June 12, 1972 | Vintage Insatiable
Status Report on La Grande Cuisine

        One beatific day in May the welfare department of New York magazine gave me a small cash advance on my liver. And off I flew to foie gras country – insatiable Alice through the looking glass, growing taller and smaller on the magic mushroom.

        It is spring. Paris is gray and rain-logged. But there are fresh morilles – morels, the crinkly black wilds mushrooms of incredibly voluptuous texture, $25 a pound at Fauchon, Paris’s mythic bazaar of gastronomania. And in a few weeks, the first raspberries arrive, $4 a pint. But what ignominy! They come from California. At Maxim’s, the maitre d’hôtel himself personally arranged nine perfect berries around a soufflé glace. The first fat white asparagus is very precious. Tough and woody, it must be meticulously peeled. Then it is steamed to near pulp – a pitiful alternative to our tender, flavorful green stalks, lightly scraped and cooked to a faint crunch. But then, their asparagus must be eaten with the finger. Not because it’s more sensuous that way (a notion I’ve championed by eating berries, string beans and salad greens au sauvage everywhere), but because the bruising shock of steel or silver on asparagus is fatal to its subtle flavor. The French may be frivolous about serious matters, but they can be highly serious about frivolities.

        La Grande Cuisine is wounded. France is seeing gastronomic depression, resident epicureans say. Only America can afford the great wines of France today, a local wine merchant complains. Who wants to submit to the tyranny of the grueling kitchen apprenticeship? French youth in rolled-up jeans over custom-made boots has no patience with establishment eating rituals. Fast food. Quick snack. A Stand-up. Grilled meats. À la minute. Pizza. The owner of Fauchon eats string beans for lunch. His wife nibbles bean sprouts and a single perfect strawberry. When Everyman tries to zip himself into all those nifty costumes designed for skinny hairdressers…Voilà le régime. The drinking man’s diet. The great chef Paul Bocuse himself, lion of Lyon, sounds the doom. Bocuse has just shed 30 pounds. He is talking about the irresistible lure of mass-packaging his heroic loup en croûte… thaw, shake, and bake, Monsieur Paul’s frozen loup.

        Wine gets depressed at times, too. They say if you put away a sulking vintage for a while, it will come back. I can’t believe the Great Gods of Gastronomy are permanently on ice. Indeed, to the abused, sheltered, cliché-haunted food lover of New York, the French depression is scarcely noticeable. Prices are high. But we pay more for mediocrity in Manhattan than we pay for euphoria here. True, Parisian hosts have their own little tyrannies. And French chefs are seduced by their own clichés. Green peppercorns are obligatory. Fowl sauced in wine vinegar is everywhere. Puff-pastry bunting is a feverish craze, and two sauces on every dish is the ultimate in haute.

        Even the cult of simplicity here is not the pursuit of mass mediocrity. Simplicity in France is the freshest fish, respectfully braised, or the just-born string bean, exquisitely dressed. Never abandon hope for a nation that devotes so much passion to cheese and so much fantasy to an ugly little fungus like the truffle. Though the grillade faith flourishes and some Michelin-starred institutions crack, a generation of ambitious young chefs practices brilliant alchemy. You needn’t be born in a Velveeta cocoon to be seduced by their dazzle.

        The frenzied idolatry of the rare and pungent Tuber melanosporum – the mystical truffle – provokes fleeting cynicism. “The diamonds of cookery,” Brillat-Savarin called them. “Children of the gods,” said the ancient Romans. Now, really. But here I am confronting a salade de gastronomes. A ransom of truffles, more than I’ve ever before seen assembled on a single plate, with cubes of the most delicate melting fresh foie gras and crisp chunks of artichoke heart tossed with Twiggy-thin string beans in an impeccable vinaigrette. I could not feel richer if diamonds were edible and I’d just been served Elizabeth Taylor’s jewel box.

