By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox
The front door of Le Chiberta
Years ago what first drew our attention to Le Chiberta (3 rue Arsène Houssaye,75008 Paris, France, +33 1 53 53 42 00, http://www.lechiberta.com, firstname.lastname@example.org) was that it was a Guy Savoy restaurant (see Le Chiberta, a restaurant find near the Champs Elysees). The well known chef had a world class reputation thanks to his eponymous Paris restaurant. Le Chiberta’s location a stone’s throw away from the famous Champs Elysees was another plus.
The walls were decorated with modern art by French artists.
While the original restaurant opened in 1932 the current fine dining restaurant, owned by Guy Savoy and Thierry Belin, dated to 2004. The 200 square meter restaurant with 15 employees could accommodate 80 people. Under the direction of Stéphane Laruelle, executive chef, and Belin in the role of restaurant manager and sommelier, the restaurant delivered gourmet dining minus the luxury amenities of the top rated fine dining restaurants and their accompanying exorbitant prices.
A light course to stimulate our appetite
Subtle neutral colors dominated the room, beginning with wall to wall charcoal carpeting. Track lights from the high ceiling provided ample light in the windowless room. Decorative features included wine and champagne bottles, oil paintings, white tablecloth covered dining tables, and Michel Wilmotte dinnerware. The single stall bathroom was spotless. The contemporary decoration was by Jean-Michel Wilmotte with paintings by French artists. According to a restaurant representative, the name Chiberta is Basque, and refers to a place next to Biarritz.
Duck foie gras with sweet spices
During our most recent visit in the fall of 2018 to the one Michelin star venue our neighbors, a mostly middle-aged crowd, appeared to be having a business lunch. There was a three course Lunch Menu for 49 euros and a seven course Degustation Menu (Tasting Menu) for 110 euros. We liked that the meat and fish served were of French origin and the vegetables were organic. All of the dishes served were made from fresh (not frozen) ingredients. The restaurant offered WiFi, valet and taxi services.
Artichoke soup with a slice of black truffle, a favorite
Lunch began with Emmental cheese puffs, moist inside and with sesame and poppy seeds on top, and vintage champagne. Seaweed butter and a choice of two types of bread (whole wheat and crunchy white) arrived soon after the bubbly and bites. The courses were: Marbled duck foie gras with red wine and sweet spices; Velouté of artichoke and black truffle; Turbot from Normandy coasts natural salsify, stuffed razor clam, shellfish juice; Duo of veal roasted rump and glazed breast, pumpkin, chestnut, autumn mushrooms; Brie de Meaux cheese, mascarpone walnut; Pre-dessert exotic and coconut; and Crispy praline chocolate almond biscuit, chocolate-praline sauce.
Turbot with razor clams
The meal was served with Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage 2009 Extra Brut; Maury Mas Amiel Vintage Réserve 2012; Macon-Lugny 2016 Joseph Drouhin; Chateau Castera 2010 from Medoc; and Jurancon Ballet d’Octobre 2016 Domaine Cauhapé. More than once during the meal we commented on the smooth pairing.
Roasted veal rump and breast
We liked the lentils in the Jerusalem artichoke, they added texture to the dish. The turbot was lovingly prepared with the clams subtly accentuating the fish. The veal, served with mushrooms and pumpkin, was outstanding. We had no need of the pepper mill and sea salt with which it arrived. The creamy brie with mascarpone and truffles was the perfect transition to our first sweet dish, a mildly tart exotic fruit blend of mango, passion fruit and meringue we much enjoyed. The dessert proper was crispy and light. Cheese cake and fig and financiers were served with coffee. There were also chocolates caramels and chocolate nougat.
The chocolate desert
As soon as we entered several staff members approached to welcome us, take our wet coats and guide us to a cozy table for two in the rear dining room. They spoke English with fluency, translating dish descriptions with ease and providing an English language menu. As the hour advanced the dining room filled up yet we never lacked anything or found ourselves in search of a server. Somehow they were always table side at the perfect moment, friendly without being intrusive.
Stéphane Laruelle, executive chef, in the kitchen at the conclusion of our meal
Our attentive server and Thierry Belin, co-owner and manager
From arrival to departure the staff looked after us with a warm and detail-oriented attitude. Our seven course tasting menu with wine pairing was well prepared, artfully presented and delicious. Given the location, good service and gourmet meal it was an excellent value in a city of many choices. We would return with pleasure, especially if we were staying in or near that neighborhood.
