It’s usually a fruit sorbet that separates the first few courses from the main dish. A refreshing palate cleanser after, say, goat-cheese and fig crostini followed by crispy snapper topped sauteed watercress and before the braised shortribs with Shiraz reduction.
But the other night at Restaurant Jean-Louis in Greenwich, CT. the palate cleanser separated the professional eaters from the more faint-of-heart.
Dinner began simply enough with a few amuses bouche: caviar-topped puff pastries, asparagus soup shots, bites of tuna-mussel terrine and a tiny lump of velvety foie gras pate. A lovely start.
We anticipated the degustation to come with total abandon and complete trust in chef Jean-Louis Gerin, who has been cooking dinner for us since 1984. After all these years, he and his wife Linda, who welcomes and dotes on diners as if they were guests in her home, know what we like, know we will taste whatever they serve and know they can experiment on us with any new food ideas Jean-Louis might come up with. You can rely on a chef who has won all sorts of culinary awards, including the coveted La Toque D’Argent des Maitres Cuisiniers de France, James Beard best chef and so on, so on, so on.
After the next plate, roasted lentil soup studded with morsels of fat, tender escargots, any normal person would begin to feel full. Let’s just say that Jean-Louis is as generous in his servings as my Jewish grandmother.
But it was on to the Striped Bass with a spoonful of tender risotto and a delicate tomato coulis.
We should have said “enough!” But we didn’t. Bring it on!
The plates would keep coming until we cried uncle.
And then, to whet our appetites for more, there came the inevitable intermezzo.
It wasn’t lemon sorbet. Nor champagne sorbet or anything like that.
Intermezzo was Squab legs, poached in red wine sauce and lacquered with an orange-sherry glaze.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Rather than cleanse our palate, it made us giddy and yearn even more for some of the rich, intense flavors Jean-Louis concocts in the tiny kitchen at the back of the restaurant. We hadn’t been to his place in a while — this kind of dinner is not something you have often unless you know the end of the earth is coming and you don’t know what you’ll get to eat in the next life. We had missed some swell food over the months and in our hunger to fill the void, we’d try to get it all in during one meal.
There was more after the squab leg intermezzo. Rich Boeuf Bourguignon. Dessert. Coffee.
Did I eat those? Some of it?
Memories of squab legs drown out everything else. I will never regard a lemon sorbet intermezzo quite the same way, ever again.
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