        The whimsical salad is just an entr’acte at Le Pot Au Feu. Here simplicity is a game – like upholstering a precious Louis XIV armchair in gingham – and a freak of fate: that the town’s most obligatory gastronomic mecca is that cramped few feet of space in what must have been a seedy little bar in a desolate blue-collar suburb, twenty minutes from the Rond Point of the Champs-Elysées ($2.50 by taxi). Enter through the backyard garden, knock, check your Ungaro trench coat across from the blue-and-white porcelain sink, and then wait: an hour and a half sipping champagne if you are Ted Kennedy and Pierre Salinger coming without a reservation. No wait at all if you’ve booked one of the 28 places. A month in advance will do. Then settle, gingerly, shoulder pressed against a rustic support beam, two inches away from a Belgian carpet mogul who booked six weeks ago for this Saturday lunch. The spirit is rustic – handsomely, almost preciously so: champagne iced in heavy crocks, cheese arranged on a butcher’s block to be tugged across the narrow aisle for your contemplation, real knives with heavy wooden handles, and Jacqueline, the host’s orange-smocked wife, a simple milkmaid by Varga or Vadim.

        Happily, though, the kitchen is brilliant and altogether serious. No one anywhere in my past four weeks of determined gastronomic research has done a feuilleté like chef Guérard’s. Guérard apprenticed in pastry. His is flaky, buttery, fragile, filled with sweetbreads and morels, or, as today, the tenderest green tips of asparagus in chervil-scented butter. There were crayfish from Poland in the market this morning, “with red feet, the best kind.” And the crayfish have been martyred for an intoxicating cream soup served in a tall covered tureen. Humble whiting has been elevated to finny divinity in the style of the late chef Fernand Point, with tiny batons or carrot and celery root in a silken sauce that is all butter perfumed with port, a dash of vermouth and a reduction of vegetable essence. Two notoriously insatiable appetites are spared instant gallbladder arrest by the prudence of sharing a single portion of each dish. Guérard himself chooses the wine, Chateau Magdelaine ’67 ($14), “best of the Saint-Emilions,” he says. Passion fruit ice makes a sharp tart finale. Then come foamy espresso and that blissfully stoned feeling. Strangers are shouting to each other across the room in three languages. The bill for this exercise in orgasmic discipline: $21.

Le Pot Au Feu, 50 rue des Bas, Asnieres, 733.00.71. Closed Sunday, Monday lunch, holidays, last two weeks of July and all of August.

        L’ArcheStrate exists in a twilight zone, a remembrance of gastronomic inventions past, resurrected by Alain Senderens, scholar of the kitchen. In season, Senderens does classic legerdemain with truffles and game. His fourteenth century eel chowder is spiced as fragrantly as if it were pumpkin pie. All the world disdains turnips. Senderens stews them in cider and graces them with tiny dumplings of ground chicken and duck. The terrine of soles in a mousse of crayfish is napped with an achingly beautiful beurre blanc. His poached eggs are served in an extraordinary red wine sauce in a thin pastry tart. Even the salad is a splendor, tossed in sherry vinegar and truffle-scented oil. His rendition of the classic tête de veau en tortue is a cacophony of homely ingredients: calf’s head and tongue with bits of pickle, olive, mushroom, truffle and a poached egg in a sauce with the character to neatly wed them all. Almost no one else would even attempt it. Zéphir de sole Edouard Nignon is a tour de force with minor impact. Filets are wrapped around a mousse of pike in a pool of crayfish sauce. A flash of the fish-poaching liquid reduced to a heady fumet is clever enough, but boring to eat. I don’t know who was first with the current fetish for serving winged creatures in a wine vinegar sauce, but Senderens does it well with duck and sherry vinegar. The wine list is worthy of the kitchen’s grandest schemes, but for some reason the cheese tray looked ravaged on this particular evening. The service is indifferent too, at times, though the welcome is warm and there are fresh violets in the flower box. Dinner for three with two modest wines and tip: $55.

L’ArcheStrate, 84 rue de Varenne, 551.47.33. Closed Easter, Christmas, August, Saturday lunch and Sunday.


        Not even the details of A.T. & T. can prepare you for the frailty of Parisian telephone service. But you or your concierge must phone ahead for a dinner reservation. Paris’s top restaurants are often booked far in advance. Those currently top-seeded by the motley of restaurant guidesters may want a day or two notice. After nine rejections, one evening we arrived at Aux Lyonnais – to discover the tyranny of host M. Violet. He knows exactly what you want to eat. Ah, hungry little masochists of Manhattan. Here is your home away from home. Real rigidity may provoke M. Violet into coming up with some alternative selections. Since this dowdy old house is one of the best bistros in town, you may be perfectly content with the host’s crotchets. Our first course, never even debated, was an extraordinary toss of young chicory (not bitter, but sweet), lettuce, lardoons of sautéed pork and zesty Lyonnaise sausage. As she served the tender poached salmon in a white mustard sauce with capers, the waitress announced proudly that it was a mystery sauce – no butter, no cream. The mystery was how to make a white mayonnaise… for that is what it was, an exquisite mustardy blend. The house specialty – duck on cabbage – and the fricassée of coq in Beaujolais on garlic croutons were unmemorably homey, but the house tart, a fruit-and-almond-studded custard pie served with crème fraîche (lightly soured cream) was sublime.

