Monday, May 2, 2016

FRANCE | Valence–Maison Pic, 2008

Natalie and Jacques Dejoux, Oct. 2008, at Maison
Pic, Valence, France. This and other photos in
this post not otherwise identified are by JT Marlin.
Paris, May 2, 2016–In memory of a great meal eight years ago with the late Jacques Dejoux, Alice and I visited La Dame de Pic on the rue Louvre for lunch today.

We remembered our visit in 2008 to Jacques and Natalie in Valence in the South of France. They took Alice and me to lunch with his sister Sylvie and a French friend at the three-generation-old Maison Pic.

Sadly, first Sylvie and recently Jacques have passed away during these intervening years.
Jacques and Alice pick from some of
France's 400 cheeses.

Maison Pic is a 127-year-old Three-Michelin-Star restaurant named after the founder, a chef named André Pic.

His son took over and now his granddaughter Anne-Sophie Pic. She has become Europe's most celebrated female chef and has opened new restaurants in Paris and New York City.

Here is our memory of the unique experience in Valence in 2008, at a Cathedral of fine dining.

It was a month after the financial cataclysm in New York City and yet Jacques took the time to show us France at its most impressive.

October, 2008–This month Alice and I enjoyed an amazing meal in a town in France we had never heard of a year ago.

Jacques' sister Sylvie Dejoux, who 
predeceased him, and JT Marlin.
Photo by Alice Tepper Marlin.
The small town is Valence, pop. 65,000, and it is notable to me now for four things:
  • It is the first stop, 100 km. south, after Lyon, which is France's second largest city and a gustatory capital of France, on the TGV, train de grand vitesse. Valence therefore has two train stations.
  • It is the capital of the Drôme département, which borders on the Ardèche, where Jacques grew up.
  • It is considered the gateway to the south of France.
  • It is a gourmet destination because of the Pic (pronounced PEAK) family and their restaurant–Maison Pic. This is where I had the best meal of my life.
Service was sacerdotal.
Maison Pic is run by Anne-Sophie Pic, considered by food experts like Voyages-Liberation as France's, and probably Europe's, most important female chef. Anne-Sophie took over Maison Pic when her distinguished chef father Jacques Pic died.

Here are the courses of this memorable feast, savored over a long lunch period:

L'Amuse Bouche: The meal opened with a palate-teaser of four small, perfect, beautiful hors-d'oeuvres on a small tray. One was a small square cauliflower aspic.

Le Homard Bleu en Aiguillette et Tomates Anciennes. Lobster strips on a base of heirloom tomatoes.

Le Gratin de Queues d'Ecrevisses de Mon Grand-Père. Crayfish tails with cheese. Based on a recipe handed down from Anne-Sophie's grandfather, as handed down to him by his mother.

Le Bar de Ligne au Caviar d'Aquitaine, Comme l'Aimait Mon Père. French caviar in a lemon froth. Even a person who doesn't usually like caviar would love this combination.

The Menu.
Le Classique Tournedos de Boeuf Charolais. Tournedos of beef, perfectly cooked.

Les Fromages Frais et Affines. An offering of 20 local (Ardèche, Provence) cheeses from the 400 official French cheeses.

L'Intemporel Soufflé. Lemon soufflé made with liqueur–three warm and three cold (with ice cream), as Pic Père liked it.

Les Profiteroles. With strawberry sauce, ice cream and vanilla chantilly.

Unannounced Dessert Treat. The final dessert tray echoed the amuse-bouche with four delightful little chocolate and cookie treats on a rectangular tray as shown in the back of the photo of the lemon soufflé.

For a multiple-course meal like this, even though the individual portions are moderate in size, one needs to eat little during the day before and plan for the next 20 meals afterwards to be a disappointment. Instead, we would remember the great meal provided by Anne-Sophie and her Maison Pic.

Hotel + Restaurant Pic (since 1889)
283, Avenue Victor Hugo
BP111 26001 Valence, France

The world appears headed for a serious recession after the financial crisis of last month.

So I will add that the Voyages-Liberation  "Weekends Gourmands" report on Maison Pic notes an option for cognoscenti who want to sample Maison Pic cuisine without paying full price for full service.

The Maison Pic's trendy cafe "Le 7" (the name  for the local highway) offers a representative but less extensive menu with less formality for fewer euros.

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