28 February, 2009

The Presqu'Ile Short List (2009).

Pretty pretentious-sounding title to this entry, don't you think? In my defense, the list is short, and I did limit my wandering to the Presqu'Ile of Lyon, that spit of land squished between the Saone and Rhone Rivers which makes up the 2eme arondissement...

To whit, some of my favorites:

- L'Atelier des Chefs.
What better way to get to know oh-so-gastronomic Lyon than by spending an hour or two with a personable, professional chef? How about if you learn to make a wonderful lunch then get to enjoy it on the spot, for just 17 euros? The space is airy and pristine, with a connected shop for cooking essentials (or that is what I told myself--essential! Vital to my well-being!)...There are several classes every day, and the cooking studio is centrally located.

There are of course also other cooking classes to be found at local restaurants at a range of levels; contact the tourism bureau ahead of time for information and booking. But I had fun here.
I had an engaging and tasty chocolate session with chef Stephane Ranieri, pictured below. Also pictured, orangettes in the making, and a bucket of pure chocolate (actually bitter bits of the pod) and next to one of pure cocoa butter (from inside the pod).

- Cha Yuan.
Tea-lovers unite! Or at least get thee to a nearby Cha Yuan. I visited the original tea boutique, an esthetically pleasing hideaway in the Ainay neighborhood, but there are actually eight other tea-houses under this name across France. The inflection is primarily Asian, specifically Chinese and Japanese, but the teas available for drinking sur place and for enjoying at home come from all four corners of the planet. There is a gentle emphasis on tea education, ritual and quality. Rare green teas are available, as well as white, yellow and black teas, and many flavored ones too. Find an excuse to duck in: rain, need for quiet--whatever works for you.

- Giraudet.
The Maison Giraudet is ninety-eight years old, but it has a fresh, revamped face, and offers some highly original soups, both sweet and savory. To be clear, however, I went there for the quenelles upon which their reputation is based.The choice changes regularly, and here too, you can take part in cooking courses. I walked out with truffled quenelles and crawfish-flavored ones, after enjoying a bowl of soup, but there are also less traditional ones on offer, like seaweed quenelles, and black ones--dyed with squid ink. The dumplings are sold fresh, keep for several days, and freeze well. Incidentally, I learned that you can saute quenelles, serving them as sliced amuses, or appetizers.
- Richard Seve.
His (very) little, very black shop in the 2eme has won yet another fan. He is a patissier who specializes in chocolate, and has a very good reputation for his macarons, which are essentially tiny pieces of heaven. To be slightly more specific, they are meringue-style cookies that are scented, split and filled with a more intense version of that flavor; it seems any flavor under the sun is possible. If you cannot get to Paris (or London, or Geneva, or Tokyo) to splurge on a pastel-hued box of these airy delights from Laduree, or to-the-minute-trendy macarons from Pierre Herme, then this is a very good address to settle for.

In Lyon, it could be argued that Sebastien Bouillet has an even better reputation for macarons--but there are only so many pastry shops I can duck into in a week. As with many of these success stories, you can find Mr. Seve at other locations as well, and his tarte a la praline is another remarkable, in demand treat. Its appearance, as you can see below, is a bit startling.The one non-sweet thing he produces are some very well-received savory macarons to be served as un-traditional, show-stopping appetizers; he is credited with having innovated the concept.

- Les Bains de l'Opera.
After all the hard work of eating, looking, and more eating, a girl's got to relax--isn't that one of the most essential parts of a successful holiday? Here's a good address, recommended by my Lyonnais friends. I can attest that they offer a whole range of services beyond excellent variations on the hammam experience.

Oh, and I almost forgot:

- Chantal Plasse.
This is a good purveyor of cheeses and "meat products" (what a dry expression--quite unworthy of what it describes), but the stand-out item for me, certainly among their traditional Lyonnais offerings, is the truly exemplary, multiple award-winning, cervelas pistache. This is a pork sausage (essentially a saucisson chaud) generously seeded with pistachios, that needs only to be simmered for a half-hour. It has a sweetness and fullness of flavor that make it (and a well-made saucisse de Morteau) my favorite warm sausage. Also handles freezing quite well. In the 2eme, you can find these in the supermarket section of the Monoprix (!) Bring one or three home, if you can at all swing it. Swing buying them, I meant, not the sausages themseves.

I spent a memorable seven days in Lyon. I never got a parking ticket. I never figured out my friends' computer; I never forgot their generosity. Knee-deep in the general decadence, availability, refinement and contradictions of the city, having temporarily stuffed someone else's freezer with my little treasures, I was ready to come home when I saw the basketed pale green shoots outside the florist. Spring is coming--and I'd miss it in the city.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for visiting my blog and joining in the conversation!

Related Posts with Thumbnails