These regional French cuisine posts have turned out to be a great excuse to explore unfamiliar Parisian neighborhoods, take weekend trips, and try new restaurants. While Nick and I have already found a Basque restaurant that we really like, I thought it would be fun to give another one a chance. So we headed down the way, under sunny skies, to Au Bascou with a friend we hadn’t seen in a while. (Who was kind enough to lend me her camera, as I absentmindedly forgot mine. Thanks, Lissa!) The cozy bistro has filets of Piment d’Espelette hanging from the exposed wooden beams, and the atmosphere is very relaxed and homey.
Irouleguy is the main wine produced in the Basque country. Composed mainly of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and tannat grapes, it is a robust, rich red that manages to maintain its fruity characteristics – a great match for the hearty dishes of the region. It’s also just a fun word to say.
To start, Lissa and I split the rabbit terrine, and Nick ordered the stuffed piquillo peppers. Our favorite dish at our favorite tapas place in Dallas was the piquillo peppers stuffed with fresh goat cheese and drenched in top-notch olive oil. He was expecting something along those lines, but what arrived on the plate was quite different. The peppers were there, sweet and smoky, and the olive oil was there, and there was even a nice little heap of arugula, but the peppers were not stuffed with goat cheese. Or any cheese. It was morue, the same salt cod used to make that Provençal favorite, brandade. The peppers were good, but you can imagine that first bite, expecting tangy cheese and getting salty fish, was a bit of a surprise. As for the rabbit terrine, it was very flavorful and not at all dry, a common problem when cooking rabbit. The addition of prunes in the terrine made for a nice sweet foil to the savory meat.
For the main course, Nick opted for the braised lamb, which was tender, juicy, and served with eggplant, zucchini, and a timbale of couscous. He said he liked it, but could have done without the fussy little tower. Lissa couldn’t resist the curried monkfish, as nontraditional as it may be, and loved every bite. The sauce in particular got rave reviews. As for me, I got the duck breast topped with foie gras. (Have you ever known me NOT to take the foie gras, given the option?) The duck was a perfect rosy, medium-rare, and the foie was seared crisp on one side while still remaining a decent-sized slab. Impressive. Best of all was the sauce: savory and sweet with a vinegary kick. An exellent pairing with the very rich duck and foie gras combination. As we ate, the clouds that had formed while wer weren’t looking opened up and we could see a torrential downpour through the skylights. But the food was fortifying, and we knew the Métro was only steps from the door.
We all cleaned our plates and were feeling pretty full, but I insisted we taste at least one dessert.
I selected the Beret Basque from the relatively large dessert menu. (I was very tempted by the strawberry millefeuille special, though.) Supposedly, it is a traditional Basque chocolate cake. (Did you know that the beret originally hails from the Basque country? Well, now you do.) The dessert that came to the table, thoughtfully split onto two plates to ease the sharing, did not look a bit rustic. It did, however, resemble a chocolate-lover’s dream. A thin chocolate cookie, topped with a round of chocolate mousse, dolloped with a puddinglike chocolate ice cream and wearing a crisp shard of chocolate for a hat. The three of us made short work of it and exited the restaurant to find the skies blue once more. Which was good, because a short walk home was just what we needed after such a hearty and satisfying meal.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.
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