Article and photos by Elena del Valle
The Tennessee Truffle in Historic Downtown Sanford, Florida
Breakfast at The Tennessee Truffle (125 west 1st street, Sanford, Florida 32771, thetennesseetruffle.com, +1 407-942-3977) in Historic Downtown Sanford, Florida was fun and tasty. We were among the first patrons to arrive on a low season Saturday morning. It was quiet inside the 2,000 square foot restaurant established in 2016 by Nat Russell, owner and chef, as “a family restaurant using sustainable ingredients to make southern cuisine with a modern twist.”
Inside the 2,000 square foot restaurant
Art on the walls of The Tennessee Truffle
From the breakfast mains we had Biscuits & Gravy and French Toast. Both were well prepared and presented. They were worth ordering on a second visit should I return to Sanford and recommending to friends who like southern cuisine. The smoked maple syrup in the French Toast gave the dish a pleasant if unexpected savory flavor. From the sides menu we ordered Grits with sorghum and crushed pecans; and pan seared Duroc Bacon, a 12-day house-cured bacon, which was more like ham. While grits are not a favorite dish in general I enjoyed those. To wrap it all we shared an order of Popcorn Brulee made with three forms of popcorn, ice cream, powder and brulee.
Plants grew next to the window in elevated wood planters
Our server was patient, friendly and helpful. When she didn’t know the answer to a question she found out and returned with the information.
Biscuits & Gravy
Partway through our meal when the chef came out to bring a dish he graciously answered questions and posed for photos. “We are a restaurant using as much local produce and protein as possible,” Russell, said by email later when asked about sourcing for the restaurant. “I believe in using the best product. If that’s from Sanford great but I won’t compromise flavor or freshness just to be local. If it’s from the area all the better!”
Grits with sorghum and crushed pecans
He went on to explain that everything they use is organic, about 50 percent of produce is from Florida, about 80 percent of the fish served is local, and 100 percent of the beef and beer is from Florida. A Culinary Institute of America graduate Russell, Memphis born, is former executive chef of Winter Park’s Café de France in Florida.
Smoked maple syrup on our French Toast gave the dish a savory flavor
When asked about the name of the restaurant he said, “ In the Appalachian mountains the first thing to pop out of the ground in the spring is the ramp. They call this the Tennessee Truffle I love this story. So, I stole the name and the rest is history!”
Duroc Bacon, a 12-day house-cured bacon
I liked the chef’s light touch. The dishes I sampled had seasoning that allowed the ingredient’s natural taste to shine. I appreciated his flair for surprising and unexpected flavors and textures such as the smoked maple syrup in his French Toast, the crunchy pecans in the grits and the three textures of popcorn, (powder, creamy brulee and ice cream) in the Popcorn Brulee.
Nat Russell, owner and chef
The restaurant’s light filled dining room was inviting and relaxed, the chairs comfortable. I wondered if the chef had used any of the herbs growing in pots between our table and the street facing window in our breakfast. The pleasant setting, warm and efficient service and lovingly prepared dishes made me want to return.
Article and photos by Elena del Valle
Josh Oakley, co-owner, The Smiling Bison restaurant and bar, holding the House Charcuterie and Cheese board
During a weekend visit to Sanford, Florida I had dinner with three colleagues at The Smiling Bison restaurant and bar (107 S Magnolia Avenue, Sanford Florida, 32771, +407 915-6086, www.smilingbison.com), a locavore venue. My dinner that night was tasty, well prepared and well presented. I loved that the restaurant staff made virtually all of the dishes from scratch using fresh (not frozen) ingredients, that 100 percent of the produce was domestic and mostly organic, and that meats were almost all free of added chemicals, according to Josh Oakley, co-owner.
He said by email later, “We make all pasta dough, sauces, cured and smoked meats/ sausages, etc. from scratch on premises. We source primarily from several local farms and their availability is the main force behind our weekly menu changes. All farms we source from use 100 percent organic practices, but getting and official organic certification is a tedious and expensive process which not all of them have gotten.”
Our Duck Lovers Pizza fresh from the open kitchen
When asked what percent of animal products in the restaurant are free of added antibiotics and added hormones he replied, “I’d say about 95. We do a chicken wing night once a month and the wings are pretty much the only commodity meat you’ll find on our menu.”
