01 July 2010

Dinner at the Lion d'Or in Romorantin

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.

Here we are entering the hotel lobby for dinner.

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.

Tables in the courtyard at the Lion d'Or
in Romorantin-Lanthenay

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.

Poached, boneless frog legs with some arugula leaves

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.

"Fresh" salt cod with Mediterranean vegetables

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.

Shredded cod belly as a kind of salad

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.

Medium rare breast of squab, with cabbage
and other spring vegetables

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.

A pigeon thigh section in a foamy apricot sauce

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.

« Mignardises » as a pre-dessert appetizer

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.

Just one of three desserts served at the end of the meal

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.

The narrow streets of Romorantin in the Sologne

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.


  1. As we say in Minnesota,Oof-Dah, not too bad! A little supper...just a bite to eat so you won't wake up hungry in the middle of the night.

    Eat your hearts out guys, we had take-out from Taco Bell.

  2. DH and I went to Applebees last night and we had a bit of the side by side presentation of the same food you had: it was oriental chicken salad, one had fried chicken, the other broiled lol.

    I don't think Lewis would like the stinging nettle salad since he hated getting stung by those things at Chambord. Guess we could have eaten some for revenge;)

    Your dinner sounded and looked wonderful. Thanks for taking us through it. The Mignardises would have been enough for me!

    Oh, and it's neat that you know so much about your local grapes.

  3. Ken, Splendid meal!

    However, I'm a bit surprised when you say that the Noblé Joué Rosé is made from Pineau d'Aunis grapes. :) Some years ago we visited the winery of the Frères Rousseau in Esvres, the most promiment winemakers in the Noblé Joué area and they told us that the rosé is made from three types of Pinot grapes.

    This is what it says on their website:

    "C'est un assemblage de 3 pinots dits "Noble" :

    Le pinot meunier ou gris meunier pour 50 à 60%. Il apporte le fruité et la fraîcheur.
    Le pinot gris ou malvoisie pour 30 à 40%. Il apporte le corps et la puissance. Il peut être récolté tardivement et grâce à la pourriture noble, donner un vin moelleux, la malvoisie.
    Le pinot noir pour 10 à 20%. Il apporte toute sa finesse."

    If you want to know more about its history, just follow this link: http://rousseau-freres.com/index.php?cat=12


  4. Wow. I thought I was an adventurous eater, but I don't think I could be comfortable with the pigeon or the medium rare squab:)) But, the presentation was gorgeous, and the place looked wonderful! Any time you mention Romorantin, I remember a post you did a couple of years ago about the town, and it was the first time I had heard of it then. :))

    I'm so glad you all had such a nice visit!


  5. Trying to make me homesick again?
    Looks like it was a lovely evening.

  6. Thank you for daring to take the photos of your meal. The food looks fantastic.

  7. One more hour to lunch, and boy am I looking forward to it now. Not that I will eat such a good meal, but at least I will eat.

  8. Babette's Feast has nothing on your meal last night.

    Your post reminds me of a day back in 1969 when the very bourgeois Normandy family I stayed with that year was invited to a relative's house for Sunday dinner, and I was invited as well.

    On s'est mis à table around noon and stayed there until 5:00 (I don't recall them, but there must have been bathroom breaks). Following a two hour hiatus for a much needed walk, we went at it again from 7:00 until 10:00 p.m.

    Your dinner was very elegantly presented. Clearly, cuisine bourgeoise is alive and well in France.

    Would you be willing to share what the per capita cost of that meal was?

  9. Bill, LOL. If we had a Taco Bell here...

    Evelyn, the nettles didn't sting us. The creamy nettle soup was good.

    Ladybird, it was the patronne of the restaurant, Mme Clément, who told us that the Noble Joué rosé she served was made from Pineau d'Aunis grapes. I took her word for it and I don't remember who the viticulteur was. I should have paid more attention. At any rate, our local wine-makers, including Bruno and Patricia Denis as well as Jean-Noël and Chantal Guerrier, make very nice Pineau d'Aunis rosés, as you know.

    Bob, all four of us had the less expensive of the two menus the restaurant offered. It was 98 € per person, plus the champagne for apéritifs, the wines (reasonable at 25 € and 28 € per bottle), and the coffees. I didn't actually see the bill. The other menu was priced at 130 €. Ordering à la carte appeared to be much more expensive. My menu did have prices on it. Such a meal is beyond our means, but Peter and Jill love good food and are very generous.

  10. Three desserts? No wonder there's an obesity problem in France. The meal would have done me in, much less the desserts.

  11. What a beautiful dinner!


  12. Starman, yes, it's all those 110 € dinners that are causing French children to gain weight. It's not Coca-Cola or McDonald's hamburgers. No, couldn't be. Because if it were, America would also have an obesity problem, and we all know that it doesn't. N'est-ce pas?

  13. Thanks for the wonderful pictures. I could have made dinner out of the pastry tray and some coffee. All the food looks incredible!

    I ate often at such places in the 80s when the exchange rate hit 10 francs to the dollar for a little while. Not so easy to do that today. As for pigeon, hmmm, after living in NYC I don't know...how was it? I don;t think I've ever had it.

  14. Hi Ken...

    WOW!!!! This dinner looks impressive... I love the little bite size desserts... They are indeed precious!!!
    Have a great weekend!


  15. Diogenes, the pigeon breast was very good. It was cooked rare, and was tender. It didn't have a gamy taste.

    I liked the pigeon thigh/leg less. I thought it was a little undercooked.

    French desserts aren't very sweet. Even so, three of them, plus the little bite-size mignardises, were a little much.


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