January 7, 2002 | Ask Gael
Had any cosmic thrills lately?

        If I were tossing around stars, I'd drop a shimmery fourth on Terrance Brennan's Picholine. On a recent visit, I was reminded of my astonishment years ago in Mionnay, just before Alain Chapel won that ultimate Michelin bouton, when the obsession for greatness fairly burned away the oxygen. All elements unite in the conspiracy here: the country rusticity, given way to chateau airs over the years. An intoxication of mascarpone and white truffle mingling in an ooze of pureed cauliflower. The sophisticated seaside tang of sea-urchin panna cotta slathered with caviar. The almost lethal richness of wild-mushroom-and-duck risotto. The simple perfection of organic lamb. The snap and dignified bustle of the many minions (are those white gloves, or is my brain playing metaphors?). We make an obligatory pause to challenge the impassioned maitre fromager. Ah, the details. The fattest dates. The tempting sweets. A new twist in chocolate . . . too much, too much. But how often in life will you confront gingerbread souffle? You must.

Picholine, 35 West 64th Street, 212 724 8585