I woke up full this morning.
Last night Tom and I joined 12 others for a five-course meal aboard the Bateau Daphne on the Seine. This restaurant on a small boat is a new experience where small groups such as ours can come and enjoy a traditional French meal while learning about the French wines paired with each of your courses and the history of what is on your plate.
We started on the upper deck with our sommelier, Stephane, introducing us to our first white (or “gold”) wine to have before our first course. He taught us how to experience each wine with our eyes, our nose, and our mouth (ask me to demonstrate for you; I got to be the guinea pig). The first course was Soupe aux Pois Casses (a split pea soup) and you don’t serve wine with soup (who knew?) which is why we had our first wine before going into the boat to dine.
We were all seated together because they believe there is something special in sharing a meal together. Our host, Fred, also dines with you as this is where he shares the history of each course, such as why our dessert of Poire Belle Helene (cooked pear in dark chocolate, cream & almonds) is named after a famous opera in the later 19th century. The same chef liked associating his dishes with big names as he also created Peach Melba and Crepes Suzette. He also started the popular fixed price menu you see all over France and Fred gave us a history lesson on that, too. They had maps of France and other visuals to help as they discussed where wines came from or the history of a particular area.
Between each course, Stephane would entertain us with more wine stories to introduce us to what was to come next. We also had aroma quizzes (did not do so well. Our team thought honey was cherry. Tom’s team didn’t fare much better.) and wine and cheese quizzes. My Wisconsin cheese facts did not help me here either, nor did hailing from the Dairy State seem to impress anyone. They did not serve cheese curds or cheddar during the cheese course of the meal.
It was a lovely evening, ending with a lesson on how to open a bottle of champagne with a sword or sabre. This skill will come in extremely handy in the future, I’m sure.
The boat itself is docked in the Seine right at the foot of Notre Dame. Fred shared that they are only able to dock there on Mondays so that is the day they will offer these experiences: learning the foundation of fresh French foods in the morning, a patisserie class in the afternoon with the chance to learn how to make the sweet treats you are eating, a wine and cheese pairings in early evening and the Once Upon a Table experience we had from 8-11pm.
Because this is a new experience, our hosts will be surveying us for feedback as they prepare for their launch in November. Like everywhere, entrepreneurship is difficult, we wish them the best.
For us, though, it was a great lesson in French gastronomy.
Oh, and did we mention it was free?
My fullness is wearing off now. Perhaps it’s time for a croissant, butter and jam.