Our Duck Lovers Pizza Duck Lovers Pizza starter with duck ham, duck sausage, duck confit, jack cheese and a duck egg
I tasted the following dishes shared at our table: Smoked Fish Dip starter of trout roe, house made saltines and dill; and Duck Lovers Pizza starter with duck ham, duck sausage, duck confit, jack cheese and a duck egg; and House Charcuterie and Cheese with chicken liver mousse, summer sausage, kielbasa, garlic beef salami, pepperoni, grafton two year cheddar from Vermont, rogue Oregon blue cheese, house sourdough bread and pickles. For mains we had Spaghetti & Meatballs made with beef and pork meatballs (a favorite). Because our transport arrived before we had a chance to order our final course we missed dessert.
Our four stools at the Chef’s Table provided us front row seating over the cook’s work space, which faced the dining room. Despite it being the busiest night of the week Oakley made time to answer questions and describe dish preparation. Joel Serrer, our friendly server, likewise answered questions about the menu and beverages.
Spaghetti & Meatballs made with beef and pork meatballs
The 3,000 square foot restaurant, owned by Ron Thomas and Oakley, dated to 2013. The building was built in 1912. Originally it was the headquarters of The Sanford Herald newspaper it also served as home to a chapter of The International Order of Oddfellows prior to being converted into a restaurant space.
The name of the restaurant was a nod to the Oakley, who was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. A self taught cook who never attended culinary school he credits his early interest in food and cooking to his grandmothers.
The restaurant was centrally located in Historic Downtown Sanford, the food was well prepared from scratch using fresh and wholesome ingredients and the service was warm and attentive. My only beef? As the evening progressed and the restaurant filled up the noise level rose until I could barely hear the person in the stool next to mine. Should I find myself in Sanford again The Smiling Bison will be at the top of my list.
By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox
A typical dreary day by Lake Titisee during our visit
We planned our week long trip to the Black Forest Highlands in Germany months in advance with the expectation that a spring itinerary would reward us with dry and sunny weather. Instead it our visit in June 2016 was far wetter, colder and foggier than we had anticipated. It rained on and off most of the day every day during our whole stay in the area, forcing us to revise our plans entirely. In lieu of trekking on mountain tops and cable cars we spent our days in our hotel room waiting for the rain to stop or remained indoors, dining, in museums, and churches for the duration of our visit.
The clock museum featured displays of clock history
Tools used to automate the creation of the gears and wheels were featured
We replaced nearly all our outdoor activities with indoor ones. The two lane mountain roads, slick from the rain and filled with impatient drivers, did nothing to improve the situation. In the end, we made the most of the situation, exploring as best as possible in moments of respite from the constant showers. We seldom encountered English speakers or materials in English, making it necessary for us to rely on our guide frequently to translate menus at restaurants and information sheets at attractions.
The Parkhotel Adler in Hinterzarten was a favorite for its luxury facilities and spa
From the airport we drove to the Parkhotel Adler in Hinterzarten. It was the most luxurious of the properties we visited that trip. I spent time at Hoffmann Beaute & Physiontherapie, its serene spa. Because of the cool temperatures and showers I was thankful for the property's underground hallways that connected its facilities and provided us indoor access to the hotel spa and restaurants in adjacent buildings.
The lake fronting Seecafé in Schluchsee
We had Black Forest cake, strudel cake and cappuccino by the lake
The first attraction we visited was the Deutsches Uhrenmuseum (German Clock Museum at Robert-Gerwig-Platz d-78120 Furtwangen, +49 7723-920 2800, deutsches-uhrenmuseum.de) northeast of Freiburg. It was a fun way to spend the morning and learn about the history of clock making in Germany.
We spent the weekend at the popular Treschers Schwarzwald Romantic Hotel
One afternoon, to satisfy our sweet tooth we stopped at the Seecafé (Im Wolfsgrund 26, 79859, Schluchsee, +49 76 56/98 88 97), where we indulged in hot beverages and huge slices of regional specialties such as Black Forest chocolate cake. Despite the chilly temperatures we enjoyed the Schluchsee lakeside setting and terrace seating until a steady flow of raindrops forced us to leave.
We were delighted with our first sunny hour from the patio at Boutique-Hotel Alemannenhof
In the Lake Titisee area we stayed at two family owned properties. We spent the weekend at the popular, lake fronting Treschers Schwarzwald Romantic Hotel (see Our weekend stay at Black Forest lake front hotel with spa) with a spa in the highly touristy town of Titisee. When our rental apartment plans fell through the friendly owners and staff at the charming and lovingly built Boutique-Hotel Alemannenhof squeezed us in at the last minute without hesitation. The hotel, the Drubba Monument Shopping stores on the pedestrian street in Titisee, and the Hofgut Sternen hotel and adjacent shops were the property of the enterprising Drubba Family. It was at one of their shops where we watched a demonstration about the making of the famous cuckoo clocks. At another we caught the end of a glassblowing demonstration. Their hillside property was a favorite for its Lake Titisee views and foodie orientation.
