Category Archives: French

RIP: Roger Vergé, Pioneering French Chef

RogerVergeRemember when nouvelle cuisine was, in fact, nouvelle? I do. It was in the ’60s when the American mainstream media was reporting more on the counterculture than the culinary culture.  But the buzz among chefs and gourmands (“foodie” was not yet a concept) was about the lightened up French fare introduced by a group of daring young French chefs, who steered their country’s heralded haute cuisine in a lighter and more artistic direction. I had visited France as part of a college summer trip to Europe, and while there was nothing haute about the food my friend and I ate, it was a palate-tickler. When I lived in New York soon thereafter, Biarritz and Le Mont St. Michel were on my block, and other moderately priced French restaurants were not far away. My interest never waned.

Chefs like Roger Vergé, Paul Bocuse, the Troisgros brothers and Michel Guérard were on the vanguard of this revolution, whose after-effects linger to this day. The Moulin de Mougins restaurant that Vergé established in a village near Cannes earned two Michelin stars. He was an early celebrity chef, a restaurateur, hotelier and author of several cookbooks. He called his food Cuisine du Soleil, cuisine of the sun. He died on June 5 at the age of 85. The New York Times ran a lengthy obituary.

RIP Philippine de Rothschild

Grande dame of Bordeaux wineries passes.

Baroness de Rothschild
Baroness de Rothschild

Philippine de Rothschild, revered as the grande dame of Bordeaux wine and part-owner of the legendary Chateau Mouton Rothschild vineyard, died last week at the of age 80. Baronness de Rothschild was the controlling shareholder in the family-owned Baron Philippe de Rothschild house, which produces the Mouton Cadet claret, the gold standard of Bordeaux wines. She and her three children together owned the wine houses of Chateau d’Armailhac and Chateau Clerc Milon.

She helped modernize and diversify the estate’s wine production, developing partnerships with vineyards in California and Chile. Her artist instincts kicked in and she was also responsible for choosing the artists who illustrated the labels of Chateau Mouton Rothschild collector wines,  working with such famous painters such as Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon.

She was the only daughter of grand prix racing driver and banking heir Phillipe de Rothschild, but she made a name for herself as an actress using the stage name, Philippine Pascal, before being called up to take over the family estate after her father died in 1988. She had married twice.

Le Meridien Reconcepts the Eclair

French classic pastry featured in luxury hotel chain promotion.

LeMeridien-logoMy eccentric late mother-in-law often asked me, “Is it éclair or declare?” I always replied, “It’s me-Claire.” And she laughed as if we’d never exchanged those lines before. In truth, I’ve always liked good renditions of this classic pastry and not only because it is an anagram of my first name.

Now, the éclair is getting international attention, as Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts are launching their first global éclair program MeridienEclairsin partnership with award-winning pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini.  Le Méridien  now offers a variety of modern twists on the chic Parisian treat. Each hotel will offer modern takes on three signature éclair flavors – coffee, chocolate and vanilla –  plus one locally inspired flavor. Also Chef Iuzzini’s eight seasonal éclair recipes  inspired by his travels through various Le Méridien destinations.

Johnny Iuzzini
Johnny Iuzzini

A 2006 James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Pastry Chef and author of Dessert FourPlay and Sugar Rush (September 2014), Iuzzini served as head judge on Bravo’s “Top Chef Just Desserts.” He boasts more than 20 years of kitchen experience at some of the top restaurants in New York City and currently owns a pastry and culinary arts consulting company, Sugar Fueled, Inc.  As the newest member of the LM100, a group of cultural innovators and artists who define and enrich the guest experience at Le Méridien, Chef Iuzzini will guide the éclair programming and initiatives around the globe.

Au Revoir Au Grand Bistro

Downtown French restaurant calls it quits.

LeGrandBistro-logoIf you want some great oysters, good French food and  a pleasing Gallic ambiance, you might want to hurry to Le Grand Bistro and Oyster Bar right now, tomorrow or Sunday. The nearly three-year-old restaurant is closing after service on Sunday May 25. The sizable restaurant is just down the street from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts was a few blocks from downtown Denver’s concentration of restaurants on Larimer Square, close to but not within the line of sight of the Colorado Convention Center and facing additional competition from the upcoming opening of Union Station with  its cluster of restaurants.

Restaurateur Robert Thompson owns Le Grand Bistro, but his other enterprises, the fun-and-games Punch Bowl Social and the reincarnated and the oddly named Argyll Whisky Beer, resonate more with the Denver dining public. Even chef John Broening, who worked with Thompson at the short-lived Brasserie Rouge and built up Le Grand’s  and beverage director Ryan Conklin couldn’t elevate Le Grand Bistro to profitability.

