Rebecka posted hers on the Manhattan board, but my response didn't seem to belong there, since the meal in question was eaten in Lyons, France, 10 years ago. Actually, there's another that ties for first place in my heart (3 years later, at La Tour de Monthlery, in Paris), but I didn't want to take up too much room here. If anybody expresses interest, I'll post that one, too.
After consulting Patricia Wells Food-Lovers Guide to France, we decided on Chez Tante Paulette, which Wells recommended strongly, particularly for the poulet à lail (chicken with garlic) for two. A young woman greeted us on entry and we told her that we wanted to have lunch there, but that we werent quite ready to eat yet. She noticed the copy of "The Food-Lovers Guide to France" tucked under my husbands arm and asked if we were there for THE CHICKEN and we nodded, mais, oui! She told us it would take about forty minutes to prepare and suggested we take a walk and return then. Perfect. So we went window-shopping and returned at 2:00, to be greeted by incredible, mouth-watering odors, wafting from the kitchen, into the dining room, and out onto the street.
This has got to be the smallest restaurant dining room Ive ever seen: there were four tables, I think, seating ten lucky patrons maybe twelve, if they were all slender. We began with a truly marvelous salade frisée aux lardons (curly endive with small pieces of thick-sliced bacon and homemade croutons and a warm mustard-vinaigrette dressing). We asked for a local white wine and an earthenware pitcher of Macon was delivered to the table, followed by THE CHICKEN: one large chicken, cut into about ten pieces, subtly seasoned and sautéed with garlic, wine, and butter, then flamed with cognac. It was surrounded by cooked, unpeeled garlic cloves, floating in a Reisling wine sauce, and toasted slices of French bread. Our server demonstrated: you squeeze the cloves of garlic out of the peel, like toothpaste from a tube, onto a piece of toast. Then mash them down a little, with a fork, swish them in the sauce, and pop em down. What an experience! She also brought us a bowl of pommes lyonnaise (potatoes, diced and fried to perfection) to have with THE CHICKEN.
After all the bones were in a nice, neat pile and wed done in a second pitcher of Macon, we were presented with a cheese tray and an apple tart. And this amazing meal can be yours for under 300F! (Well, 10 years ago it could have been.) It was, without doubt, the best meal we had on this trip. Definitely worth the 576-mile round-trip from Paris. (My husband said it was worth the entire 4,176-mile round-trip from New York!)
(By the way, the recipe for Chez Tante Paulette's speciality was in the Food-Lover's Guide to France. Relatively easy to follow -- I've made it a couple of times.)
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