Monday, February 21, 2011

The Insatiable Journalist Part 2: Dinner with Georges

"You show me better ice cream in Philadelphia and I'll retire today!" Retirement might not be such a bad idea since Chef Georges Perrier is already in his late 60s; but it looks like he's stuck with the long hours for at least a little while longer - the ice cream truly is the best in Philly. In fact, the challenge was modest if anything - with ice cream that good he could have wagered against the whole world. The single scoop of vanilla ice cream is served alongside Le Bec-Fin's "Costa Rica" - Praline Crunch, Bailys Cremeux and Coffee Marscarpone Mousse layered together to what amounts to absolute perfection. I'm indulging despite the fact that over the past two hours I've had four other courses of incredible Le Bec-Fin food because when Chef Georges Perrier himself says "You like dessert? She'll have our Costa Rica," you have their Costa Rica.

But let me explain.

When I started to settle into the idea of writing about Le Bec-Fin during this semester, realizing that I had become too emotionally invested to not write about it, I could never have imagined it going this well. As soon as I confirmed with Patti Klein, owner of the Restaurant Collection PR firm, that I would, in fact, be meeting the one and only Georges Perrier I made reservations for my (shh! don't tell) first meal at LBF. Sitting in the vaulted dinning room that calls to mind the ballroom from Titanic, I had an amazing meal of escargot, striped bass with a french brioche encrusting, roasted wagyu beef, and a milk chocolate mousse cake with a layer of creme brulee in the middle. How was the food? "I mean, it's Le Bec-Fucking-Fin!" my date said when I asked him that same question at the end of our dinner. Translation: extremely high expectations exceptionally well met. I wholeheartedly agreed.

A week later I ventured downstairs to the swanky Le Bar Lyonnais to meet the legendary chef, tape recorder in hand. We spoke for nearly an hour about LBF's legacy and his plans for the future. Then, while I spoke with Le Bec-Fin's executive chef Nicholas Elmi, Georges schmoozed with various patrons and settled in at the bar with Patti and a friend of his. After wrapping of the interviews, I stalled for a fortuitous time looking over my notes, "'annah! 'annah! Come have a drink wit' us!" Georges called to me. And how could I refuse?

It started with wine. But eventually, as Georges implored to "'ave the chef," Chef Elmi, that is, "bring us more food - I'm starving!" and, despite Patti's maternal protests that he was only to have a plate of vegetables in compliance with his supposed diet, everyone complied and the evening turned into a showcase of the new(ish) Chef's ideas for new menu options. We ate things like artichoke cappuccinos and shrimp in duck gelee and the most amazing steak that I remember nothing about except how melt-in-your-mouth tender it was while Georges boasted loudly and made inappropriate comments that sent Patti into a frenzy about whether or not my tape recorder was off.

The thing is, it was. I have plans to spend plenty more time with both Chef Perrier and Chef Elmi on the record (and share the details here!), but the dinner at Le Bar Lyonnais was just for fun - and to forever have a story about my dinner with Georges Perrier.

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