‘Mme. Champagne’ at Julia Child Tribute Luncheon

Denver International Wine Festival wraps up with special guest

DenverIntlWineFest2013-logoThe 9th annual Denver International Wine Festival opened with the Pairsine food/wine pairing chef competition and wrapped up with a Julia Child tribute luncheon.  The guest of honor and featured speaker was Madeleine de Jean — nicknamed “Madame Champagne” for her years of representing the champagnes of France.

Wine Country International's Darcy Davies designed paper placemats for the tribute luncheon.
Wine Country International’s Darcy Davies designed paper placemats for the tribute luncheon.

She was a long-time friend of the late, great “French Chef” (“FOJ” — Friend of Julia’s) who shared wonderful personal reminisces as a lucky group of guests (my husband and I being two) listened in fascination and also enjoyed a recreation of a special meal for friends that Julia herself had requested at the end of the Food & Wine Classic at Aspen. And she also let us in on the secret of sabering a champagne bottle (chill the neck and run a special dull saber up the bottle seam to pop the cork off).

Madeleine de Jean (
Madeleine de Jean (“Mme. Champagne”) dressed in Broncos orange and blue (coincidentally or intentionally) ready to demonstrate how one sabers a champagne bottle.

As Madame de Jean related, when Food & Wine’s Lucullian and French-leaning excess would down, Pasadena-bred Julia Child decreed that the meal she was hosting for an ever-larger group of friends would American-inspired — fried chicken, chocolate cake, potato salad and the like. This culinary recreation of an American picnic was served at the Hotel Jerome, where so much of Aspen tradition resides. So many years later, Omni Interlocken Resort chef Mario Clapes and his team recreated the Jerome’s recreation, accompanied by Taittinger, Gosset and G.H. Mumm champagnes.

An exquisite hors d'oeuvre of oat flour-dusted foie gras on brioche French toast capped by champagne-preserved apricot.
An exquisite hors d’oeuvre of oat flour-dusted foie gras on brioche French toast capped by champagne-preserved apricot.

Salad Nicoise with tuna poached in olive oil, Boston lettuce, poched fingerling potatoes, egg, capers, French green beans and cherry tomatoes elegantly dressed in a red wine-shallot vinaigrette.

Salad Nicoise with tuna poached in olive oil, Boston lettuce, poached fingerling potatoes, egg, capers, French green beans and cherry tomatoes elegantly dressed in a red wine-shallot vinaigrette.
An elegant version of Southern fried chicken with parsnip puree, roasted Brussels sprouts, citrus-glazed carrots and herb jus.
An elegant version of Southern fried chicken with parsnip puree, roasted Brussels sprouts, citrus-glazed carrots and herb jus.
Not just any old chocolate cake, but an impossibly rich Death by Chocolate cake with mayonnaise in the batter, salted chocolate ganache in the center and fudge frosting. Strawberries and a cascade of strawberry.consomme lighten in. Whipped cream only seems light in contrast to the cake.
Not just any old chocolate cake, but an impossibly rich Death by Chocolate cake with mayonnaise in the batter, salted chocolate ganache in the center and fudge frosting. Strawberries and a cascade of strawberry.consomme lighten in. Whipped cream only seems light in contrast to the cake.
Chef Mario Clapes with Madame Champagne.
Chef Mario Clapes with Madame Champagne.
Cliff Young, the legendary Denver chef and restaurateur, at the tribute dinner. After too long an absence from the local restaurant scene, he opened CY Steak in the improbable location of the Diamond Cabaret, a downtown strip club.
Cliff Young, the legendary Denver chef and restaurateur, spoke briefly the tribute dinner — adding his tribute to Julia Child and her influence on himself. After too long an absence from the local restaurant scene, he opened CY Steak in the improbable location of the Diamond Cabaret, a downtown strip club.

Cliff Young remains revered by local foodies, and Julia Child, of course, remains revered by all American foodies.

Discount & Mme. De Jean at Denver Wine Fest

More than 50% off two events & very special guest at a third

DenverIntlWineFest2013-logoMy recent post about the upcoming Denver International Wine Festival included the suggestion that readers keep an eye on local deal-of-the day sites to look for discounted entry. Now is the time to look. Travelzoo is currently offering discounted admission to two of the festival’s signature events.

