It’s been two weeks since I attended my first-ever Michelin Star, fine-dine, formal, sit-down dinner. And, boy what an experience it was! I had been invited by Four Seasons Wines to cover their new event, where Michelin Star Chef Baptiste Fournier would be preparing a 5-course French meal paired with the appropriate wines.
Chef Baptiste, is young, and deceptively so. Having grown up in his father’s restaurant, he learned cooking at a very young age and attended cooking school at 15! He then went on to work with some of the best French cooking maestros in the world, including Guy Savoy, the Pourcel brothers and Alain Passard. Chef Baptiste took over the reins of his father’s restaurant, La Tour, in Sancerre, France a few years ago, and within just a year of serving up some amazing, unpretentious food, he was awarded his first Michelin Star at the age of 29. No wonder then, with his philosophy of keeping food simple and letting the ingredients speak for themselves, that he has now been voted as one of the top six young chefs in France.
In my interview with him earlier that day, he was so unassuming, had a streak of mischief in his eyes and was so confident and humble — albeit, he seemed a little overwhelmed by the entire new place, journalists-fawning-over-him situation. Towards the end of the meal later that evening, when I went to convey to him how amazing his food had been, more than anything else, he was concerned about whether the food was fine, the fish was cooked well and the lamb was perfect. And he was genuinely pleased with the praises that we lavished on him.
For dinner, I was seated at a table with a food blogger and two freelance journalists, one of whom seemed to know a lot about wines and everything in general! With us also was the corporate communications person for ITC Hotels. Now, without further ado, let me take you through the lovely dishes that Chef Baptise served up.
On the menu were:
- Eggplant caviar with pasta bits, crunchy veggies and herbs
- Freshwater perch on a bed of spinach, with some flavour some court bouillon
- Artichoke risotto with truffle and parmesan
- Lamb with water chestnuts, zuchini and asparagus in pan jus
- Ravioli of pineapple and a basil yogurt sorbet
- Hazelnut and white chocolate with ice and crispy cappucino
The meal was a wonder in itself, so many textures and flavours burst and melted in the mouth.
Lets start with the Eggplant caviar with pasta bits and crunchy veggies and herbs. As i dug into the dish, I would have never thought that the base was made of eggplant. The puree was smooth and soft on the palate, and the taste was so tangy and zingy with loads of flavour. What amazed me the most was how well those crunchy vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli) went so well with this and carried the flavour of the eggplant.
Eggplant caviar with crunchy vegetables
The next course was the Fresh water perch in a bed of spinach and court bouillon. The fish was soft, flaky and perfectly cooked. The bed of spinach had a lovely smooth texture to it and tasted amazing with the lemongrass flavour of the court bouillon which was warm on the palate. The court bouillon is pretty much a stock where chicken bones were boiled with ginger and lemon grass and infused in coconut powder, strained and served in front of us. It is French for short broth. What I didn’t think was required was some coriander leaves that were used as garnish. They looked like they’d just been washed, and I felt that there was no need for them to be there.
Fresh water perch on a bed of spinach with court bouillon
The third course was my favourite amongst the savoury dishes — the artichoke risotto with truffle and parmesan. I was already looking forward to tasting truffle, which seemed to have the texture of a carrot! But when combined with the warm and tingling-spine flavours of the risotto which seemed to be cooked in a cheese sauce it was pure heaven. The saltiness from the crumbly parmesan, combined with the tangy artichoke went so well with the al dente rice and sauce. I could have eaten bowls of this dish and not been satisfied. Obviously, my plate was almost licked clean!
Artichoke risotto with black truffle and parmesan shavings
The fourth and final savoury course was the lamb with water chestnuts, zucchini and asparagus in pan jus. This, I didn’t like so much, especially right after the risotto. The lamb was perfect — juicy and soft with a lovely layer of fat rendered perfectly under the skin. What put me off was the bitterness of the pan jus. I don’t know why it was so bitter. But, the textures were great. Again here, I didn’t really see the need for methi (fenugreek) leaves as a garnish; they served no purpose.
The fifth course was more of a palate cleanser — the ravioli of pineapple and a basil yogurt sorbet. The pineapple was beautifully sliced and filled with some fresh yoghurt and bits of basil. The sorbet was fresh and icy. As a whole it did a great job cleansing the palate, but it was a tad too sour for my taste, a little sweetness in the pineapple, or even blandness in the sorbet would have hit the mark for me. The tuile on the top was perfect in itself and helped to add a new dimension to the dish.
That’s Chef Baptiste with the Lamb and veggies with pan jus (left) and the pineapple ravioli with basil yoghurt sorbet (right)
The final course, was pure heaven. I don’t really like coffee flavoured food (I don’t even drink coffee). But this Hazelnut and white chocolate with ice and crispy cappuccino was something I think I can live on for the rest of my life. It just burst in the mouth with the right flavours and textures. The entire dish was a play on the senses — a riot of flavours (pun intended).
Hazelnut and white chocolate with ice and crispy cappuccino
All in all, the meal was amazing. The dishes were simple and at the same time so flavourful where each ingredient was given the opportunity to shine. That’s what perfect food is about. I couldn’t comment on the wine, since I don’t drink. But I was told that they complemented the dishes perfectly. A lovely end to a lovely evening!
All the pictures are courtesy Four Seasons Wines.