Ferrandaise cows were abundant in the Auvergne at the turn of the last century, went almost extinct and have been carefully brought back over the past 30 years. As the restaurant’s menu says, “La Ferrandaise is rare in France, unique in Paris,” since the only place you can get it is at this eponymous bistro.
You’d think that a restaurant named for a cow would be the equivalent of an American steakhouse or would certainly offer a menu bullish on beef, but you’d be wrong: usually only a maximum of three dishes on the fixed-price menu (32 euros for three courses) are ever beef, actually mik-fed veal. Not surprisingly, I always order one of them.
Last night, there was calves liver with amazing mashed potatoes (I know because that’s what my husband had and I kept reaching over to swipe them), blanquette de veau (which the man at the neighboring table had and which caused him to sigh loudly and repeatedly) and perfectly roasted veal with shallot-jus and a more than credible risotto (which is what I had and which, I’m afraid, I, too, may have sighed over too often and too audibly).
You might also think that in a restaurant where the dishes are firmly rooted in tradition, the desserts would run to the beloved but expected, and this time you’d be almost right. Like the savory dishes, the desserts are variations on the classics. Just as you’d hope there would be, there was a tart Tatin, but it was made with quince and apples, and there was a moelleux chocolat, a plain chocolate cake, but it was cut into slender bars and served with gentian ice cream. (Never having had the herb gentian in anything but a digestive, I wasn’t sure what to expect and now, having had it, I can’t describe it. It was milder than I’d anticipated and, just when I thought I might have caught the elusive flavor, the little scoop was finished.) And there was a wine-poached pear, but its playmate was unusual: licorice ice cream – the component that clenched my decision!
I think the ice cream was made by melting Zan, teensy hard licorice candies that are bought in thin, scored plaques. The flavor of the ice cream was strong – licorice doesn’t ever really fade into the background – but it managed to be a good team player paired with the pear and a couple of speculoos (spice) cookies. Of course, I want to try making this at home – and I will.
It was great to discover a new flavor combination just a few hours after hitting town. I’m taking it as a sign that there’ll be lots more surprises in the coming weeks. I’ll keep you posted.