1* Michelin Tapas Dinner at Fogón
The evening of the epic chocolate tour and pastry tasting, HC and I had early dinner reservations to Fogón. My dining plans in Paris were essentially trying to get a taste of everything and I hoped to get my lips around some good, creative Spanish food. Granted, we’re not in Barcelona but it’s close enough compared to New York City.
Before we parted ways from Gilles Marchal, he told me that he knows the co-owner of Fogón, Vanina Herraiz. (Gilles was a former pastry chef at the 2 Michelin-starred restaurant Le Bristol for 8 years before joining La Maison du Chocolat and chefs have their own community and familiar with each others’ work.) Whilst HC and I were relishing on La Maison du Chocolat’s beautiful chocolates and eclairs, Gilles made a bunch of gift bags for us and one specifically for Mrs. Herraiz (Alberto is her husband is the executive chef and co-owner of this establishment, while she develops the dessert menu and manages the front of the house). His instructions were to give this particular bag to her, via the reservationist or waiter, and we should get a cocktail or something.
As we walked into Fogón, we’re bestowed at the open, airy dining room lined with purple leather seats and banquette with pillows and rustic-looking wooden tables. There was a glass case that contained a whole leg of Iberian ham with its hoof still attached hanging within. Oh, I wish I could get my hands on that lovely cured leg… Anyway, HC and I glanced down the menu contemplating what the heck we want to eat. Indecisive, as we would like to try everything, yet not terribly hungry since we had the pastry tasting at La Maison du Chocolat just three hours ago. I remembered my conversation with Gilles earlier that morning on our way to Nanterre, that his favorite thing to eat there was the paella. Throwing this idea to HC, we went for the paella tasting menu (45€ per person) which consisted of three tapas, one large pan of paella, and dessert. After done ordering, our server indicated that our flatware is hidden inside the table’s drawer. Very cool.
When we passed the gift bag from Gilles to the maître d’, indicating that it’s a gift from Gilles Marchal, Mrs. Herraiz graced her presence at our table, thanking us for the gift and acknowledged that she and Gilles were friends. Then she went to the kitchen and sent out the cocktail above, the Catalan Sangria. A gorgeous, ruby red cocktail that’s intensely fruity with a deep, rich red wines of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and layered with a creamy fruit mousse. Nice apertif to start the meal.
The first round of tapas was the white gazpacho. A shot of smooth, somewhat creamy, white almond soup with a small cube of cantaloupe with almond foam. Very clean flavors of almond and the sweet, perfectly ripened cantaloupe to play off the slight bitterness almond normally has.
Then came out the millefeuille of vegetables. It looks like a bite-sized version of vegetable lasagna except there’s no cheese or any sauce slathered in between. Layers of sweet squashes (like butternut), zucchini, sweet bell pepper, stacked neatly on top of each other then set upon two circles of sweet butternut squash purée and sweet fruit puree. Each millefeuille had a splash of parsley oil. Soft and subtly sweet, it reflects the early summer season.
A duo of playfully cute ceramic bowl that’s about half the size of an espresso cup, arrived filled with a purée of meaty, fruity, briny black Kalamata olives topped with a tissue thin slice of radish and a huge caper berry. This particular tapa needs bread to accompany it to soften the salty-sour flavors, unless you can take that much sodium in your mouth. Side note, I do adore the linen bag that held the bread slices.
A pair of elegant, long handled spoons, containing a precious package of sea bass tartar wrapped in cucumber ribbons with chopped seaweed. (Off menu and compliments from the house). It looked too pretty to eat. When you finally gave in and take that spoon, it’s one creamy, refreshing bite. The seaweed provided the slightly crunchy texture, while the tissue-thin cucumber ribbons melded with the creamy tartar.
The most vaguely familiar dish was this tapa of squid ribbons with fresh peas (off menu and compliments from the house). The fish sauce that’s mixed into the squid noodles tasted familiar to me but I can’t pinpoint what exactly. Anyway, the squid was cooked perfectly, not chewy at all, with the blips of vegetal sweetness from the peas and salty, seafood flavors from the sauce.
Then out came the plate of fried medallions of whiting with citron vert aioli (off menu and compliments from the house). Each coin of fried fish was fresh, piping hot and fluffy in texture with the crisp exterior. The lime mayonnaise made this dish interesting to make me want to eat more (and inspired me to add this to my normal tuna sandwich).
The tapas of pincho moruno (off menu and compliments from the house). In traditional Spanish cuisine, pincho murnos are kebabs of meat (usually pork, beef or chicken) prepared simply with paprika and grilled in an iron skewer or spike. Here, Chef Herraiz used chicken and used a fermented black bean sauce with piquillo peppers and leaflets of Romaine lettuce with the same sauce. Delicious and something familiar, at least to the Asian food culture. It’s a touch salty and not too funky tasting as they managed to turned down the fermented taste from the beans and the piquillo peppers added the sweet-spicy flavor in the background and the chicken is nice and juicy.
After going through the seven tapas, our server brought over the squid ink paella, the restaurant’s signature paella dish amongst the six listed. Set a large fruit de mer platter, except there’s a small candle as a heat source to keep the rice dish warm. It looks daunting to us to finish it, as it took up a large piece of table real estate. We hunkered down and slowly worked our way through the paella. Each creamy, properly cooked bite was swoon-worthy. Briny, seafood-y (in a good way from the squid ink), with little onion-y bites from the chopped green onions and of course, the soccarat (the crunchy bits that are stuck on the bottom of the pan) bites were the best part.
When we finally go to the dessert part of our meal, our server set a dessert menu in a sprinkles jar. Very cute and nostalgic to see sprinkles, for me at least. We’re both struggling to figure out what to have for dessert since we’re really full. HC decided on the Tapas Sucrée as almost every table in the house ordered one over the duration of our meal. The particular thing of interest for her was the little shot of Manzanilla sherry. When I took a really small sip of that wine, it was really potent that a shot can take you a very long way. The other dessert tapas were caramel flan with raspberry (topped with a raspberry infused seaweed), a savarin with rice cream and pineapple (found behind that shot glass of flan, on the right of the photo above), a chocolate boucheron with pineapple and pepper. All very delicious and unusual desserts.
As for myself, I ordered the Lola, their interpretation of the French eclair. An elongated choux pastry, split in half filled with chocolate mascarpone cream topped with cubes of raspberry gelee and fresh raspberries, and dusted with cocoa powder. It plays along the tart and bitter lines of flavor rather than sweet from the tangy mascarpone cheese and tart strawberries and strawberry gelee. The small tiff is the choux being a bit too dry for my liking but it’s overall, an interesting dessert.
After done with dinner and pay our check, we walked across Pont Neuf and were bestowed with a beautiful sunset (despite the fact it was about 9:30 PM). This scene was practically a postcard photo of what Paris would be. Romantic and Old World. Life couldn’t get better than this. At least this whole day from La Maison du Chocolat’s whirlwind tours and this amazing dinner at Fogón, I could die happy.
To see the rest of the photos of this meal, please CLICK HERE.
To see the rest of my Parisian food excursions, please CLICK HERE