Parisian Perfection and Family Eating at Helene Darroze

I started this post just about exactly 6 months ago. Time to work on my procrastination…

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I’m a big believer in the fact that meals don’t have to be fancy or expensive to be smack-you-in-the-face-amazing. Sometimes the best dishes come from handing 2 bucks to a taco truck parked on a side street of San Francisco, or wrapped in paper with no forks from a fiery pit in the Middle of Nowhere, Texas.   But every so often, a magical meal comes along that is schmancy-fancy and uber-expensive and draped with foams and reductions and molecules and essences. And instead of being horribly pretentious and self-important, it’s pure perfection and worth every penny. Or rather, every Euro cent. And that’s what I got at the phenomenal Helene Darroze in Paris, thanks to my foodie mom Elaine and her desire to try a fabulous French restaurant on our trip there last month.

You know your meal is going to be spectacular when it starts off with a plate of black acorn-fed jambon, sliced at the table with your own special jambon-slicing machine.  And when the salt & pepper offer themselves to you from webbed feet.

Gorgeously light and nutty, the jambon melted in my mouth and I could have gnawed at a leg of it for an entire meal. Except I had about 10 courses to come, so I’m quite glad I didn’t. Since it was over a month ago and I drank quite a lot of wine, I can’t remember the exact order of dishes. Plus, they were all written in French. But here’s a slightly blurry, ecstatically happy, poorly translated overview of one of the best meals of my life…

We started with richly grilled lamb sweetbreads in a frothy fava bean puree, more delicious than any thymus has a right to be…

moved on to wild salmon on potato waffles with caviar dotted cream for the most luxurious version of a bagel & lox brunch I could possibly imagine.

The ‘I-almost-can’t-eat-you-because-you’re-so-beautiful-but-who-am-I-kidding-you’re-insanely-tasty-and-thus-will-swiftly-be-destroyed’ award goes to the red mulletfish with baba ghanoush, strewn with edible flowers and sprinkled with fairy dust of deliciousness.

I absolutely adored the next dish, which consisted of a devastating combination of squid, chorizo, tomato confit, black risotto and parmesan cream. My mom found the squid a bit rubbery, but I loved the surprising textures and contrasting flavors  of spice and smoothness and jolts of color.

Five courses down and we’re just getting started.  Up next, ‘mother of pearl’ lobster with a thick stalk of white asparagus and a slender stalk of baby green asparagus, just like I had seen in the market earlier that day. Garnished with a sprig of what I think was cilantro flower, the lobster gleamed on the plate like an ostentatiously shiny gemstone and tasted just as decadent.

Take a deep breath, it’s time for ‘bloody’ forest wood cooked pigeon with one of the most breathtaking bites ever to hit my mouth – a half Snickers bar-sized slab of intensely, extravagantly perfect foie gras.

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It’s now a good 6 months later, and my memory of this magical meal consists mostly of dreamy wine-soaked memories. We spent the night sampling fantastic French wines thanks to Flo, my au pair from age 6, and her husband Paul seen through what seems to be a Burgundy-induced haze. Although we see them altogether too rarely, they’re family in the very best sense and it’s wonderful to spend time with them and their kids. Especially because it involves eating in Paris.  But the rest of the country is not to be ignored…

There was an incredible selection of local cheeses of Southwest France in gorgeous glass bell jars that I’d like to steal for my house…

…that you could choose for your very own cheese plate.  All I remember is a spoonful of creamy perfection.

For the first dessert because of course there were multiple desserts – Trinidadian chocolate with citron gel and lemon paper.

Up next was a shot glass full of wild forest strawberries with pannacotta and greek yogurt and almond biscuits, followed by what just might be my last-mouthful-on-earth-before-I-go: salted caramel macarons filled with blackcurrant puree, lightly dusted with the molten gold of the gods. Or something like that.

And here’s to my amazing mother, who made it all happen. Love you Mom, and thanks for the deliciousness.

Now enough with the food porn, I’m getting seriously hungry.  Because I’m starving myself for the day in anticipation of dinner….at Dinner! I know, I’m disgustingly blessed to be eating at all these phenomenal places.  Photos and drooling to come….

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2 thoughts on “Parisian Perfection and Family Eating at Helene Darroze

  1. Moses says:

    I just finished having dinner – but after reading your post my appetite is back – damn it 🙂
    Looked like an amazing experience.

  2. elaine says:

    Enjoyed your article, and your excitement about a wonderfully memorable meal, delicious wines, shared with your au pair from 1989, her husband and your mom.

    Love, Mom

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