        From the house-selected wines, we chose a slightly chilled Morgon ($3.15). It was young, fruity and a good mouthful – as the wine list promised. Tariff for two, $27.

Aux Lyonnais, 32 rue Saint Marc, Paris, 742.65.59 Closed Sun., holidays and from the 15th of July to September 1.


        Tough old Violet is not the only autocrat in town. At Le Bistroquet the proprietor refused to serve veal to a young Frenchwoman. “Veal is not for women,” he said. “It doesn’t have enough taste. You take a steak.” So she did. And he served veal to the men. At Au Pactole, host Jacques Manière stops listening when he realizes two of us want different hors d’oeuvre and different entrées… to taste many tastes. “Impossible,” he rules, smiling to soften the edict, and walks away.

        Since Manière’s scenario was so spectacular, one could scarcely protest. The amuse-gueule – a mouth amuser – was an ethereal quiche, custard topped with minced mushrooms and truffles in cream. For the first two or three bites, extraordinary – but two bites were simply enough. The terrine of sole was molded with a mousse of watercress and served with the bold zest of sauce raifort. Tiny frogs’ legs – moist and tender here, as they almost never are in New York – were bathed in a heady sauce poulette – lemon-spiked, parsley-flecked fumet-based velouté. The little round ball of meat that followed was positively anticlimax. “Cut it carefully,” the waitress instructed, “to take advantage of what’s inside.” Carefully then, a cloak of velvet foie gras wrapped round a truffle, not a cherry or a walnut but a plum-sized truffle… so arrogant you might not notice that the veal itself is tough and dry. With dinner, a light red still wine of Champagne, and for dessert, the tart gasp of grapefruit ice and an excellent fruit charlotte, bringing the bill for two to $32.25.

Au Pactole, 44 Boulevard St. Germain, 326.92.82. Closed Sun., the month of February and two weeks in mid-August.


        The Guide Michelin is credible in the provinces, but in Paris it can be fusty and slow. Perhaps that is why the Tour d’Argent stills boasts its three proud stars. What a glorious relic it is, with its autographs of queens and Richard M. Nixon, its Venetian carriage-seat telephone booth, its splendid service, its priceless cellar, and that still-always-even-now-pulse-quickening romantic window on the Seine and Notre Dame. Of course, you’d need tanks to keep tourists away. And so they come, some of them dressed for a party at Great Gatsby’s, a few garbed for camping out in Yellowstone Park. Never the slightest breath of haute snoot. The elevator is air-conditioned, wall-to-wall, and there is a curtain, quickly drawn, to shield you from the grim reality of iron elevator grill. Long ago there was a first splendid dinner, the house’s fabled pressed duck with its own Social Security number and a meringue-and-sabayon spectacular with poached pears, and invention called poires Wanamaker. A second, more recent dinner was its equal. But now… a dissonant blah at $51 for two.

        The only real triumph of this dinner was the salad, exquisite curls of lettuce tastefully dressed with tiny dots of potato and mushroom. The second-best moments were provided by the sommelier, a clown-faced charmer. Our Chablis, he sang, had “grande race, grande finesse.” Our champagne, he assured us, had “grande race, grande finesse.”

        No doubt the duck Marco Polo had grande race – good breeding. It was number 432,728. But… a pity… no finesse. After all, duck is the theme here. There is the two-course pressing production number, starring thighs, breast and wings, and duck in sixteen other guises – with olives, oranges, pineapple, grapefruit, peaches, grapes, pistachios, in jellied port, or stuffed with chopped duck livers and oysters. This evening’s bird was just another duck, and the sauce was without spirit. The inflated puffs of pommes soufflés were slightly soggy. Potage Tour d’Argent was a hearty puree of lentils with slivers of carrot, a good country soup, no more. Croustade of barbue was fussy enough – the fish itself, a thickish slice, was heaped with a snowbank of meringue surrounded by a sea of utterly unseasoned hollandaise – it lacked even a slight taste of lemon. Sorbets – 3 valses – three ices, each in its own little liqueur glass: pineapple, currant and blueberry – were tart and refreshing. But pannequets des tournelles, crepes and jam in a meringue puff and pears in an overkill of bland frangipane were sheer excess, too sweet, too silly to eat. And there was Claude Terrail, lean and saturnine in moiré velvet with his trademark cornflower boutonniere, very proud, very serious, the legendary host. I wonder what he eats for dinner.

