It should be no surprise that I went on another food adventure this past weekend. But what makes this adventure more exciting than any of the others is that it was at the restaurant where the lovely Babette works–and I had the great pleasure of dining at the restaurant with her husband and sister while she was slaving away in the kitchen creating pastry masterpieces.
Johan was nice enough to come pick me up in Juan les Pins, and we arrived at le Château de la Bégude just before 7:00pm. While Johan and Antonia went to change out of their beach clothes and into something more multi-course-dinner appropriate, I snuck into the kitchen.
Actually, I basically just waltzed right in and nobody even questioned it. It was beautiful. Even though I’ve only been in the kitchen once before, it almost feels like its my kitchen too.
I was able to chat with Babette for a bit while she ran around her kitchen making all the final preparations for the service. A part of me wanted to stay in the kitchen all night with her, even while a part of me was excited to experience the restaurant from the dining room.
Leaving Babette to focus, I joined the others on the patio for our dinner at Le Ciste, the gastronomic restaurant at the Château–we were the first ones to sit down to dinner at the restaurant, and we ended up being the last clients to leave.
Due to the family and friends connection and all of us having had visited the Château previously, our table had a fairly constant stream of visitors–everyone from Babette to a multitude of servers to Chef Gabriel himself.
We started our dinner off with a little trio of appetizers as we ordered our menu for the evening. From the advice of Johan, all three of us decided to go with Le Menu du Chateau….though about halfway through our meal we realized that we were actually getting the Menu of Important People to Babette, as our meal was supposed to come with 5 courses and we somehow ended up with 9! Merci beaucoup Chef!!
The entire night we were treated with great love and attention, delicious food, and servers who were clearly invested in whether or not we were enjoying our dishes and our evening–in both English and French (which was important because while I speak English and minimal French, the other two at the table were English and German speakers without a word of French!)
Okay so on to the real reason you are reading this blog post: the food pictures.
Expecting our entres (or starters for those of us who don’t speak British/Australian English 😛 ) first, we were all a bit surprised by the arrival of a plate with a little dome of white on top of a green puree. Since none of us were actually listening to the server when they were describing the dish (I know, we are the worst) we had a great time guessing what the elements in the dish were, and were completely thrilled with ourselves when we correctly guessed that the white dome was a white fish and potato mixture. I thought the green was a spinach puree, though turns out it was swiss chard. Close enough, right?
After that we had another mystery dish–and again we only half listened so we made some guesses about what the main part of the dish was. It turned out to be a langoustine carpaccio, which was good but quite strong, and we were all happy that the dish was well balanced by a creamy mixture and a squid ink cracker.
Three dishes in to our meal we actually got the starter we ordered with our menu. At the recommendation of Johan, who was eating at the restaurant for the third time, I ordered the perfect egg–and believe me, it was perfect. Johan had started talking about the egg while we were still in the car on the way to the Château, and while I trusted it would be good, I didn’t imagine it would be THAT good. Seriously, I could eat that egg ever single day. Preferably for breakfast with some nice pieces of toast. The egg was cooked at 63 degrees and was paired with summer truffles, zucchini and chanterelle mushrooms, along with a creamy sauce that was poured over the top. So much goodness.
We then moved on to an incredibly delicious dish (that again was not on the menu we ordered). After completely devouring everything on the plate, we talked to the server about what exactly it was that we ate.
“Ris de veau!” said Florian.
I was pretty sure that meant some kind of intestine…maybe the liver.
“Umm…its like the liver, but its like all the…umm” Florian attempted in English.
“Organs?” I supplied.
“YES! It’s all the organs!”
As Florian triumphed over the successful conversation in English, I was fairly sure Antonia was going to pass out. The dish she had loved–thinking it was the most tender meat she had ever eaten in her life–ended up to be sweatbreads.
Its probably good we didn’t know in advance what we were eating, or I’m not sure we would have consumed it with such vigor.
We reached the main dish on the menu, and while I wasn’t sure it could get better than the things we had already eaten, it did. I ordered the pork belly, while Antonia had the cod and Johan chose the rack of lamb. And they were all amazing. Seriously so so delicious. Pork belly can be a bit challenging since there is so much fat and it can taste too gamey and be a bit tough if not prepared properly. This was probably in the top three pork belly experiences I’ve ever had–it all but melted in my mouth and was so flavorful and juicy I could have cried.
Content with all our savory dishes but terribly excited for Babette’s creations, I felt like a restless child as I awaited the pre-dessert. The past couple of weeks, Babette has been creating her own pre-desserts, using inspiration and recipes from chefs in and out of France along with her own imagination. Having seen pictures day after day of her new creations on Instagram, I was so excited to finally try one.
Our pre-dessert of the night was a crumble topped with a yogurt cream and a strawberry compote. And it was so good. It was the perfect size and all of the textures and flavors were well balanced with each other. You can tell from the stalker pictures I snapped of the table that Johan and Antonia were as into the dessert as I was 😉
For the main dessert course the three of us decided to order three of the four dessert dishes available at the restaurant and split them between us so that we could all try them.
They were incredible.
The winner of the night (though honestly it was a close call) was the lemon passion fruit dessert, which came with little balls of lemon/passion fruit, meringue, biscuits, fried samosas, and of all things rocket (or arugula for the Americans reading this 😛 ).
The close second for me was the chocolate dessert, with its many textures and flavors of chocolate highlighted by tonka. It was so much chocolate, but it was so delicious.
The third dessert we had was the strawberry dessert, which had an amazing sauce that was poured over the dish and was full of bright flavors and colors–exactly what you want after so many courses of rich food!
Obviously, we ate everything. And barely managed to stop ourselves from licking the plates clean. Johan told one of the servers he wanted to lick the plate–and I don’t think she realized how close to the truth it was.
The night ended (about four hours after we sat down) with the mignardise, which was comprised of passion fruit macarons and two different kinds of mini tarts that Babette had created–again…most tables got one or two things but we were spoiled we extra deliciousness.
Finally, we were left as the last people in the restaurant. Content with the night and so satisfied from all the delicious food, we chatted a bit with Chef Gabriel before sneaking back into the kitchen to say hi to Babette.
It was such an amazing experience, and I am so lucky to have friends to pass my time with like this. If you happen to be in the Côte d’Azur/Valbonne area I highly recommend stopping by the Château de la Bégude for dinner!
A huge thank you to Babette and her family and to all of you reading my blog. Stay tuned for more adventures!