The Chef’s Food & Wine Pairing Competition (Thursday, November 7, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.) features nine local chefs and also former White House chef John Moeller, each presenting two dishes paired with specific award-winning wines. Entry is $49 (regularly $100). The following evening, Friday, November 8, again 6 to 9 p.m., guests at Grand Tasting have the opportunity to sample the adult libations from 60 wineries, breweries and distilleries and sample foods crafted by local chefs. Entry to the Grand Tasting is $42 (regularly $95). Click on the appropriate link to buy discount vouchers, which  must be purchased by 10 p.m., Friday, November 1. Present your vouchers at the door; no reservations required. Attendees at both events will receive a free souvenir glass from Riedel to take home, and if you’ve priced this outstanding stemware lately, you know what a deal you are getting. The Denver International Wine Festival takes place at the Omni Interlocken Resort, 500 Interlocken Boulevard, Broomfield.

“Madame Champagne” Appears at the DIWF

Madeleine de Jan,
Madeleine de Jean, “Madame Champagne,” set to saber a Champagne bottle.

Julia Child’s dear friend, Madeleine de Jean, known in the industry as “Madame Champagne,” is a special guest at the festival. She is the former Ambassador and Director of Sales for Champagnes Veuve Clicquot, Gosset, Laurent-Perrier, GH Mumm and Perrier-Jouet. First, she hosts a champagne seminar at the DIWF Grand Tasting on Friday, November 8 from 4 to 9 p.m. On the final day of the festival, she headlines the Julia Child Champagne Tribute Luncheon & Auction on Sunday, November 10 from 12 noon to 2:30 p.m.

This luncheon is a tribute to Julia Child and her “All-American Champagne Picnic” at Aspen’s Hotel Jerome and was the talk of the  Food & Wine Classic in Aspen for more than a decade. Madeleine’s Champagne-themed luncheon features a modern take on Julia’s original menu. Omni Resort chef Mario Clapes plans a first course of Oat Flour Dusted Foie Gras, Brioche French Toast and Champagne Preserved Apricots; a salad course of Olive Oil Poached Tuna Niçoise, Boston Lettuce, Poached Fingerling Potatoes, Egg, Caper, French Green Beans, Cherry Tomatoes and Red Wine Shallot Vinaigrette; an entrée course of Southern Fried Chicken, Parsnip Purée, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Citrus Glazed Carrots and Herb Jus, and finally a dessert of Death By Chocolate Cake and Strawberry Consommé. I’m not entirely sure what Southern Fried Chicken might have to do with Julia Child, but with all courses paired with selections from France’s great Champagne houses, I’m sure no one will be in a mood to quibble. Other features of the luncheon are a sabering demonstration and stories of Julia’s love of food and Champagne. It features six Champagnes provided by Gosset, G.H Mumm and Champagne Taittinger.

One hundred percent of the net proceeds from this event benefit the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and Culinary Arts. This intimate event will be limited to just 60 guests. Tickets are $79, including tax & gratuity — and that is a deal!

John Broening Is Le Grand Bistro’s New Exec Chef

Gifted chef returns to his culinary roots

LeGrandBistro-logoAfter cheffing and operating Denver restaurants in Highland (Duo, Spuntino) and before that in the Union Station/Ballpark area (the long-gone Brasserie Rouge) and Uptown (the shuttered Olivea), John Broening is bringing his culinary talents Downtown, specifically to the theater district. He is now also executive chef at Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar.

Broening has worked for leading Bay Area restaurants, in France for Guy Savoy at Bistrot de l’Etoile Niel, and as a pastry chef at Le Grenadin and at Primitivo in downtown Colorado Springs. Back in the early years of this millennium, Robert Thompson, now Le Grand’s owner, had hired Broening as the opening chef of the Brasserie Rouge, a fine but short-lived French restaurant in the Ice House next to Union Station. Lori Midson, Westword’s restaurant reporter, wrote, “Years ago, in 2003, John Broening, Robert Thompson and Thompson’s ex-wife, Leigh Jones,  opened a downtown French brasserie called Brasserie Rouge. It was, for its short tenure, the best restaurant in Denver — not just the best French restaurant, but the best restaurant.”

Running Le Grand’s kitchen returns Broening to his roots. He hit the ground running and soon introduced Le Grand’s new seasonal lunch, brunch and dinner menus reflecting the regional cuisines he favors. From Provence come such Mediterranean ingredients as tomatoes, lamb, olives, artichokes, goat cheese, olive oil on the summer menu. Come fall, the foods of Brittany and Normandy will slot in, and diners will find apples, crepes and mussels. Come winter, Broening plans the richer foods of Burgundy, Perigord and Alsace Lorraine, including coq au vin, duck confit, cassoulet, and choucroute.

“French food has been a passion for me since I was very young. I grew up in France, worked there early in my career,”  Broening was quoted as saying in a press release. “What French people eat is much lighter, fresher, more vegetal and a lot less fussy than the popular stereotype. At Le Grand, I look forward to cooking the everyday food that French people eat.”