Nov 14, 2014

Chez Simon Montpelier: Saint Félicien


Following on the heels of yesterday's gourmet posting, this is a good indication our children have crossed over...to the French side. After so much traveling and eating out, they develop an obsession with restaurants and decide to create one in our house: Restaurant Chez Simon Montpelier (named after a ghost in a favorite childhood book, Which Witch?).

They create an elaborate menu that proves a high level of Frenchification and some serious innate foodieness. The girls actually make about 90% of the meal by themselves. And 250% of the mess.
What's on the menu? It's long, and both abridged and translated here from the original French:

Menu Notre Dame:
Vegetable plate
Chicken&gravy, potato
Cheese plate

Children's Menu:
Grilled salmon with thyme, walnuts
Onion soup
2 scoops of ice cream

Menu Charlemagne:
Foie gras with vinegar sauce
Duck confit, grated carrots, potato
Apple tart, berries, chocolate sauce

However, if you ever manage to get a coveted reservation at Restaurant Chez Simon Montpelier, we recommend the Menu Gastronome, as it is the only one offered with real -- instead of plastic/paper -- food. There's even a bread basket. The Menu Gastronome, also a three course meal, starts with the playfully named and executed entrée, conceived entirely by Gigi: a vegetable "tagliatelli" of cucumber and carrot, offered in rosettes with a honey dressing (which seems to be 100% honey):

For the plat, served family style: lemony flounder filets breaded in a crunchy matzo-meal crust (finally! something to do with all that leftover matzo):

And for le dessert: chocolate fondue with fresh seasonal, organic fruit:

After a wonderful date night, facilitated by our daughters, Anthony and I rate the Restaurant Chez Simon Montpelier 4.5 stars. On the plus side, the ambiance is lovely, with pleasant music played not too loudly and a great view. The meal is delicious -- truly. And the price can't be beat, as there is no bill. However, we do have to withhold half a star since in lieu of payment, the guests have to help with the dangerous frying and, after the meal, do all of the dishes in a kitchen that looks like it has just been through a 6.8 earthquake.

The restaurant isn't open for business as often as we'd like (how very French of them), but buoyed by the success of their opening night, we are treated on other occasions to:

Menu du Jour:
Turkey Croquettes with a House-Made Tomato Ragout
Hawaiian Banana Bread
Choice of Water, Apple Juice, or a Glass of White Sancerre

And the least coherent of the options:

Menu du Mois:
Grilled Toast with Butter and Jam, or Peppers and Hummus
Thai Noodles
Chocolate Molten Cake with a Glass of Milk
Choice of Water (With or Without Gas), Milk, Red or White Wine

The service -- en français -- is like the friendliest, most adorable, but French-est waiters ever, complete with perfect accents, Gallic shoulder shrugs, and pouty lips. Though I must admit that the kids are total crap when it comes to opening a wine bottle.

Pippa writes Anthony a birthday poem based on the photo above:

In this picture, I'm a waiter,
You're the one who's even greater!
I'm the one who's pouring wine,
You're the one who's mighty fine!

You can spend $600 a meal and still not walk away with a poem dedicated to you: priceless. Through this all, their cooking skills and possibly poem-writing skills are improving, but I am sad to report their kitchen cleaning skills are not.

THE CHEESE: Saint Félicien

St. Félicien is made in the same style as a St. Marcellin, except that it's bigger, younger, sweeter, and mellower. It's still a creamy, delicious cheese, however, made from cow's milk -- raw or pasteurized. It was however, in its earliest days, when a dairy seller in Lyon invented it at the beginning of the 20th century, made out of goats' milk. It can be made anywhere in the country, but usually it comes from the Rhône or Isère. The name comes from St. Félicien square, on which was located the dairy shop where it was created with leftover milk added to some cream and turned into cheese.

It's the kind of cheese that can be found in nearly every grocery store, and many cheese shops, at varying levels of quality.

Today, the cows' milk is turned into soft curds, then drained and aged for at least 10 days, until the rind is a delicate yellowish-white and the texture is firm but still quite creamy. It can also be aged 20 days, for a bolder flavor and runnier texture, and around 4-6 weeks for even bolder and runnier still.


One reason I pair this cheese with this story is a mental connection with the name: we congratulate ("felicite", in French) the girls for a great meal. Also, this is a wonderfully kid-friendly -- yet still very gourmet, high-end -- cheese: creamy, oozy, salty, buttery, and flavorful without being too stinky, strong, or gamy. The girls have never served a cheese course at Restaurant Chez Simon Montpelier. I don't think they're brave enough to serve me one yet, but they should be; they have excellent taste in cheese and adore Saint Félicien.


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