Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Celebrating Valentine's Day (a day early)

For Valentine's Day this year, we went to L'Ecole, the restaurant for the French Culinary Institute. It's an actual restaurant that is staffed by the senior students at the institute. I really hoped there would be large windows into the kitchens and we'd be able to watch the students at work. But alas, it was like a real restaurant, with a bar, and tables and seats, and waiters going in and out of a door with plates of food.

The water bottles for each table had the restaurant's logo on the front and a little information on the back on how the water was filtered.

A very simple and pretty table arrangement of orchids and leaves. The neat trick about this was that underneath the flowers and leaves were tied together, so they all stayed put nicely in the wood vase.

We had L'Ecole's 5-course prix fixe meal. Each course (except for the salad) had 3 options to choose from. And as FI and I always do when we go out to eat, we coordinated our choices so we each got something different so we'd have double the dishes to try.

FI's appetizer was the Lobster Consommé with Lobster Tortellini. The consomme was very tasty. It was light and clear and not over salty or fishy either. I could drink it up. The tortellini however was not very good at all. The pasta wrapper was super thick and hard to chew through - almost like it was frozen and thawed out. It did not taste like fresh-made pasta (or even good store-bought pasta) at all.

I had the Escargot with Red Wine and Gruyère Cream for my appetizer. This was really tasty. The escargot were flavorful and soft to eat. They weren't chewy or tough or drenched in butter. FI and I actually used pieces of bread to sop up both the escargot sauce and the lobster consomme while we waited for our next courses.

FI's fish course was Seared Scallops, Pickled Grapes and Smoked Potato Cream. This was his favorite dish. The scallops were grilled really nicely and were tender to eat.

I had the Poached Halibut, Potato Terrine and Spiced Chicken Consommé. The sauce on top of the halibut was a creamy lemon sauce. The combination of the halibut with the lemon sauce and consomme was really good, a great contrast of flavors.

FI's meat course was the Hanger Steak with Pommes Boulangere. The steak was nice and rare and easy to eat. The red wine sauce was very tasty too, especially with the potatoes. I think that was spinach underneath the meat.

I had the Juniper Smoked Rack of Lamb with Pickled Chanterelles and Sunchoke-Cheddar Purée. The lamb was extremely tender and flavorful and I loved eating the bits of lamb of the bone too. The puree was a bit sour and cheesy, which made it work.

Then we both had a Digestive Salad, which was greens with Montegro cheese and a pear sorbet. I kept giggling at the name "digestive salad".

For dessert, FI had Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Tart with Malt Ice Cream. The tart was really rich but not overly sweet. The malt ice cream was delicious. It definitely tasted like a frozen malted shake. The white block at the bottom was a soft marshmallow.

I had the Trio of Pot de Crème. They were lighter than puddings, kind of like mousses, and very delicious. The flavors were, from right to left, butterscotch, coffee, and chocolate. FI and I both liked the coffee one best because it had the lightest texture and was almost like a flan in consistency.

It was a great meal for only $42 for each of us. It was fun to feel like you were participating in the education of perhaps the next great cook. I took care to fill out the comment card with our feedback on each of the dishes (particularly if we didn't like them or really loved them). While it wasn't the most exquisite meal I've ever had, I enjoyed immensely what we did have, because it was a lot for the money we paid.

Happy President's Day! (a day late of course)

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