Sunday, November 1, 2009

Food Field Trip France: La Machonnerie

At the end of the week, we arrived in France's food mecca: Lyon. The point of this, the tail end, of the trip was singular: to eat. Our first night we had reservations at a traditional bouchon, La Machonnerie ( La Machonnerie is located in the heart of Old Lyon and is fronted by a diorama of marionettes, a Lyon tradition.

We entered into the main dining room, a warm, bustling space, and were promptly greeted by a friendly server who to our surprise, spoke excellent English, offered us an English-language menu, and showed us to a large corner table.

B and I were once again really hungry, and were offered a plate of fried pig fat (yes, it is actually delicious) and a rich cheese spread. I am not sure if I should admit this, but we polished off the fried pig with cheese pretty quickly.

Next, it was onto the wine choice. We opted for a full-bodied 2005 St. Joseph which stood up wonderfully to the food that was to come.

The menu, while in English, was crudely translated and offered three prix fix options. Given the choices, we opted for the most expensive of the three for 36 euros and settled in for the richest four courses we have ever eaten.

B went with the salad, which sounds like a lite choice, right? Wrong! It was a delicious, rich bowl of leafy greens with onions, bacon lardons, and some sort of hearty, balsamic-based dressing.

I opted for what I would later learn was a Lyonnaise speciality: leek terrine. The terrine was served cold, and was a rich, textured foil to the tart mustard sauce and perfectly cooked crayfish tails. As you can see in the picture, this was a large portion and could have easily been a main dish.

But when it came time for the main course, the richness was turned up several notches. I opted for roast chicken in a morel mushroom cream sauce. This dish was wonderful. The morels are the meatiest mushrooms I have ever tasted and added both flavor and texture to juicy bone-in chicken thighs and breasts. B was brave with his choice and oopted for the kidney cooked in a wine sauce with baby onions. He loved this dish, and described it as tasting like an uber-tender filet mignon. I had one bite and hate to admit this as a person who loves food, but could not get over the fact that I was eating a kidney -- too rustic for me. The dishes were served with a leek gratin oozing with cream and gruyere cheese.

Next, came my favorite food moment of the entire trip. I selected the cheese tray and thought I would get to ask for two or three selections. To my absolute delight, the waitress went over everything on the tray and then left it at the table for me to self- select. I opted for the homemade fig cheese spread, a rich goat, a creamy cow, and finally a goat cheese studded with olives. I was so full at this point in the meal, that I only had a taste of each, but I loved being given free reign of an excellent assortment of French cheeses.

B's cheese course was a bit more modest, and was actually more like a sour yogurt served with an apple compote. B happens to love yogurt, so this was a good choice. I was to pre-occupied with my cheese tray decisions to taste his selection.

And now onto dessert. Before we selected our desserts we were offered house-made meringues the size of a baseball. We opted to split one as we were not sure if we were going to make it through!

For dessert B got the ice cream souffle, which was dense, tart, and decent, but not remarkable.

I opted for the raspberry sorbet because I thought this would be a lite choice to end the meal. The sorbet was placed in front of me, and then a waiter brought over a mini-wine barrel full of grappa which he poured on top. This is a dessert that will put hair on your chest. The sorbet was a perfect combination of tart and smooth, but the grappa added quite the edge.

This was the best and most expensive meal of the trip at $117 euros, and this was the first time I have ever woken up with a food hangover that rivals any hangover I faced in college. Well played.

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