I wish I had taken a photo of the menu. That way, I'd be able to describe all the good things we ate last night over in Romorantin. Peter and Jill invited us to have dinner with them at the Lion d'Or, a hotel and Michelin-starred restaurant.
Walt and I had been there once before, several years ago, in similar circumstances. But that was in winter, and we had to sit inside. Last night, we had a table outside in the hotel courtyard. The weather was balmy.
Dinner started with a glass of champagne (of course). Well, that's how it works in a Michelin-recommended place. The champagne was Ruinart, either white or pink. It came with some little morsels called « amuse-bouche » — tidbits that "amuse" your mouth. One was a little glass of foie gras soup — yes, fattened goose liver served as a purée in liquid. Another was a purée of salt cod, and a third was the meat off a pig's foot diced and jellied in aspic. Each element was a tiny serving, just to whet the appetite.
Let me just list the courses that followed. The first was — what else? — frog legs. They had been poached and deboned, and they were served with a salad of arugula and a dollop of — what was it? Either crème fraîche or fromage blanc. Alongside there was a glass containing a creamy soup made with stinging nettles — « orties » in French. When cooked, the nettles don't sting your skin (or tongue) and are good to eat.
The second course was fish. In this case, it was billed as « morue frâiche », which is a kind of oxymoron in itself. You see, « morue » means "salt cod" — so how can salted cod be called "fresh" fish? Fresh cod is called « cabillaud » in French.
Anyway, no need to quibble, it was very good. On the main plate was a mound of delicate, moist, flavorful white cod fillet flesh, surrounded by little pieces of ratatouille vegetables cut into geometric shapes. There were little bits of eggplant, bell pepper, onion, olive, and even potato, in a light vinaigrette dressing.
Alongside the main fish dish, the restaurant also served a "salad" of poached and shredded salt cod belly, dressed with a spoonful of anchovy cream. It was a good contrast, being a little saltier and fishier than the fresh cod fillet.
The main course was squab. On one plate was half a pigeon breast, cooked medium rare (or « rosé » as they say in French). On the plate there was a wedge of bright green steamed cabbage, served slightly undercooked, and some peeled — yes, peeled — green garden peas with a tiny, cooked baby carrot and a similarly cooked, tiny spring onion, cut in half.
The little side plate that went with the squab breast was a little pigeon leg & thigh section swimming in a foamy sauce made with dried apricot. As with the fish, the two different parts of the pigeon were treated and cooked entirely differently, so that they complemented each other.
Dessert was copious, to say the least. First the waiters brought to the table two plates of little sweet petit fours — what they call « mignardises », or "precious morsels." Then the main dessert arrived, and it alone consisted of three plates per person.
They included: a peach soufflé on one plate; fresh strawberries floating on strawberry jam on another, with a crispy cone filled with some kind of sweetened cream; and finally, a little sugar-glazed cake sitting in a puddle of strawberry jam on the third.
I couldn't eat it all. Then we had coffee.
To accompany all that, and after the champagne, we had a bottle of a rare Touraine rosé wine made from Pineau d'Aunis grapes over near Tours in a tiny wine area called Noble Joué. To go with the squab and the dessert, we ordered a bottle of organic Gamay red wine made by a woman named Catherine Roussel just outside Saint-Aignan on her property, which is called Clos Roche Blanche.
After dinner, we took a late-evening stroll around the town to try to burn off a few calories and get our circulation going again.
This was Peter's third dinner at the Lion d'Or in Romo. For the rest of us, it was our second. It was a very nice way to cap off their brief visit to Saint-Aignan. I hope we get to go there again sometime.