Food 2018 – French Road Trip, Day 3, l’Orangerie, Chateau d’Etoges, Etoges

Monday, May 7th – Day 3, The Orangery, Chateau d’Etoges

And so to dinner, for the second dinner of our package, the Menu Gourmande, again to be served in the Orangery at the Chateau d’Etoges. After Sunday’s Menu Decouverte, we were very much looking forwards to it. But first, a table on the terrace where we could admire the rather fine selection of supercars on view as their owners had just checked in. The trio were a Ferrari, a McLaren, and a Bentley, and it somehow seemed just right to have a chateau, a gaggle of stupidly expensive cars, and a bottle of Champagne on a sunny evening!

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Eventually we were joined by W and E, and we wandered in to dinner, where we chose to have the wine pairing, thus saving ourselves a telling off from Jerome. If he didn’t approve of the choices, he could take it up with the sommelier!

We had snacked during the day in Troyes, finding a very pleasant place in the maze of tiny medieval streets, where we ordered a glass of Champagne each.

CHATEAU D'ETOGES, MENU GOURMANDE, GAZPACHO 002

An “apero” plate accompanied it, as we really didn’t want a full lunch, not in the face of the evening’s dinner. It was somewhat larger than we might have expected, but good and freshly prepared, if somewhat heavy on the cheese!

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Anyway, to return to dinner. We started with a small amuse bouches, this time a version of gazpacho, very tomatoey, chilled nicely, and refreshing at the end of a hot, sticky day.

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We then moved on to the starters, of which there was a choice of two. The foie gras terrine with pears and grapes stewed in honey was predictably excellent, the fruit puree adding a lovely sweet kick to something that on its own can be far too fatty after the first mouthful or two. It was most harmonious and as unctuous as you could wish.

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The other starter was a real stunner, lobster cooked two ways, with a crustacean sauce that gave off waves of shellfish bisque aromas. It smelled wonderful before I even got a fork to it. It didn’t disappoint, the lobster flesh tender and sweet as it should be, no hint of dryness or of that watery-fresh-from-the-freezer effect that you get when a restaurant is cutting corners! I just wish it had been bigger.

CHATEAU D'ETOGES, MENU GOURMANDE, LOBSTER TWO WAYS, CRUSTACEAN SAUCE 005

Fish was next up, with a perfect piece of turbot, served with leeks and an Asian-style vinaigrette, the fish coated with a sesame crust. So, good for you as well as tasty. What’s not to like? The leeks were very fresh, the vinaigrette majoring on flavour, not just acidity.

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A small detour for a fruit sorbet was followed by the main event, the meat. Here there was again a choice of two meats (although there was also fish for the non-meat eaters). It was a choice between two of my favourite things, pigeon or lamb. Lynne and I did our usual compromise and shared one of each. The crispy lamb fillet with herbs, confit aubergine and tomato fondue was brilliant, technically very clever, though not especially showy, and I thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful.

CHATEAU D'ETOGES, MENU GOURMANDE, CRISPY LAMB FILLET WITH HERBS, CONFIT AUBERGINE, TOMATO FONDUE 009

The pigeon was an altogether more structural thing. The breast was cooked rare, the leg confitted to a fibrous softness, and the white asparagus and pleurottes with it added to a woodland resonance that I loved. I’d happily eat either of the two meat dishes any time so I think we can consider them a success.

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The cheese trolley was duly literally wheeled out again, and again we indulged. It would have been terribly rude not to. When cheese is kept this well, you’d be an idiot not to really.

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A pre-dessert was similar to the previous nights, but this time with apricot, not raspberry. It eased us into the final stage nicely. The choice of desserts included this vanilla mousse, with coffee milk, blond chocolate, and that ingredient du jour, quinoa, in this instance puffed. We would encounter it in a number of different ways before we were done!

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The other option was a tiny but amazing passion fruit souffle, served with a Grand Marnier and passion fruit granita. I do love a well made souffle, and this was one!

CHATEAU D'ETOGES, MENU GOURMANDE, PASSION FRUIT SOUFFLE, GRAND MARNIER AND PASSION FRUIT GRANITA 015

And that just left the petit fours, before we staggered off to bed, happy, full, and ready to get packed and move on in the morning!

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