Tour d’Argent, 15 quai de la Tournelle, Paris, 033.23.32. Closed Monday.


        The spirit of the house of Garin is gray. The staff has no pride, no soul. The climate is chill, the gestures without real grace. And yet the food is still superlative. Expensive, too – lunch for five, with tips, cost $135. But never anywhere have I tasted kidney quite so magnificent – a perfection of kidney, fresh and delicate, split open like a butterfly for the grill, rose rare, served with scalloped potatoes and two fine purees – celery root and string bean. Soupe aux poisons, tinged with an echo of tarragon, is served with croutons, fresh grated cheese and two satellite bowls. One holds three mussels, the other macaroni, both kept warm in a ladling of the same superb soup. Stuffed pig’s foot is an incredibly handsome package, gleaming with its rich glace de viande. And the truite souflée Camille Rodier is an epiphany: into the boned trout goes a mousseline of pike. The trout is sautéed in butter and served with almonds and raisins and soaked in Madeira. The currant ice is perfect too, even tarter and lighter than the celebrated sorbet at Lutèce.

Chez Garin, 9 rue Lagrange, Paris, 033.13.99. Closed Sun. and holidays.


        On the edge of nowhere – Paris’s quiet third arrondisement, to be precise – on a deserted narrow street… a desolate little restaurant. But no, the shadows of candlelight, a kindness to the antiquity of the house, are deceptive. The room is noisy and crammed with cognoscenti tuned in to the wonders of Au Petit Montmorency. This spring evening, owner-chef Daniel Bouché has done sorcery with fresh morels – sautées them with tiny croutons in herbs, oil and garlic a la provençale; stuffed them with fresh foie gras into a puff pastry package served with jus de truffe; tossed them into sublime fricassee of kidneys and sweetbreads. There is a fine feuilleté of Roquefort and fresh salmon, cloaked in an orange-scented champagne sauce. The first turnips, peas and carrots of spring grace a simple but impeccable lamb stew. The only misstep is the noisettes of rabbit. They have a leftover taste and texture. And perhaps Bouché’s oven is overtaxed, for his pastry emerges slightly singed, and an otherwise fine nut soufflé is badly burned, its crust is inedible. But his rum ice is an aristocrat. And I’ve never tasted a better lemon soufflé than the one he has stuffed inside two perfect crepes. Dinner for two $33.

Au Petit Montmorency, 26 rue de Montmorency, 272.31.04. Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday


        Man navigates by the stars. The Velveeta Cocoon Kid has her Guide Michelin, those incredibly detailed Michelin maps that make it a challenge to get lost… a Peugeot with sunroof, Waverley Root’s The Food of France, the gastronomic sonnets of a noble palate. And the usual vows of discipline: only café noir for breakfast, a bit of bread and cheese for lunch, 50 sit-ups, 100 touch-toes, long walks, early risings, window-shopping-only at patisseries. Sanity in all delicatessens. Wine writer Alexis Bespaloff suggests the ancient inn of Lameloise in Chagney as the first stop from Paris for exploring Burgundy. Frederick Wildman Jr. in A Wine Tour of France has the same splendid notion. Lameloise, just south of Beaune, minutes from the vineyard-jeweled Côte des Nuits, is a depressurization chamber from the Paris bends.

        There is a pleasant buttery perfume in the handsome rustic dining room with its stone walls and vaulted ceiling. Two stars here reaching ambitiously for three with such classic touches as a squirrel constructed of toast escorting a feuilleté of truffle. There is a prix fixe menu at $6, and another at $9.50… grander, offering an excellent terrine, a gentle log of pike dumpling in crayfish butter and a choice of chicken braised in the red wine Santeney, coquelet in pâté or a filet of charolais beef with an artichoke heart cupping morsels of marrow… then cheese, pastry and petits fours. As you sip thick foamy espresso, a waiter passes an exquisite basket wound round with peach roses. Take a pale mauve frosted round. Bite. Inside is a tart shock of grape. In a salute to the neighborhood, we drink a half bottle of Meursault and a ’66 Chambertin-Clos de Bèze ($21). Dinner for two: $46.

