Before I begin with the final installment of the weekend 'o fun. Momma D admonished me to include one of the best part of Saturday night's meal - the cheese plate. J and I went to Whole Foods and got an incredible array of cheeses: a light cheddar with lemon zest, one laced with peppadews, a soft chevre, and a goat's milk gouda. J arranged these with an array of fruit including mango, pears, and apples. The fruit and cheese went really well with the freshness of the whole meal.
So for the Sunday of Mother's Day, J made reservations to go to Michel Richard's Citronelle. We were late in the game and it was one of the few places still taking reservations for brunch. For those of you who may forget, the Sunday of Mother's Day was gorgeous. A little chilly but blissfully sunny. It made wearing a suit on the weekend almost bearable. While I didn't necessarily need the tie to conform with Citronelle's jacket required policy, I thought "in for the penny."
What amazed me about the Citronelle space was how unpretentious it was. It was stylish but not that crazy over the top decor that many restaurants of that cailber are. The staff was friendly and fluent in French. We were seated at a table next to the entrance and what was intersting was that there were exactly enough place setting and chairs for your party. No more and no less. We splurged and ordered Mimosas for J and I and sparkling water for Momma D. The mimosa was delicious. Whatever champagne they used was utter perfection. Crisp without being metallic and complemented the acidity and sweetness of the orange juice perfectly. Then I saw the sommelier with his big ol' top sommelier medallion and realized that the yummyness of the mimosa was no accident.
Michel Richard was right there at the buffet line greeting people and thanking them for coming. I broke out in a goofy smile as I got to bathe in the Santa Claus happy aura that Michel Richard radiates. He looked genuinely happy people were eating his food. Considering a chef of his statue is usually off starting restaurants and signing books, Michel Richard seemed totally human presiding over the buffet line. It's a interesting statement about our society when chefs have become celebrities unto themselves. I'm all for it since people who have had to work their asses off for 18 hour days schlepping bags of flour and getting yelled at to pay their dues certainly should have their props. I was all smiley and tongue-tied but J had his wits aobut him and congratulated Michele Richard on his well-earned James Beard award. J was rewarded with a smile and a pat on the back from Richard.
The other thing that was interesting was that Richard's family came for brunch and they sat at the center table. It was a motley group with older people who only spoke French to slouchy teenagers to a turned out young lesbian in a natty tie. Momma D chatted them up in the buffet line and found out they came to Citronelle ALL THE TIME! I am so jealous.
So what about the brunch? Don't come expecting culinary "innovation." There was primarily traditional brunch food perpared to perfection. I've never seen the dinner menu so I wouldn't know whether the brunch is Richard's A game but the brunch was a back to basics kind of thing, smoked salmon, fishes with sauce, roast chicken, etc. But oh what basics! The humble shrimp with cocktail sauce was sent to new heights with shrimp that was tender, moist and flavorful. The smoked salmon was delightful, delicate and not overpowering pair with the traditional accoutrements of chopped onions, chopped egg whites (separate from the chopped egg yolks), capers and tomatoes.
The potato crust salmon sent me into paroxysms of delight. The potato crust added a buttery texture to the savory salmon. The halibut with saffron sauce was similarly excellent. And as wonderful as the seafood was, the meat was even better. The roast chicken had a aroma of lemon. It didn't hit your tongue, it just wafted up to your nose.
The desserts truly showed off Michel Richard's start as a pastry chef. They were all excellent with the exception of the cocoa dusted grape which tasted weird. But really all of that is obliterated by the THE EGG!!!!! We love the dessert egg with a fiery passion. It's a bit of whimsy that just made our day. Basically it's a hollowed out egg filled with a smooth sugary meringue the consistency of whipped cream and just when you think that is the egg, you get the surprise filling of lemon curd as the egg yolk. FREAKING BRILLIANT!!!!
As you can tell, a good time was had by all. This was not cheap by any means but it was a special occasion place and Momma D's visit is a special ocassion.