It was simply a twist of fate. I wanted to do something special for the “Hungry” Hubby right before Christmas. We always wanted to take a class from Michel Richard ,author of Happy in the Kitchen, at Citronelle. We had such a wonderful dinner there in the spring, so I thought when better to do this than during the holidays.
So I called the restaurant and inquired if they had any seats left for their December classes. My heart deflated when the lady-in-charge said that those classes were sold out. But then she added:
“We do have a special class with Michel Richard and Alice Medrich and there are some seats left in that.”
I wasn’t sure whether I heard her correctly: my chocolate guru, Alice Medrich and Michel Richard in a class together? I couldn’t believe my luck. I did ponder the odd combination: Michel Richard who spins complex multi-layered desserts and Alice Medrich who recently found renewed inspiration in the simplicity of her ingredients and methods … hmm…interesting.
The lady said that the event was handled by the D.C. chapter of Les Dames de Escoffier so she emailed me the information should I want to register.
It took me all but two minutes to decide that, yes, I do want to go so I quickly informed the hubby that he was going to DC with me this Thursday (he really did not have much choice). So what was going to be something special for him turned out to be something special for me.
When I received the flyer via email I noticed that most of the recipes being “demoed” were pretty easy. There was a wine and dessert pairing right after the class so I had an inkling that it was not going to be as informative as her class at Tante Marie.
The class was held in the kitchen and seats were arranged in front of the hot plate. As I suspected, the class attendees looked like they were Park avenue ladies who lunch. Expensive jewelry, perfectly coiffed hair, cashmere shawls – I was glad I told the hubby not to wear jeans (I heard one lady talking about her cashmere coat)
Anyway, my attention was drawn to the stage where Alice and Michel were bantering so humorously together. Apparently Michel and Alice met in France in the 70’s when Alice was staging at Lenotre and Michel was the chef at the restaurant Lenotre. Michel said that he was that young man who had a crush on her and she just ignored him.
“No French boyfriends?” Michel asked.
“No. I was married at that time” Alice responded with a laugh.
Out of the blue Michel asked the audience if they have heard of the book Heat. I think I was the only one who said yes.
He looked to the opposite side of the room and said “let me introduce Monsieur Buford”. My head spun the opposite direction and sure enough standing not 6 feet from me was Bill Buford in the flesh!
Okay, Alice, Michel and Bill in one room. I need a drink. As if on cue Michel said, “Anyone wants champagne, let’s have some champagne!” He signaled one of his wait staff to bring in the bubblies.
I am not a big Champagne connoisseur, but I must say the selection was very smooth and well-balanced.
As expected, the demo was really short. Alice whizzed through the making of the sherry and olive oil pound cake, the Italian chocolate almond torte and the spice dusted brownies. Michel was there for comic relief and to be her kitchen slave (he cleaned up after her so sweetly- clearly he still had a crush on her).
It was over in about 40 minutes and we were filing out of the room when Bill Buford caught up with me because I requested a photo with him earlier. He appeared to be such a soft-spoken and intellectual type guy I really couldn’t picture him in the crazy Babbo kitchen or as Italian Butcher’s apprentice who had caught his apron on fire while stirring ragu (Bill told me he kept that apron) . I went into detective mode and asked him why he was snooping around Michel’s kitchen. He did not know I had a blog so I’m not going to reveal everything he said but all I can say is read the last part of his book where he said “I want to follow Catherine de Medicis. If I’m to understand Italian cooking, I need to cross the Alps and learn what happened next. I have to go to France."
In the dessert and wine tasting area, our tables were set with 4 wine glasses each which were promptly filled with different dessert wines and champagne. Mark Slater, the knowledgeable Citronelle sommelier and 2007 James Beard award winner for best Wine service I might add, walked us through each selection. He said the hardest dessert to pair with wine is chocolate because of its dominant flavor. Although our menu had specific pairings for each dessert he encouraged us to mix and match. We were then presented with a plate of all the samples from the class and then some.
Our favorite was the Italian almond chocolate torte, it was not very sweet but had a wonderful texture. In fact, Michel asked us for a consensus as to what to add to his dessert menu and this had the popular vote. For best pairing ,the Olive oil and sherry pound cake was spot on with its dessert wine of Coteaux de Layon “Les 4 villages”, Domaine Jo Pithon 2005.
Michel then thanked us for coming and gave Alice a big hug and quipped “ Need a job?” and the man who reminded me of Santa Claus left the room (I guess he needed to prepare for dinner service).
Despite the great experience, the hubby and I were itching to get out of there. The “ladies who lunch” were starting to get on my nerves after one of them found fault with the pound cake stating that it had a burnt crust. I wonder where she was when Alice explained that the pound cakes were cooked in a cast iron terrine because there was no loaf pan to be found which was why it had a darker crust. Anyway I repeated that information to her and I was met with an icy stare as if I was an idiot for even speaking up.
Where was Gordon Ramsay when you needed him? I remembered when he told off a woman who found fault with every dish that was served to her. What was that he said “ You’re speaking out of your rear!” He..heh…
After searching for my coat check-ticket for 10 minutes (quite embarrassing to dig into your purse and pull everything out in an upscale restaurant , I finally went into the ladies room to unload the contents of my heavy pocketbook) , we were on our way hitting DC traffic (how do people that live up there deal with this everyday) and headed back to good ole’ Richmond.
I am giving away two signed copies of Pure Dessert. To express interest in joining the raffle, please:
1. Leave a comment stating what your favorite Alice Medrich dessert is and
2. That you wish to be entered in the contest.
Do not forget to leave a valid email address because that is the only way I can contact you. The comment section will be open until Wednesday -Dec 12, 2007 6pm. The winners will be announced on Sunday – Dec 16, 2007.
Other contest rules:
One entry per person. All winners must be 18 years or older. The drawing will be an archaic method – no electronic drawing here. I am going to print all the comments and cut them up and toss them in a box and randomly pick two winners. I am going to send an email to the winner and he/she must respond within 7 days or a new winner will be picked.
Veronica’s Test Kitchen will be responsible for shipping and handling but will not be held liable for any damaged shipment, dissastisfaction with the product or be required to replace said product. Also any required Customs fees in case of international shipment will be the responsibility of the winner.
Veronica’s Test Kitchen also reserves the right to alter the rules of the contest anytime if some kind of unforeseen conflict arises.
I am simply giving away two extra copies of “Pure Dessert”. Alice Medrich or her publisher Artisan is in no way connected to this drawing.