An Embarrassment of Riches


Sea Creatures had the pleasure of traveling to France with Chefs Renee, Bobby, Marie and Jay, and beverage program manager Carrie. We ate, we drank, we watched, and we listened. Most of all we learned. As Marie, chef at The Whale Wins, put it, "it was an embarrassment of riches."

Upon our return, we exchanged pictures, stories, and reflections over email. A lot of what we shared fell into one of few categories--favorite dishes or meals, ideas borrowed, surprises, and favorite memories. Here are the highlights, copied and pasted from our emails:


Favorite dishes:

One of my favorite dishes was a whole sole to myself at L’Escailler du Bistrot.  It was served simply with browned butter and parsley potatoes.  I may have clapped my hands a few times.  The sole was beautifully sprawled out, naked and browned from the heat of the oven. There was no question in my mind that I could finish the whole thing, but as half of the little creature disappeared, and I peeled away his entire spine (in one fell swoop!), I realized there was a whole other half…I slowed down…I stopped…I was beat. -Marie

The gigantic ris de veau our last night at L’Ami Jean. They were not breaded or coated in flour but perfectly sautéed in butter and sherry with a pan sauce I can still taste, in a portion big enough for a family of four.  I ate every bite but the one I shared with Jay (he asked). The whipped potatoes that came with were creamy and dreamy. My favorite meal? There are so many! Paris arrival lunch at Septime, the staff was so welcoming and the food delicious. Paul Bocuse in Lyon because it was so fancy and retro in all its over the top fussiness and formality. Definitely not how we eat at home. The meaty goodness of Le Severo with old Bordeaux and a staff of characters. Clamato – it reminded me of home via Paris! Our home cooked meals in Beaujolais. We were and are so spoiled.-Carrie

My favorite dish was for sure the Plateau Fruits de Mer at L’Escailler du Bistrot. It was a spectacle.  Beautiful and exactly what I would want in our new restaurant on Capitol Hill. My favorite meals were Clamato and Severo for a tie. I loved being squished into the booth at Clamato eating atlantic seafood and just generally having a great time together.  Severo--the incredible meat and that vintage bordeaux. YUM! -Renee

My favorite was the berry and cheese “escargot” from Du Pain et Des Idees, the bakery up the street from our flat in Paris--the one I ate while walking. My favorite meal was definitely at Clamato. Clamato was very similar to Walrus both in style of food and service. They seemed to be playing with more adventurous food flavors than most other places. -Bobby

I enjoyed eating all the iterations of steak tartare throughout the trip. The cod at Septime with the bergamot cream and the shaved citron is also at the top of my list. It was simple and lovely. -Jay

Ideas:

Clearing plates like a Lyonnais! Loved the style and efficiency. -Carrie

I was most inspired by the markets--seeing all the amazing food and ingredients there. If anything I will bring some shaved citron into the kitchen and maybe some seaweed butter. -Jay

I loved the spicy carrot puree from Clamato. I am making something like it at Whale--a smoked version. -Marie

I was reminded that less can be more in the kitchen. Perfect ingredients cared for in the right way paired with knowing when to stop is tough to beat. -Renee

Service! We need to be more aware. No aloofness. I know it gets hard, but service is the first and last thing people remember about a place. -Bobby

Surprises:

The wine tasting in Bourgogne surprised me. I don’t taste very often, and every time I do, I realize how much I love it! Wine is complicated, but it can be approachable and fun. -Bobby

How big the food portions were. Natural wine--it was everywhere and not so good. I’m thinking ‘natural’ is a very overused, undefined, nebulous term. -Carrie

I was surprised at just how much better service is in Seattle, to the point that when service was actually good it was notable. -Jay

Natural wine? Run! -Marie

Memories:

Our huddling together like penguins to stay warm is my favorite!  Thinking I might die if I eat another bite of cheese, but somehow making room.  The fact that Marie's Mont d'or cheese was so old and stinky that we had to put it outside.  Also loved the effort made by everyone to stay up and party! -Renee

I liked staying up until after 3am most nights. We rallied! I also remember how BAD all the natural wines were--and the fact that we still drank them! -Bobby

My favorite memory was going to Beaune and visiting the two vignerons; it was great to be able to talk to people about what they do in the actual place they work. Nicolas Rossignol led a great tasting. -Jay

Not so funny but I did appreciate seeing the chaos of La Pointe de Grouin. It made me proud of the restaurants we work in and represent. I’d like to try this place again with adjusted expectations and a shot of tequila or two before I walk in the door. -Carrie

Yeah, Jeremy sleeping on the bathroom floor in Regnie. I felt bad for him, but it was too funny. -Marie

Reflections:

The food on this trip reminded me of all the beautiful, classic bistro fare I fell in love with when I first began cooking--blanket de beau at Le Severo, head cheese, sauce gribiche and blood sausage at L'Aubergne du Pont de Collonges. -Marie

I loved tasting with Nicolas Rossignol in Beaune.  I’ve had many, many experiences in cellars all over France and Italy just like this and I never get tired of it. The wine, the people, and the stories--it just makes me happy.  I especially liked that Bobby made a connection with Nicolas and ‘got’ Burgundy, in Burgundy. We witnessed a life changing moment! -Carrie

This trip really reinforced how good our food is here in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Not just the seafood, meat, and veggie farmers, but also the cooks making everything. -Bobby

It was just great to be in a food culture that is so faithful to itself--great bread, great cheese, mostly great wine. The French have access to quality food, and they make it a part of their life in a way that doesn't necessarily happen here in the US. I think that we are starting to really appreciate good food here, but it was really great to be in a more developed, richer food tradition. -Jay


Sea Creatures is looking forward to making staff travel a tradition. We are planning to include front of house staff next year as well. Look for us in Italy, or maybe Spain, or maybe Portugal, or...

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