Sunday, March 30, 2008

Colmar and Le Croissant Dore

I said I would write more about Colmar, so here goes. Colmar is an adorable Alsatian town worthy of at least an afternoon visit if not more. Our afternoon stroll took us through the old town, each storefront more wonderfully Alsatian than the next.
There was also a church,the famous Bretzels of Colmar (that I didn't try), And a door marked from the 15th century
and just beyond the passageway to the right of the 15th century door, the most wonderful cafe, Le Croissant Doré. Don't you love how they wrote their name above the door? It reminds me of those Highlights stories that substituted images for words.

The front pastry case lured in many a passerby,and this tiny cafe was packed when we arrived. I loved this place. Art nouveau decor through and through, this cozy place was filled with friends catching up, families treating their children to an afternoon soda, readers curled with a good book...and on top of that, friendly service from two adorable old ladies! All the faux French cafes or bistros in America strive to have what this place has -- authenticity, a neighborhood feel -- and so if you want the real thing, this is where you need to go.

Le Croissant Doré
28, Rue des Marchands
68000 Colmar
Tel: 03 89 23 70 81

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Auberge de l'Ill

To celebrate the coming of Spring, and to take advantage of the Formule Jeunes promotion while it lasts, R and I made reservations at Auberge de l'Ill, which has had its 3 stars since 1967! Quite the Alsatian establishment.

All of the photos might be a little dark because I didn't use a flash.
We were served this cute platter almost immediately, accompanied by champagne. From top to bottom: herbed mini-madeleines, emmental crisps, smoked salmon puffsNext came this emulsion of boudin noir. I hate boudin noir (just the English term -- blood pudding -- makes me cringe), but I loved this and ate every spoonful.
Next up was this gorgeous martini glass full of marinated scallops layered with an asparagus puree and a blood orange gelee:Our waitress encouraged us to mix the layers, and it was delicious even if the blood orange was a bit tart. We also had our pick of the bread basket, and these amazing fresh butters.You can see the logo of the restaurant carved into the butter -- this level of detail was present everywhere, as all the silverware was similarly monogrammed.
After this we had our fish, a bar sauteed to perfection, accompanied by one lonely maki.R's favorite dish came next. This was a work of art. Pigeon and goose liver were tenderly wrapped in cabbage, all inside a fluffy pastry. The pigeon was wonderful, red and meaty, and of course I loved it when it came in such a cute package! Not to mention the gravy...

Finally, the sweet part of the meal, my favorite. I can't remember the order of all the sweets. I think they might have first brought out these cookies while we waited for the full dessert.and these, which were like really crispy mini beignetsThen came the real dessertA shotglassful of cappucino, a scoop of chicory ice cream, and a layered pastry of pear and dark chocolate. The chicory ice cream, pebbled with chewy bits of chicory, was surprisingly yummy.
A huge platter of chocolates to choose from appeared as soon as we had finished the dessert. (yes, I was in heaven, no I wasn't greedy and didn't take one of each). I tried one of the dark rochers, a truffle, and a praline. All were amazing.

One thing that sets this place apart from all others is the service, which you will notice as soon as you enter. Someone to greet you, someone to take your coat, someone to lead you to your table and pull out your chair for you. Even when I got up in the middle of the meal to head to the ladies' room, the waitress precipitated my moves and was behind me to pull out my chair. A new napkin awaited on each return. Still, however vigilant the staff members were, they didn't hover - they, and their touches, were practically invisible, as I guess all hallmark service is.

Each of the dining rooms had their own feeling. The entrance felt Japanese, as you might see in the details of the name; the middle rooms felt like they came out of a Bond movie set from the 70s, with cheesy glass partitioning and shaggy white carpets; and the last room felt like a ski lodge with its roaring fire, deep wood paneled walls, and couches in the back corner. We were seated in this last room, which had a great view of the stream below, with the willow trees and the cobblestone bridge not to far off.

One thing I've left off is the wine pairings that came with each course. Maybe next time I'll remember. Our entire meal, including wine pairings, sparkling water and coffee, was 90€ per person. Quite a steal for such a fabulous experience.

Auberge de l'Ill
2 rue de Collonges au Mont d'Or
Tél. 03 89 71 89 00
Fax 03 89 71 82 83

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Easter!

At the mall in Strasbourg, there were easter bunnies passing out chocolate eggs: I wonder if the French children were confused that there weren't any bells handing out the chocolates.

And at the easter market in Colmar,there were real bunnies! The easter market itself was adorable, with festive goods and decorated trees. Who knew? More on Colmar to come...