One of the hand-carved carnival masks at Holzmasken Stiegeler in Grafenhausen
In Grafenhausen, we liked the hand-carved carnival masks at Holzmasken Stiegeler (see Black Forest shop carried on with wood carved mask tradition). In Grafenhausen-Rothaus, we visited Hüsli or small house (79865 Grafenhausen-Rothaus, Am Hüsli 1 im Naturpark Südschwarzwald, + 49 77 48/212, www.hüsli-museum.de), a folk art museum dating back to 1912 when actress Helene Siegfried built a summer home from second-hand materials. We also toured the Rothaus (Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus AG, Rothaus 1, 79865 Grafenhausen-Rothaus, +49 7748/522-0, www.rothaus.de, email@example.com) brewery museum, a modern facility with self-guided tours, where we sampled locally produced beer and bought souvenirs at the small shop.
St. Blasien Cathedral, a lovingly maintained structure 36 meters wide and 62 meters high
The interior of St. Blasien Cathedral
The St. Blasien Cathedral cupola
We visited several churches while in the Black Forest Highlands. Salient among them for sheer size and the determination of its builders was St. Blasien Cathedral, a pretty and lovingly maintained structure 36 meters wide and 62 meters high. The early classical cupola is the largest of its kind north of the Alps.
Our final nights were at the Hotel Adler in Häusern
The sun made an appearance on our last afternoon in the Black Forest
Our final nights were at the Hotel Adler in Häusern, where we dined at the hotel's gourmet restaurant (see Dinner at Black Forest Highlands gourmet restaurant). We would recommend the Black Forest Highlands to friends who speak German or don't mind seeking translations, like moderate luxury in a heavily touristy area with authentic regional cuisine, enjoy mountainous landscapes and the outdoors, and are able to change plans in a hurry if the weather turns ugly.
By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox
Les Bouquinistes side entrance
In a touristy neighborhood chock full of dining options like the Latin Quarter in Paris, France Les Bouquinistes (53, quai des Grands Augustins, 75006, Paris, France, +33 1 43 25 45 94, www.lesbouquinistes.com, firstname.lastname@example.org) offered several features we liked. Before we arrived it already had the advantage that it was a short walk from our central accommodations. Having dined at Guy Savoy restaurants, including that one, in the past we were confident our experience would be positive. Stéphane Perraud, chef, and Cedric Jossot, restaurant manager, were in charge the day we had lunch at the eatery.
The black and white decor was designed to evoke the printed page
Les Bouquinistes occupied a corner on quai des Grands Augustins on the south side of the Seine River between the Pont Saint-Michel and the Pont Neuf. The two bridges linked the Left Bank with the Ile de la Cite, an island best known for being the home of Notre Dame Cathedral. Large glass windows took maximum advantage of the restaurant's location facing north toward the busy street, the river and the island beyond it.
The central section of the restaurant featured a wine rack.
Our early arrival won us a choice of seats. We selected a table near the entrance, which afforded us partial views of the street. My lunch partner sat at a leather black bench and I selected an armless wood chair in front of a bare white round table with a round black place mat for each of us. The clean lines, understated décor, gray carpet and black ceiling helped draw our eyes outward beyond the oversize glass walls and windows toward the quai des Grands Augustins to the north and the much quieter rue des Grands Augustins to the east.
A simple yet classic starter
Our multi-course lunch began with a satisfying bite of foie gras atop a thin toast sprinkled with sea salt and touch of black pepper to stimulate our appetite. Our friendly English speaking server brought a wicker basket with crunchy epi bread (no butter or oil) and a bottle of the house sparkling water. Stainless steel cutlery, glassware and dinnerware were the only adornments to our table.
Legumes maraichers a l'oeuf parfait
Blanc de cabillaud, asperges et pommes de terres confites, jus aux algues
We each had two different first courses followed by identical mains and desserts, a good sample of the chef's cuisine. For my first course I had Legumes maraichers a l'oeuf parfait, a vegetable dish with a lightly cooked egg. My lunch mate had Nacre de merlan, vinaigreette d'huitre, petits pois et fromage frais, white fish served on a bed of peas with a cheese and oyster sauce. Blanc de cabillaud, asperges et pommes de terres confites, jus aux algues, beautifully prepared barely cooked codfish served with a wonderful light sauce that complemented the fish and thin crunchy green asparagus; and Homard en bouillon, potimarron et sarrasin torrefie, lobster with sarrazin seed (from Brittany) sauce, pumpkin and black tuile baked wafers colored with squid ink, followed. Noix de carre de veau rotie, oignons grilles, puree de pommes de terre, Veal with a brown sauce, delicate mushrooms, baby onions and mashed potatoes, hit the comfort food funny bone just right. Our server was kind enough to assist us with a selection of Bordeaux wines, including a 2011 Chateaux Dutruch, to match our meal.
