron pot. Brilliant, and washed down with plenty of the local wine and
beer.
Following day I was back into Spain to meet a friend from the U.K called Ants in Cadaques a great village on the
coast where Savador Dali used to live.
One of my all time favorite restaurants is here and I always look forward to the visit. Arrived to find out that the
family run restaurant had gone through a family falling out and now one of the two brothers had opened his own
restaurant and there was much debate with my friends Martin and David about which was better. We ended up going
to the original where brother Jaunito was still at the helm, and the one I know best, I have been coming here for 14
years now so he is pretty familiar with me and what I like. His style of menu is “ sit down , this is what you will
have”, now this upsets some people but never me. Here at the one of the four big communal tables in Casa Anita ,we
feasted on Fish soup of Cadaques, Gambas a la plancha that were so succulent that while David and I finished a
conversation the last one of the first batch had disappeared down Martins neck ( although to be fair he had warned
me that he was dreaming of Gambas for days) Calamaris grilled with garlic so wonderful that the first time I ever eat
here I immediately returned the next day and got a table so that I could peek into the kitchen and figure out what the
mother (who was the chef at the time) did to get such a fabulous dish. Six bottles of first rate local red wine which
was smooth and very very pleasant to drink ( Martin again primarily responsible) Crema Catalane with the secret
ingredient that I will reveal only this once, simmer the milk with chopped fennel bulb. Total cost including six bottles
of wine for an absolute nosebag of food for four 13,350 pts or as we say 68 of your U.S dollars, although Jaunito our
patron seemed to drink a Fair amount of the wine I am sure he threw in a couple of bottles for free, he sort of makes
it all up as he goes and charges you accordingly.
Following day Ants and I drove back down to Barcelona where I was dying to try a new find, as anyone aware of my
few previous posts I have alot of familiarity with the area. I had found out that in Barcelona there is a restaurant
called Talaia-Mar which is a sort of offshoot of the three star michelin El Bulli up in Roses in Costa Brava next to
Cadaques, and which I have already eaten at. The kitchen at Talaia Mar is overseen by Ferran Adria the chef at El
Bulli and some of the training of staff goes on at this establishment. The menu is also based around similar dishes to
those at El Bulli. We booked a table for 9’oclock ( early for Spanish eating). The place is difficult to find even though
it is only about 800 yards away from the hotel Arts, it is situated amongst the many restaurants in the tourist Port. I
eventually found it on the first floor of a long building next to an enormous over lit Chinese restaurant. I was warmly
met and sat to wait next to the glass floor to ceiling partition that separates the kitchen from the dining area, its very
cool to be able to look into the whole kitchen like that. About 20 mins later Ants phoned to say he couldn’t find it
even though he was just outside and it took another 10 minutes of keystone cop like antics for him to finally get
there.
The restaurant is like a ship , lots of wood, glass and sloping panels, expect to laugh in the mens toilets and dont go
in too drunk, thats all I will say. There are three private rooms for about 10 to 20 people as well as a decent dining
space. Waiter ratio is high and service was good and attentive but not outstanding. My friend Ants is a very
traditional eater and so it was bold of him to join me on the “Gastronomic” menu, even though he was a little unsure
if he was going to like his experiment. And what an experiment it was. The cuisine is very much like El Bulli, and here
we go: Wild rice flakes, plantain chips with anise, then a long hollow shell ( which was warm) of Quicos nougat filled
with Bacon ice cream, yes you heard that correctly and it was FAB!!!. Soup of Litchis, cockles and passion fruit with
sechuan oil. Corn ice cream with warm pureed fois gras soup drizzled with vanilla oil. Tuna Tartare with five spices,
trout caviar and soy. Cod doughnut which came in a small shot glass the “cod doughnut” sat atop Coulant, a milk
like substance. Instructions was to down it in one and take one crunch to mix in the mouth. SURREAL!
Our Potato Omelet , a martini glass with three layers, warm caramelized onion, yolk emulsion,and the famous Potato
foam. Mix of vegetables from Boqueria marquet with modena vinegar. Fresh fish from market “Suquet” potatoes
puree. Rack of lamb with moutard, pineapple crepes, celery puree. Lime ice cream and molasses, natural lime and
aubergine marmalade. Strawberries and chantilly, mousse cream milk and modena vinegar reduction.
This meal was absolutely incredible and definitely up to the standards at El Bulli, star turns were definitely the Bacon
ice creme, the Modena vinegar reduction on the strawberries, the warm fois gras soup.
The menu has a small philosophy from the chefs;
“We never remember whole days in life, but just a few moments. Happiness is each of those small pieces of cristal of
the glass we broke one day in the name of joy and friendship. Tapas at Taliai are those little instants of pleasure the
little things that Serrat sings about, the concentrated imagination and talent of Marta Rams and Martin Singla.
Cooks are the poets of all senses and Tapas are the philosophical stone of their kitchen. Sometimes tiny things have
the magnificence of the masterly and Talaia invites you to taste it.”
Right on and full marks from me!
The tasting menu that Ants and I took was 8,500 pts each and we had two great wines. A 1998 les terraces Alvaro
Palacios Proirat at 3,800 pts and a 94 Mas Borras Pinot Noir at 3,300 pts. Total cost around 29,000Pts about 150
bucks
Talaia Mar ; Marina 16, 08005 Barcelona 93 221 90 90
Anyway all that in twelve days, funny thing is upon my return to New York, I contracted a very bad case of food
poisoning from the only thing I eat upon my return and have spent the last two days in an absolutely terrible state of
which the only benefit was that I have lost all the weight that I put on.
Next Tuesday I am off to the next leg of the ski races which are in Park City Utah and Aspen Colorado so I guess my
next post will be on the American board. After that back out to Val D’isere France, St Moritz Switzerland and
Sestrieres Italy, and then 7 weeks all over the European alps. I intend to keep up this Journal, I hope that the post is
not too long and if appreciated will continue with the reports.
TEX

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