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Picking A Line

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The Experimental Gourmand has decided to hang out in her old stomping grounds in West London for a few days.  Her youngest sister kindly offered to post her experiences about re-visiting a high-end restaurant in Falls Church, Virginia.  All photos and text are attributed to her.

I know most people believe that whatever line they get into will automatically become the longest one but it is actually very true with me.  And it is not only with lines at the store.  The seat I pick in the movie theater will be next to a ten-year-old who will repeat every line and then laugh. I was in a shop in Puerto Rico when fifteen drunk, obnoxious Brazilians came in, and, an hour later, I picked the same restaurant on the boardwalk twenty minutes away where they had also decided to grace the world with their obnoxiousness.  When these things happen, my boyfriend Kelly simply smiles, shakes his head and says, “it’s just like picking a line.” 

On Tuesday a couple of weeks ago, we decide to get dressed up and go out to a nice restaurant for the first time in our three-plus years of dating.  He let me pick and knowing how he does not like the French, I asked if it was okay to go to a French restaurant.  L’Auberge Chez Francois is one of my Mom’s favorite and when the economy was good, you could not get a reservation there even two weeks in advance.  I had not been in probably fifteen years so I wanted to try it and Kelly agreed to go in with an open mind.  

L’Auberge is situated on a windy road in Great Falls surrounded by large, beautiful houses.  The soft lighting and the rustic atmosphere make it seem like a cozy cabin getaway but with pampering and indoor toilets.  Upon our arrival, coats were taken, seats were pulled out,and a 15-page wine menu was set before us.  Although this restaurant is quite pricey, we figured for good food, it is worth it.  

Kelly is a fantastic cook and if he thinks he can make the dish better, the restaurant will not receive his praise. We started with a bottle of Pierre Sparr Gewurztrawiner, which was phenomenal, and some appetizers. The menu features Alsatian cuisine, which represents a mixture of both French and German dishes such as sauerkraut and sausages.  Kelly’s appetizer fish plate featured a good fish sauce for the smoked salmon and trout but the sauce overpowered the delicate rockfish.  The cabbage was good but the sauerkraut had too much vinegar which led to Kelly saying, “you can tell a Frenchman made the sauerkraut!”  

I was disappointed in my escargot because not only were the snails small, but the garlic butter did not taste like anything.  Both of us thought the lobster salads were average with the dressing doing little to complement the food. However, it was really the main courses that excited us.  The chef had agreed to a single portion of the chateaubriand for me, and Kelly, who is an avid hunter and likes to cook game meats, had ordered a game plate with boar, venison, buffalo,and quail.  

The previous week, Kelly had made a filet stuffed with goat cheese, tarragon, shallots, and garlic that was cooked perfectly, so the chateaubriand had some steep competition.  While the béarnaise sauce was creamy and rich, the meat was not amazingly tender, nor did it melt in my mouth like I had envisioned. Kelly very much liked the quail, but said the boar was dry and the venison and buffalo were so charcoaled and over-seasoned that you could not really tell the difference between the two meats.  

The soufflés were wonderful, if not a little large for the ending to a four-course meal and the half-bottle of Chateau L’Ecuyer, recommended by the sommelier, was fabulous.  The service was impeccable and the tables were far enough apart that we could mostly block out the loud gentleman behind us who talked for ten minutes about the intricacies of doing laundry.  While it was a nice meal, for half the price we could have gotten better ingredients and made a more fantastic meal.  

There is something to be said for not having to cook or clean up; however, at home, I could be in my pjs and watch episodes of The Daily Show. It was a long drive home, where, after so much heavy food, sweet wine, and windy roads, we were both a little ill. Was it “just like picking a line?”  I guess we will chalk this one up to a snobby “yes,” if nothing more than the food was not worth the price.

2 Comments

  1. Eric and Sarah
    Eric and Sarah02-24-2011

    I wonder if some of your quality concerns are because classic French cooking is something of a backwater in America these days. It seems that all the "hot" restaurants are doing other cuisines, And French has become stodgy.

  2. The Experimental Gourmand
    The Experimental Gourmand02-25-2011

    I was putting it down to the fact that perhaps this type of place that was really fancy is also not the kind of restaurant where folks go to eat anymore. It was a "special occasion" eatery, and people aren't doing that or at least not at that price point.