Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bastille Day at Chouchou - San Francisco!

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It was Bastille Day yesterday, the day when Frenchmen unfurl their red, white and blue and celebrate the birthday of 'la belle France', the modern Republic of France.

Just like Americans celebrate the birthday of America on Independence Day.

With the storming of the Bastille fort and the start of the revolution over by 220 years, the call to arms is not for the raising of a musket but for glasses filled with the red and white of le bon vin. a corner of San Francisco, a guillotine was poised on a straw-strewn floor surrounded by les hommes francaises et une femme donned in wigs and 18th century garb.

Chouchou, the French restaurant in Forest Hill that has carved out a niche dans les coeurs de San Franciscans celebrated with gusto le grand anniversaire de la France avec le rouge, blanc et bleu.

Balloons of red, white and blue bobbed against the walls, the strains of la musique francais floated down from an accordion and guitar in the gallery above. Nick, un francais et le chef-owner celebre, brocaded in blue and gold coat and trousers, greeted his guests in his customary effusive style: a warm hand here, an arm around the shoulders there, un mot gentil, how is the food? or a cheery bon appetit!

'It's Nick that makes the place. He greets you with love, and its like he's always known you,' said Julia spontaneously, a regular member of the Chouchou clientele who was sitting at the next table with her husband. 'He makes you feel so welcome.'

And le repas pour le soir? C'etait magnifique! Nick had not let his beau pays down.

Cinque courses served avec l'amour. A complimentary Kir Royal with amuse-bouches.

Appetizers that offered Medjool dates and blood-orange vinaigrette, potato wrapped scallops with fennel, white wine and beurre blanc sauce, oysters, caviar and tome de savoie, a trilogy of tuna, salmon and halibut with pong-zu, Annette and chive-lime dressings, just some of the accoutrements.

And then la petite gourmandize of eggplant caviar, sauteed coppa....three miniature verrines, each subtle and distinct. As Monet painted in myriad dabs of shades, an artistic chef-ing that sprinkles tastes and flavours.

My duck with celery root veloute and white port apple Calvados sauce, served tender and hot, enticing creme brulee trilogy with rosemary, Tahitian vanilla bean and bourbon, and lemon - or as Nick would say, citron. Parfait!

The storming of the Bastille was worth every sweat and grunt and shout for this. It was a feast that would stir even the most lukewarm Francophile to raise a toast.

Vive la France! Vive Chouchou!

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