Lameloise, place d’Ames, Chagny, 49.02.10. 300 kms from Paris. 130 kms. From Lyon. Closed January 6 to January 27. Rooms $7.25 to $11.


        Ten years ago, lost on the streets of Lyon, we stumbled by inspired accident into Chez Nandron, a two-starred institution in that big-time-eating town. That night we drank our first sip of a full round princely wine, Richebourg, and fell in love with it. A man has got to be dotty or terribly rich to satisfy his craving for this great Burgundy. So it was that visiting the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti was a sentimental pilgrimage. Along one gentle measured slope grow the big bad (I mean, not-to-be-had) Burgundies: Echézeaux, Grands-Echézeaux, Richbourg, Romanée St.-Vivant, La Tâche, and La Romanée-Conti. Side by side a scant few feet apart. What makes one grape produce Richebourg and another grape produce La Tâche? The feminine mystique. I imagine that’s why cellar-master Andre Noblet speaks of his wines as if they were women.

        “What was the greatest vintage of your career?” someone asks. “How can one say?” the gentle giant demurs. “Of course you can say,” the interrogator insists. “If you love ten women how can you say which you love best?” Noblet replies. The interrogator persists, “Well, yes, a man may love ten women but he can only marry one… which would you marry?” Noblet laughs. “Well, I would choose ’61.” In the dank, cold vaults where the barrels are stored and breath is frost in the air, we taste the ‘71s. “A vintage like ’61,” M. Noblet predicts. That is the kind of good news to make Richebourg lover sigh with the sorrow of premature grief. Love’s labor’s not yet bottled, already lost.


        Bacchus still grins down on the pilgrims sipping their icy white Condrieu at Chez Point, the restaurant Pyramide in Vienne, south of Lyon. It was here that I first dedicated myself to slow death by mayonnaise. Now even love’s blinders cannot hide the signs of wear. The Pyramide is a museum. A monument dedicated to its founder, the legendary Fernand Point, host extraordinaire. Not for too long has it been a living organism. Every few years the wondrously, ridiculously lavish feast grows a bit saner and a few dollars more costly. Old Vincent in his wing-tip collar, a fixture since 1923, lists to starboard stiffly, charming as ever.

        Considering how static is the growth at Chez Point, the kitchen still performs genuine miracles. The brioche with its bull’s-eye of foie gras and measured slice of truffle is as it always was.  Alas, my senses have been exposed to richer brioche and more delicate foie. But the timbale of trout mousse napped in a truffle-studded sauce of its own perfumed essence is ethereal. Champagne sauce tanned to a handsome glaze overdelicate salmon and the vermouth-scented cream cloaking braised turbot are quite joyously numbing. And nowhere has duck flesh been so moist and flavorful as here, grilled and graced by the simplicity of crisp crumb crust.  With it: the traditional tarragon-scented béarnaise and, something new and au courant, green pepper sauce. To drink: Chambolle-Musigny Amoureuses from Joseph Drouhin. Dinner for two – cheese, sherbets, pastry and confections, with two half-bottles of wine and tips: $52.

Pyramide, Boulevard Fernand-Point, Vienne, 85.00.96. Closed Tuedays. And November 1 to December 15. La Residence de la Pyramide (40 quai Riondet, Vienne, 85.16.46, closed November) has rooms, $12.50 to $25. It can be slightly depressing, but the Motel Novotel at Bron just outside Lyon was infinitely worse.


        The rituals of La Baumanière are so compulsively elegant, I sometimes find them creepy. There is the compulsory lazy wait in the salon, sipping apèritifs from elephantine glasses, composing the menu, till finally one is led to table. And the rolling cart delivery rite… everything arrives on wheels, including the check discreetly tucked into a handsome leather-bound, hollowed-out Bible.