Homard en bouillon, potimarron et sarrasin torrefie
Carre de veau rotie, oignons grilles, puree de pommes de terre
Staff members Alexandra Chabauty and Steve Fabre next to Stéphane Perraud, chef, and Cédric Jossot, restaurant manager
Dessert was a duo. One half was Cafe-chocolat lacte biskelia-cardamone blanche, a mix of coffee flavored bits, and the other was a Sable breton-menthe-coriandre, a “Gin and Tonic” mint coriander dish served with a cookie and a microwave sponge cake. By the time we left, the restaurant was at the peak of lunch hour and staff members were rushing to look after last minute arrivals. Our meal was satisfying, well served and in an attractive setting within a convenient location. We would return and recommend it to friends seeking a casual dining experience in the Latin Quarter within a stone's throw of the river.
By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox
While at the Hotel Adler we had our only sunny afternoon in the Black Forest
During a trip to the Black Forest Highlands of southwestern Germany, we stayed at the Hotel Adler and had dinner at the hotel's Restaurant Adler (Hotel Adler, St. Fridolinstrasse 15, 79837 Häusern, Germany, +49 7672 4170, fax +49 7672 417150, www.adler-schwarzwald.de, email@example.com). We liked the well presented and colorful regional food with international influences and wine pairings prepared by Florian Zumkeller, the restaurant's chef, owner and manager.
Our table was in a cozy corner with padded bench seats
Florian Zumkeller, the restaurant's chef, owner and managerThe Black Forest fine dining venue had red tile flooring, cushioned wood bench seats, a low wood ceiling and regional décor, including a large crucifix across from our table. Salient features were tablecloths and silverware as well as glassware from Schott Zwiesel and tableware from Rosenthal. The restaurant was 250 square meters in size with a staff of 12 and capable of accommodating 80 guests. Nishan, our Sri Lankan English speaking server, was friendly and attentive.
The colorful mackerel sashimi
My asparagus dish
There were three types of bread on offer: onion, seeded, and baguette. Four types of butter: herb, red onion, salted and unsalted were presented on a black ceramic plate with a small fork and a spoon. The appetite teaser was a slightly sweet mackerel sashimi with an exotic flavor. To start the meal there was a veal sweetbreads appetizer with bitter salad and lemon vinaigrette (a favorite) served with 2015 Weinhaus Joachim Heger Grau Weissburgunder Cuvee. I selected an asparagus dish instead. Next there was Lobster with nectarine and pancetta served with 2014 Scherzinger Batzenberg Chardonnay Alte Reben Weingut Heinemann, Scherzinger.
The veal sweetbreads appetizer with bitter salad and lemon vinaigrette was a favorite
The main course was Two variations of United States beef with celery, mushroom and hazelnut
Two variations of United States beef with celery, mushroom and hazelnut, a medium rare tasty meat course, followed. We appreciated that the beef was antibiotic and hormone free. It was served with 2014 Cabernet Cuvee from Weinhaus Joachim Heger. For dessert there was Frozen tiramisu with peach and raspberry served with 2014 Durbacher Plauelrain, Traminer Auslese, Weingut Laible. After dessert there were chocolate praline balls served with Amaretto cream with almonds.
Nishan, our Sri Lankan English speaking server, was friendly and attentive
Chef Zumkeller did an apprenticeship with Alfred Klink at the Colombi Hotel in Freiburg, Germany. Before taking the reigns of the Restaurant Adler in 2011, he worked with chefs Philippe Chevrier at Domaine de Châteauvieux and Adolfo Blokbergen at L’Auberge du Raisin.
Lobster with nectarine and pancetta
Frozen tiramisu with peach and raspberry
He proudly explained, when we met him at the conclusion of our meal, that for 50 continuous years, since 1966, the restaurant had received a Michelin Star. Should we be in Hausern again, the restaurant's gourmet dinner with a touch of innovation and good service in a traditional Black Forest dining room would tempt us to return.