Monday, December 15, 2014

I've Fallen In Love With Another - Country!

That's something I never thought I'd say, but honestly, I've fallen in love with the Dordogne region of France after watching Rudy Maxa's "Smart Travels", and can't wait to visit!  After finding the show on YouTube I noticed that Rick Steves also has a show on the Dordogne, so I checked that out too.  After the first few minutes of the RS show I knew we'd seen it before, and I was puzzled why I hadn't fallen in love after watching his show.  There were plenty of the same shots, many of the same cutesy villages, but I'm guessing the RS show featured a little too much information on foie gras and the geese who supply this delicacy. That and the fact that "Smart Travels" had shots so gorgeous, so timeless and so evocative that I was practically in tears.  Really.

I'm a sucker for English quaint, or medieval stonework.  Half-timbered house and thatched roofs make me sigh, and looking out at an endless view across row after row of tile or slate roofs is simply a magical experience.  And I've found all that and more in the southwest of France, not far from Bordeaux.

Cruising down, or driving along the Moselle River, gazing up at row after row of grapevines, peering up at pointy towers on hilltop castles and winding through half-timbered villages was other-wordly.  Driving the Romantic Road went from the drama of the Alps to the charm of medieval villages still fortified with town walls and covered ramparts.  And yet this area of France, along and between the Dordogne and Lot rivers, not far from the Atlantic coast, seems to channel everything I love about Umbrian hilltowns and Tuscan beauty with the romance of medieval Germany and a healthy dose of English quaint - in stone and half-timbered houses and villages, into one convenient location.

To sweeten the pot even further the famous caves of Lascaux, with their prehistoric paintings are not far away, and I absolutely LOVE caves!  And, amazingly, a walled city long on my bucket list, and one I'd given up hope of ever seeing, Carcassonne, is about 3 hours away.

.I'm so amazed and excited about discovering a new area that seems tailor made for me that my complete and utter lack of French isn't even dampening my enthusiasm.  And altho I usually don't have much praise for French food (altho I do confess to loving any French bread or pastry), preferring the simplicity of Italian cuisine to the fussiness of French cuisine, I'm absolutely sure that I'll come home more than happy with the food!  I'm sure it won't be necessary, but I could survive on pain au chocolat with no problem at all.  Now all I have to do is wait until 2016....or win the lottery!   And now I finally understand why some of my friends love France the way I love Italy and England - and we're ALL right!!!

Watch the "Smart Travels" show and let me know if you agree with my new crush on France!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Del Frisco's Restaurant Review

For years Del Frisco’s has been our go-to steak house.  The steaks were thick, and juicy, and tender....and so flavorful that I rarely made steak at home because I could never recreate the Del Frisco’s magic. Seriously. Combine one of those steaks with the decadently rich, creamy and cheesy Green Phunque (that I could justify because it contains spinach), and I was satiated in a way that could only be improved upon by chocolate, and the Silk Pie made the evening complete.  Just thinking about it makes my mouth water, but perhaps I need to reconsider.  Del Frisco's may be past its prime, and I don't know if it's a gradual slide. or simply a loss of passion in the kitchen.

I'll admit that it's been a few years since our last visit, but I remember that our last visit was as delicious as ever, and altho we commented (even then!) about the tired, dated decor, the food and excellent service made the surroundings less important.  Now, years on, tired, dated decor has become almost tacky.  When we were seated and I saw the thin, cheap cutlery (I started to call it 'silverware', but I don't think that would be accurate) I wondered if people stealing the 'real' silverware over the years had forced management to eventually use only the cheapest of cutlery.  Maybe the expense of replacing the silverware is what kept them from remodeling - maybe they just couldn't afford it.

The service that night, a Friday, was wonderful, but the restaurant, at least the room we were in, was probably only half full. Our waiter brought a beautiful, warm loaf of bread, along with whipped butter.  We rarely indulge in bread these days, but in anticipation of a wonderful meal, warm bread with butter sounded like an additional treat.  It's hard to describe how disappointed I was when I bit into my thick slice of fluffy white bread.  I don't have to have 9-grain bread or something non-traditional, I LOVE a great yeasty, white bread, especially warm.  This was NOT that bread.  This bread was just airy and tasteless, and the whipped butter didn't even make it worth the trouble.  Okay, at least I've have more room (and less carb-guilt) about that Green Phunque, and the dessert.

We all ordered the rib-eye steak - it's my favorite cut, and I ordered the smaller 12-14 oz steak.  I was rather surprised when the steak arrived.  It was sizzling hot, as always, but it much much thinner than I would have liked.  I will say that despite the thinner cut it was still cooked to perfection.  Altho my steak had what I considered to be an very acceptable amount of fat, others thought their steak was way too fatty.  The flavor was incredible as ever, and I savored every bite.

The Green Phunque was another story.  It was bland - I don't think salt and pepper were used when the dish was prepared, nor any other seasonings.  All in all the dish just didn't seem as satisfying as in the past, and I wished I'd ordered something else, or had a salad.  My cousins, who had been to Del Frisco's just one night before us, said that their salads were drowned in so much dressing they were barely edible.

As I mentioned earlier, the Silk Pie was nice, but the chocolate cake was nothing special.

So, that was our experience, and our (four) cousins, who had dined at Del Frisco's on Thursday night agreed with us on every point.  My cousins all felt their steaks were much too fatty.  I hope this isn't the beginning of the end for a (once) great restaurant, buy I'll probably won't take a chance the next time I'm craving a steak.