“Chris, my father is in town for the holidays and I’d like him to join us for a really unique dining experience. The challenge is he’s not big on nouveau cuisine. He’s a classic traditionalist – you know, white tablecloths, cozy ambiance, attentive service, and excellent, comfort food à la Julia Child.“
“So he likes French food?” Chris asked.
“Are you kidding? That’s his favorite.”
“Then I think we need to go to Pescadou. The owners Jacques and Olga de Quillien understand the true meaning of authentic French comfort food.”
“Vraiment? Allons-y! Let’s go!!” I cheered.
Arriving at the bistro, Jacques greeted us with customary French savoir-faire.
“Well, isn’t this charming,” my father commented as Jacques escorted us to a table. “If the ambiance is any indication, we’re in for a treat.”
I glanced at Chris with a relieved look that said “So far, so good.” I knew I’d be gauging my father’s reactions throughout the evening.
As we perused the menu, Jacques brought an amuse-bouche to share.
“Purée of eggplant, garlic, fennel and Pernod,” he offered.
“I love Pernod! Actually, I prefer Ricard Pastis.” I confided. “It reminds me of Marseille and the South of France.”
“We prefer to use Pernod for our recipes. Ricard is for drinking,” Jacques smiled.
“Look at this menu,” my father interjected. “I haven’t seen this many of my favorites on one menu since I was in France.”
“The food is very traditional, as French as can be,” Jacques told us. “Everything is made from scratch, including our stocks.”
“Can you recommend any signature dishes?” asked Chris.
“The rabbit, duck, Cassoulet, Steak Frites, and Boulliabaisse, d’accord. We also specialize in mussels, which are flown in daily from Prince Edward Island.”
“Mussels Provençal with Pernod, or traditional?” I mused. “Let’s do – wait! How’s the foie gras?”
“It comes in a terrine with poached pear and lingonberry jam.”
“Oh, that’s what I want,” I said excitedly.
“I’ll order the Provençal, and your Dad wants Escargot,” Chris added.
“Have you decided on entrées?” asked Jacques.
“The Rabbit Dijonnaise pour moi, and for Chris the Duck Magret, because I want to try both the rabbit and the duck,” I laughed. “Dad, what would you like?”
“The Cassoulet. You can’t get more traditional than that,” he stated.
“Oh good, I want to try that, too!”
“Who says you’re getting any?”
“But Dad, that’s the whole point.”
“The point of what?”
“Trying different things to write about in our column,” I argued.
“I’m not writing it, you are. Write about what you order.”
“Stasha, if you want the Cassoulet, we can come back another time,” Chris placated me.
Jacques opened the bottle of wine Chris brought – a Couchant Cabernet Franc – and went to place our order. Moments later, our appetizers arrived.
“The escargot is wonderful – tender, not chewy. And the garlic butter…” my father looked up at me. “I suppose you want some?”
“Yes, but I’ll leave you the sauce, since I know you share Chris’ penchant for bread-mopping,” I grinned.
“Ummm…” was all Chris could say as he savored the mussels.
“The Couchant is perfect with the foie gras,” I marveled, dishing out toast points loaded with paté.
“C’est magnifique,” sang my father.
We listened to the hum of French conversation, lingering over our wine until the entrées arrived.
“This rabbit is amaz…,” I stopped incredulous, as I watched Chris shove a forkful of whole green beans into his mouth. “Chris, the vegetables may be good, but please cut them first.”
He sheepishly picked up his knife.
“Try some of the duck,” he suggested.
“Oh my, the duck is the winner,” I sighed. “I am in game heaven.”
“Now this is comfort food,” noted my father, as he tackled the Cassoulet of pork belly, duck confit, smoked pork, white beans and sausage.
”How is everything?” Jacques inquired.
“Incroyable, delicieux, exceptionnelle!!” I delighted.
“Would you care for dessert?”
“But, of course,” Chris replied with a French accent, handing Jacques a bottle of Opolo Mountain Zinfandel. “Can you pair something with this?”
“Absolument,” Jacques pondered, then disappeared, returning minutes later with a Tarte Tatin, Bread Pudding and Chocolate Mousse with orange.
“Oh my, this tatin … I’m not getting on a scale for a month,” I said emphatically. “The whipped cream alone is my undoing. And the mousse! I must come back.”
“I can’t possibly eat any more,” denied Chris, as he stuffed another piece of bread pudding into his mouth.
“Speak for yourself,” said my father, as he cleaned the mousse bowl and sat back contented. “I can’t thank you two enough. This has been a delightful dinner. You know, Stasha, it reminds me of the play you were in at Laguna Playhouse, ‘An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf,’ where the main character owned a French restaurant reserved solely for his own use. If I could own a French restaurant, this would be it. I have to come back, too. How’s next week look?”
“Quite possible, Dad.” I leaned forward, grinned impishly, and teased, “It all depends on what you want to share with me.”