Our 43rd wedding anniversary was Oct 13 2015 while we were in Paris and our son’s inlaws were also in town on business. We thought it would be a great opportunity to splurge on a Michelin star lunch and we had heard great things about La Tour d’Argent. So I started trying to make reservations. Finally 90 days out the reservations opened for our date and I made a booking for 4 for lunch indicating it was an anniversary celebration.
I had assumed being nobody in particular that we would be seated somewhere between the restroom and the waiter station, so I was delighted when we were ushered to the best table in the house. We sat in the curved window with a view out onto the most beautiful side of Notre Dame.
As you can see from this snapshot further back in the house, all tables have a view of sorts, but that seat in the corner curved window was choice.
This was the view from my seat.
And this was my view to the side; I love the way the sun bounced off the windows and reflected off the Seine.
To start there was a lovely little pate en croute with foie gras and we shared a champagne toast — to our anniversary and the soon to come 44th anniversary of Anne and Scott our son’s inlaws. (Note those glasses of champagne are pricey so don’t say yes when they ask if you want a glass of champagne unless you are prepared to fork out.)
In addition to the pate we had a small amuse of tapenade.
Scott chose the wine with the usual elaborate ritual.
And the sommelier then decanted it in front of a candle.
For appetizers the men chose a fish soup; here is Ed with the pieces of fish arranged in his soup plate.
And here is the soup with the hot broth poured over the fish.
I had quenelles which I ordered because I had never heard of them before. They are fluffy fish dumplings over a mushroom duxelle and then broiled in a mornay sauce. Before food processors they involved grinding fish in a mortar and pestle. This may be the best thing I have eaten in Paris; they were just spectacularly good.
When I got back to Chicago I looked up recipes and then researched how they made them at La Tour d’Argent (the mushroom duxelle is their thing) and replicated them for an appetizer for Thanksgiving dinner. Mine didn’t come out as beautiful or quite as tasty — but actually pretty close. I started with a Julia child recipe and pulverized a bunch of fish and folded it into a choux paste. Next time I’ll do a better job on the fish — this was frozen and it affected the texture.
I also made some mushroom duxelle based on other recipes found on line since that was the way La Tour d’Argent presented it.
I then poached spoon fulls of the fish/choux paste in a seafood broth, placed them on the duxelles and covered them with mornay sauce made with emmentaler cheese. Here they are ready to go under the broiler.
While mine were not as pretty as those at La Tour, they were actually quite tasty and the left over poached quennelles were good the next day. Mornay sauce is easy to whip up and I just made that and put them under the broiler to heat.
For main courses, two of our group chose a lamb dish and two of us duck breast. There is a tradition at la Tour of numbering the ducks served; their piece de resistance is a pressed duck made with an ancient pressing devise at the table and served in a sauce of its own blood. Ours were just a standard and very tasty duck maigret but we did get our duck number. This is my duck without the sauce because I have an onion sensitivity; they brought me the sauce on the side. The veggies were a pleasant construction of squash and berries.
Anne and I shared duck # 1146167; well maybe.
The lamb was also scrumptious.
The only other Michelin restaurant we have been to was the three star Alinea in Chicago which is a very expensive evening of cuisine as performance art. Fun and tasty but more like going to a molecular gastronomy food concert than a meal. La Tour d’Argent is classic French food preparation.
Scott and I had a chocolate brulee for dessert.Ed and Anne had a pear cake.
But French desserts never seem to stop with the dessert course; there is also the mignardises or petit four course and this one was enormous. Although the portions of each course were modest, by the time we got to the mignardises we were too full to take full advantage of the tartlets, macarons, chocolates and caramels.
Yes there is bacon on some of those little cakes. And as we contemplated this largesse, a heavenly slab of chocolate mousse like substance arrived complete with candle for our anniversary.
I was lamenting not having brought a large purse into which I could stuff all those lovely chocolates going to waste when the waiter brought Anne and me each a small bag of house made caramels and nougats to take along. Hated to leave the chocolates, but the caramels were lovely and we served the nougats as part of our own mignardises at a dinner party later in the week.
This was a lovely lunch and the setting was perfect; this has always been my favorite view of Notre dame. After lunch we wandered over to the Cathedral.
And then we showed Anne and Scott the hidden garden near Notre Dame within the Hotel Diu (hospital). They had a public piano and Scott serenaded us for the end of a perfect afternoon.