Our first meal in Lyon was dinner in a bouchon which is their version of a bistro. Daniel et Denise was named the best bouchon of 2008 and on a Monday evening it was packed with enthusiastic customers. The menu reads like a cardiologist's nightmare: quenelles of brochet in deliciously rich lobster-bisquey Nantua sauce, cured legs of pork, whole veal kidneys cooked in their own fat, and my favourite, tripes lightly battered and roasted with loads of caramelised shallots. We barely finished half the tripes but I enjoyed every bite of the chewy yet tender tripes, their deep earthy meat flavours offset with some some sweetness from the shallots.
And the kicker? Every table gets the same side dish of sautéed potatoes, thinly sliced and very delicious, their edges golden and crispy. I won't be surprised if they had cooked it in duck or goose fat, in Lyon foie gras seem to be the local butter. At the food hall in Les Halles I would later find dozens of stalls selling the fatty liver in all forms, from the rustic Wellington-esque foie gras baked in pastry to chi-chi little canapés all ready for their turn at an elegant dinner party.
Dinner over, we made our way to the hotel. Our group, for we have been joined by my lovely friends Tony and Florence, will have some great food and wine adventures in the days ahead.
The wines of the Rhone region is a complete mystery to me. I had asked husband to limit our wine excursions to one a day, not wanting to traipse around yeasty-smelling cellars and getting too tipsy too early, so he and our friends had to prioritise their choices. First on the agenda was a drive to northern Rhone to the winemaker and wine distributor E. Guigal. Thanks to our friends' connections we were allowed entry, given a private tour and more importantly, a tasting of some very amazing wines, including one of their three "la la las" or La Turque, La Mouline, La Landonne. Silly me, I should have known that my friends would do things in greater style.
Then it was back to Lyon again for lunch. This time we went to a modern place. La Remanence is a cool and elegant white-tablecloth establishment in the heart of the old town. We passed a very civilised afternoon here over a beautiful lunch and a little bit more wine. Children get either fish or meat, served with gorgeous spring vegetables of artichoke hearts and green asparagus.
I had some more organ meats of course. Ever since I read Hard Times by Charles Dickens I have been fascinated with sweetbreads; one of the many among the not-likeable characters in the book, Mrs Sparsit, likes sweetbreads in brown sauce very much. If I see sweetbreads in a menu, I would likely order it. This was excellent although I found the sweetbread a little too large to be truly delicate. The mushrooms sitting on the bottom of the plate were pure deliciousness.
Later there were desserts, coffee and more treats in the form of delicious little caramels and financiers, but we were too satiated to notice. In the car on the way to Orange, we slept while husband and Tony up in the front drove and navigated their way into Provence. There was a detour to a pretty village and lovely sunny weather and puffy clouds in the sky.
Eventually, we reached Orange and their best lodging they have to offer, which turned out to be a motel run by Campanile. The motel was very clean and comfortable, and we were surprised to find ourselves hungry again, in time for dinner at Le Parvis. The menu is provencal, lots of olives and vegetables and less heavy on red meats and offal. My dinner of duck and a fruit-based dessert was very good and relatively light. The service was rather cold, but that didn't matter, because down in Provence and all the places in Rhone we visited, people are very nice. Cars actually stop to let you cross the street, even when they saw you from afar. People do not walk into you as if you are invisible, and they smile a lot more. Is it because of the gorgeous weather, the beautiful produce, or their wines? I think it's all three, don't you?
In the next post, we discover the best of Southern Rhone.
Daniel et Denise
156 rue Créqui, 69003 Lyon
Tel: 04 78 60 66 53
31, rue du Bât d’Argent - 69001 Lyon
Tel: 04 72 00 08 08
55 cours Pourtoules, 84100 Orange
Tel: 04 90 34 82 00