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My Trip to Les Halles
Monday, January 01, 2007 | posted by Mike

Les Halles

Happy New Year, everyone!

I mentioned a while back that one of the gifts that I received as a wedding shower present was a copy of Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook and a gift certificate to Les Halles. Mrs. TVFF.com and I were in New York this past weekend and, after spending the afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we headed down to the Park Avenue location.

I had done a bit of reading online about the restaurant and, although I saw a number of reviews that said it was loud and cramped, we arrived fairly early in the evening and were seated in a quiet area right at the front of the restaurant. We decided against a bottle of wine and we each got a pint of Kronenbourg and took a look at the menu. The waiter was very nice to the people at the next table who asked if they had any white zinfandel.

Actually, that's not completely true. I had been looking at the menu and reading through the cookbook, so I was pretty sure what I would be getting. Mrs. TVFF.com, however, reviewed the menu and decided to go with escargot for the appetizer. She enjoyed them, with the garlic parsley butter sufficiently garlicky and tasty enough to dip some of the bread in after the escargot was gone.

I got the pork rillettes, which was just as good as described in the cookbook. The shredded pork melted in my mouth and the cornichons that were served with it provided a nice contrast in taste and texture. My only criticism was that I could have used a few more croutons, as the three that came with it were not nearly enough for the hockey puck sized serving of the pork. Fortunately, I still had some of the bread left, so that filled the bill.

For the main course, we switched to wine (Côtes du Rhône for me, Châteauneuf-du-Pape for her). Mrs. TVFF.com ordered the steak au poivre with the frites. The steak was perfectly done, and the sauce was packed with black pepper flavor. The fries were delicious, crunchy but light as a feather, with a tremendous flavor from the peanut oil. I had more than a few bites of both the steak and the fries and we both thought it was very good.

After reading the cookbook and after repeated recommendations by Dan of PhilaFoodie, I decided to go with the cassoulet. I'm so glad that I did.

The beans were perfectly done, with the sauce full of herbed flavor. Each meat was better than the last, with the duck rich in flavor and extremely tender. The sausage was an extremely pleasant surprise, wonderfully spiced and extremely juicy. I would have gladly picked the duck bone clean, but there was no need as the bone easily slid out of the meat. I finished each of the pork, sausage and duck, but the generous portion meant that I left some of the beans, but it pained me to do so.

Although both Mrs. TVFF.com and I were fairly close to bursting, we did have to at least try a desert, so we decided to split a crème brûlée, with her having a glass of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise and me a café au lait. The custard was thick and velvety, flecked with the black of the vanilla and with a crust that was not too thick. We struggled to finish the whole thing, but it was too good to leave.

In all, we were thrilled with the meal that we had. I certainly went the "comfort food" route with my choices, and that is exactly how it felt when I was done. The leisurely stroll back to Penn Station for the ride home was the perfect end to a great day and a great meal.



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