No doubt about it, those of us making the prix-fixe theme decisions at Carpe Vino have a decidedly French pre-occupation these days. We just can’t seem to get our fill, but trust me, there is no danger we’ll be sporting berets any time soon.
As a warm-up to next week’s “Welcome to Café Carpe Vino, a Nouveau Parisian Bistro,” we’re hosting a get-together tonight for our Provence travelers who will be touring the south of France in early October. This meet & greet is an icebreaker and an opportunity to sip on Bandol Rouge and, of course, rosé. Chef Alexander is preparing some very special appetizers, too, flexing his French culinary skills in advance of the big show that runs from May 26 to 31.
The idea with transforming the Friendly Confines into Café Carpe Vino is to create a menu typical to any bistro menu you would find in a Parisian neighborhood. . .but with two differences: Chef Alexander’s peculiar twist and a seasonal influence. So, if you’ve been to Paris, expect the unexpected!
Join us next week starting at 5 p.m. each night for four courses, with choices, for $59.95++; wine is additional and your server will be delighted to make a recommendation. Call 530-823-0320 for reservations or go to www.opentable.com.
Here’s a course-by-course peek at the menu:
First Course (choice of one):
Housemade and Artisan Charcuterie, seasonal pickles, Dijon mustard and grilled levain: Here’s an illicit and sinful treat. . .pork pate with pistachio, foie gras mousse and duck confit rillettes. . .shredded and emulsified in duck fat rendering it amazingly spreadable. Chef has sourced “saucisson sec,” dry-cured salami from Olympic Provisions in Portland. All served with pickled bing cherries and “cornichons,” pickled veggies. . .and country-style, rustic French bread grilled to perfection.
Salt Cod Brandade au Gratin, summer truffles, chervil, toast: “Brandade” is the Provençal handle for salt cod. Chef poaches the cod in milk with garlic and thyme, then blends with a garlic-infused EVOO (extra virgin olive oil). This is combined with pureed russet potato and whipped into a spread. Then it is baked with summer truffles in a casserole until golden brown. Garnished with chervil (an herb) and toasted baguette. . .a perfect for this amazing spread.
Tarte Flambe of Escargot, fromage blanc, green garlic, smoked bacon: Whenever we have escargot on the menu, we sell metric tonnes of it! With this dish, think French pizza: “tarte flambé” is a thick crust, fresh white French cheese, bacon and onions. . .a classic dish that is baked just like a pizza. Chef’s twist is using a rich puff pastry, made even more indulgent with the snails in green garlic butter, baked to delicious perfection.
Second Course (choice of one):
Sunchoke Vichyssoise, hazelnut oil, garden thyme: This is a classic French potato-leek soup you’ll find in any traditional Paris bistro. . .but Chef is adding sunchoke, a wholesome root vegetable. He purees until impossibly smooth and garnishes with hazelnut oil and the pink flowering tops of thyme plants from the Carpe Vino garden (behind the building). Word up: this soup is chilled and scrumptious!
Endive and Frisee Salad, tarragon, Saint Maure, brûlée, walnuts: Simple salad you’re thinking? No, it’s more than that. . .it’s an abundance of flavors and textures. First, the bitterness of the endive and frisee greens, offset by the tangy richness of goat cheese from the Loire Valley in France (covered in ash and ripened like Humbolt Fog. . .very tasty). The centerpiece is first-of-the season apricots from Frog Hollow Farm (Bay Area) that have been halved, sprinkled with sugar and caramelized. Then for a crunchy finish, toasted walnuts.
Main Course (choice of one):
Red Trout Meuniere, potato puree, Delta asparagus “polonaise”: Another classic French bistro dish, this one starts with California farm-raised trout prepared in a pan sauce of brown butter and lemon juice. This is placed on a platform of potato puree and served with Delta asparagus. Chef says “polonaise” is French for “Polish style,” and old-school French garnish of chopped hard-boiled eggs, buttered and toasted bread crumbs and fresh parsley.
Beef Cheek Bourguignon, Thumbelina carrot, smoked bacon, button mushroom, pearl onion: Beef cheek is one of Chef Alexander’s signature dishes of which Carpe Vinians just can’t seem to get enough. . .so here’s another opportunity presented in “the style of Burgundy”. Prepared with a rich combination of bacon, pearl onions mushrooms and red wine. Typical French preparation is to serve this “stew” over egg noodles, but Chef has substituted fingerling potatoes. You’ll concur with his decision, n’cest pas?
Fava Bean Cassoulet, duck and foie gras sausage, pork confit, brioche crumbs: In one of my rare menu confrontation with Chef Alexander, I passionately urged him to change the title of this to: Duck and Foie Gras Sausage Cassoulet (more appealing than “fava bean cassoulet), but my entreaties were summarily ignored. This classic French (please forgive the repetition of the phrase) casserole starts with a base of dried beans cooked with garlic, onion, tomato and veal stock. Finished with fava beans and pork cheek confit—slow cooked in duck fat. Next is a layer of brioche crumbs (enriched bread), topped with duck and foie gras sausage and then baked to perfection. The line starts here.
Dessert Course (choice of one):
Baba au Rhum, Chantilly cream, pineapple-rum sorbet: Chef Courtney McDonald works her magic here, creating an enriched pastry from flour, butter, eggs and sugar. . .in which she pokes holes and saturates with the Jamaican rum. Served with Chantilly cream and pineapple-rum sorbet on the side.
Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée, lavender sable: What’s more dependable for a bistro final stanza that a simple vanilla bean crème brûlée? Served with lavender sable, a thin French cookie similar to shortbread.
Join us for this amazing French bistro menu and bring your friends!