        The back room, an annex once part of the terrace, is handsome, a studied and artful addition with graceful sprays of yellow flowers in giant copper tubs. Because of the awkward service and the babble of American voices, I fear we are in Siberia. Yet the demanding palate does not suffer. The kitchen is in supreme form tonight… prepping for the Queen, perhaps. Tonight’s soup is the third grand variation on a theme of velouté and shellfish. Here it is lobster. At Bocuse in Lyon and Le Pot au Feu outside Paris, it was crayfish. La Baumanière’s is the best, slightly bolder with a knockout bouquet. And there are warm flaky cheese pastries on the table – compared with a single lukewarm cheese straw passed at Chez Point. Pistachio-studded mousse of salmon layered with ribbons of eel makes a brilliant terrine, with the inevitable cliché of elegance: two sauces, a thin mustardy mayonnaise and an airy ketchup-spiked crème fraîche. The loup in pastry wrap is handsome as Dorian Gray and, like Dorian, ever-so-slightly underdone – just by seconds, worth noting but not worth demanding a fresh loup. And with it, again, two sauces: hollandaise and a tangy green sauce with herbs and mussels. There are finger bowls with red rose petals…precisely why, I cannot say. Fish is not finger food. Duck à l’orange is too sweet, though caramelized orange slices are a pleasant whim. But chef Raymond Thuilier’s variation on the vinegared-bird theme is a masterwork: pintadeau, its flesh, tender, moist and flavorful with cèpes and buttery croutons in a sleek dark piquant sauce. The faintly acid taste is a perfect foil for the bird’s dark flesh. A white Gigondas, the house-recommended wine, is unpleasantly sharp, but the birds are properly paired with a powerful, velvety ’64 Gevrey-Chambertin from Chevillot.

        The service, spotty at first, and sloppy too, soup sloshed over the edge of dish, bones abandoned in loup,  grows almost nonexistent after dessert. It takes an infinity to summon half-filled demitasses of espresso lightning and two infinities to get the check: $44.

        Is it La Baumanière that brings me to Les Baux, or is it Les Baux itself, that tiny hill town where the medieval Court of Love reigned in what was once a Roman city? Now the mistral whips the desolate mesa and sometimes a misty rain falls. Below is a vast tilled landscape; behind, the haunting formations of the Valley of Hell; above, the ruins of château, church and tower.

Oustaù de Baumanière, Les Baux de Provence. The Inn is elegant and expensive. But Le Riboto de Taven, just down the road has rooms nearby, $10.50 to $13.50, and a swimming pool as well.


        Cannes mid-Film Festival is not the healthiest climate for serious gastronomy. L’Oasis, Michelin’s newest three-star, down the road at La Napoule, is tinselly with film folk: Rex Reed every night, Eleanor Perry plotting to toss red paint on a Fellini poster of a three-breasted woman… this-sign-is-offensive-to-women. L’Oasis is not at all brilliant this particular night. It deserves another visit in less troubled times.

        Hostellerie Moulin de Mougins, a small, charming two-star inn and garden on the road to Grasse, is under siege too. But the glory of the kitchen suffers not at all. The menu is torture. How possibly to choose? There is pâté of sole in pastry a dodine of duck and foie gras with cherries in a sweet-sour sauce; the house’s special fresh tomato omelette, and a terrine of the Mediterranean fish, rascasse (without which a boullabaisse is not). There are truffles braised in port and tripe sausage roasted in Pouilly and cream. All this… just to start. Prudence and an impending crise de foie (unhappiness of one’s liver) prompt my companion to order mussel soup. The broth is scented à la boullabaisse. The adventuress chooses gâteau of rabbit, tiny bones and all, stuffed with a meaty farce, wrapped in fresh pork and coated with aspic – a rough and tasty creation. Chef Roger Vergé does his loup in the style of Escoffier, wrapped in lettuce with a delicate vermouth-scented cream. Langouste royale (at $15, a princely notion) is almost frail, quite another creature from the firm-fleshed lobster of the North Atlantic. Rack of baby lamb is quickly carved into four pink butter-soft chops and served with an oval of spinach custard and two kinds of potato: baked, stuffed in its shell, and the silliest, most voluptuous lyonnaise. “Why two potatoes?” “Because we feel it goes with the lamb,” is the reply.

        Something is wrong. The pace is almost hysterical. Waiters are flying across the room in near-panic. One course arrives on the crumbs of another. The waiter is scraping dishes under our noses. No one remembers to pour the wine. A hazard, I suspect, of the Festival’s late dining hour…all the diners seem to arrive at once, as if they’d been delivered on a tourist bus. With the cheese course the pace slows. And by the time we’ve explored the wondrous range of tiny tarts, all is mellow again. But I’m grateful for the blessed shock of two sour fresh kumquats.

        I have a feeling I may be satiable after all.

Hostellerie Moulin de Mougins, Mougins, (93) 90.03.68. Closed October 25 to December 20.

Patina Restaurant Group