Anna’s Foodie Reviews

May 1, 2008

Vincent – A Restaurant

Filed under: 3 Stars,General Chatter — by annarichmond @ 11:57 am

Saturday night, before seeing Earth, Wind, and Fire rock the Pacer Center Benefit at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Tom and I dined a Vincent – A Restaurant, on Nicollett Mall in Minneapolis. Opened in 2001 by Chef /Owner Vincent Francoual, this French restaurant is very lovely. We had eaten lunch there a couple of times, but this was our first dinner. We were very pleased to see a tasting menu offered, and ordered it with the wine pairings.

While enjoying our pre-dinner cocktails, Champagne for me and a gin and tonic for Tom, our server brought us a wonderful, small espresso cup of curried carrot soup. It was very tasty, with a little sweetness to it. I wish it had been a bigger portion, but it did the job of an amuse bouche, to tempt your tastebuds, just as it should.

I finished the Curry Soup before we took the picture!

Our first course was an Endive and Arugula Salad, Oranges, Serrano Ham, Marcona Almonds, Manchego Cheese, and Honey Vinaigrette. This plate had many tastes, but they all worked really well together. I loved the almonds and the cheese, taming the bitterness of the endive and arugula. The wine paired with this was a Coteaux d’ Aix en Provence, commanderie de la Bargemare 2006. Alone, I found this light pink wine, very faint in taste as well as color, but all the flavors from the salad really brought this wine to life.

This salad had many flavors that blended well together

The second course was a choice between Pan Seared Scallops, Leeks, Fingerling Potatoes, and Orange Sauce, and Pan Seared ABC Farm Foie Gras, Whipped Yukon Gold Mashed, Diced Butternut Squash, and Balsamic Vinegar. I chose the first option, which was one perfectly seared scallop topped with an orange slice in an orange sauce with the sauteed leeks and potaotes. The leeks added a nice sweetness to this dish. It was paired with a Hugel et Fils, “Gentil” Alsace 2005, a Riesling, Pinot Blanc,and Gewurtatraminer blend.

A Perfectly Seared Scallop in Orange Sauce

Tom, of course, had the seared foie gras. He loved the foie gras and thought the potatoes were good, but that the butternut squash was under cooked and that the dish would have been better with a sweet fruit of some kind. He ordered a Sauternes, from Chateau Myrat, 2003, to go with it. A very good choice.

Pan Seared ABC Farm Foie Gras

Next came Roasted Arctic Char, Black Lentil Ragout, Braised artichoke Hearts, in a Shallot and White Wine Reduction, with Mixed Micro Herbs. This was nicely paired with Chateau Haut-Pasquet Bordeaux 2006, a Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion blend.

Roasted Arctic Char

Pan Seared Beef Tenderlion, Oyster Mushrooms, Salted Pork, Oven Dried Grape Tomatoes, with Chickpea Fries, in Green Peppercorn Tarragon Sauce was our fourth course. I found this whole dish a little too salty. I liked the chickpea fries, better than polenta fries, which would have been an obvious choice. The big bold Ladesa Vineyards, Napa Valley, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon was really wonderful.

Seared Beef Tenderloin

A decadent Louis XV Chocolate Cake, paired with a Pineau des Charentes Chateau, an organic sweet dessert wine with a cognac flavor, was a great ending to the meal.

Louis XV Chocolate Cake

The restaurant was quite busy, there was even a large table of prom goers dining across the room. We were seated upstairs, which was a little more quiet, and very good for people watching along Nicollet Mall. Our server was very busy, but very good and really took the time to explain the dishes and the wines. We will visit again.

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March 6, 2007

pacific’O

Filed under: 2 Stars,3 Stars,General Chatter — by annarichmond @ 8:39 pm

Once upon a time, all those many years ago, I watched Chef James McDonald on “Great Chefs, Great Cities”. He prepared a beautiful dish and I made sure that pacific’Os was one of our first stops on our trip to Maui. Tom and I were not impressed enough with our meal for a return visit the next year. We have tried this award winning restaurant since then, and still, we were not real impressed. This year we decided to give it one last shot.

We had 7:00 reservations, and arrived at 6:55. The hostess at the front had seen too many episodes of Sex and the City. She apparently thought that she could yield her power over guests like the hostesses in the hot spots of Manhattan. There was no one else around, and plenty of open tables. She informed us that she would come find us at 7:00, “when your reservation is”. OK- we had a seat at the bar and ordered a glass of wine when, at 7:02, she graced us with a table. I don’t expect royal treatment or special favors, but in Hawaii, I expect a smile, an “Aloha”, and just some pleasant Island treatment. We did not see a hint of any of these things.

This evening was slow at the restaurant, due to the unfriendly weather, so there was only 2 servers. We got our orders in a timely manner, but did not see much of our wait person.

I will say that pacific’Os has the most beautiful presentation of it’s dishes. The plates are fun and funky with lots of bold color. It is very pleasing to the eye.

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Prawn Won Ton

I started with the Won Tons. These have won awards at the Taste of Lahaina. A large prawn and basil are wrapped in a won ton, deep fried and served with a spicy sweet and sour sauce and Hawaiian salsa. The won ton were very heavy with oil. The Prawn was good, and the sauce was nice.

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Yuzu Divers

Tom had the Yuza Divers. These crispy coconut rice rolls with seared diver scallops, arugula pesto and zesty yuzu lime sauce won Best in Show at the Taste of Lahaina in 2001. This dish was beautiful and the scallops were done well. There was a whole lot of extra stuff going on with the plate, which was a little distracting.

pacific’Os has it’s own organic and bio-dynamic farm upcountry, near Kula. O’o Farms supplies all the fresh, local produce for pacific’O, it’s sister restaurant, I’O and The Feast at Lele. So, with this in mind, we did try the house salad. Tender greens garnished with Bleu cheese and bacon crumbles, with a soy citrus vinaigrette. It was very nice and fresh.

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Roast Rack
Tom’s main course was the Roast Rack. A tahini and tamarind seasoned New Zealand spring lamb, fresh mint demi and roasted garlic aioli accent. I’m sorry, but again, not fabulous. The bite of it that I had tasted very burnt! I think the spices were burnt. And so many competing flavors…just too much.

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Ono

My fish dish was not any better. I had the nightly special, an Ono marinated in balsamic vinaigrette, grilled and served on black and white jasmine rice, with asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms and basil relish. So many competing flavors and none stood out. The Ono was dry and over cooked. It could have used salt, but we did not have any on our table. (Looking around, other tables did have salt and pepper, ours was just missing.)

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Banana Pinneapple Lumpia

Tom had the Banana Pinneapple Lumpia for dessert. This, he enjoyed. Banana, pineapple and creme cheese puree in flaky pastry served with homemade ice cream. It reminded him of banana’s foster, one of his favorites.
All in all, I’d say we won’t be returning to pacific’O. Three strikes and you’re out. We have never been to I’O, but I have the feeling it would be very similar, having the same chef and vision. The dishes have too many flavors and things going on to be able to really enjoy anything. I feel that in a truly great meal, the dishes are simplistic in flavors that are matched perfectly in taste.

February 13, 2007

The Maalaea Waterfront Restaurant

Filed under: 3 Stars,General Chatter — by annarichmond @ 3:22 pm

On our trip to Maui in 2005, Tom and I were looking for a new restaurant to try. We had decided that Mama’s Fish House had lost it’s magic, and it was time to move on. On Maui, Channel 7 is the visitor channel and a man named Jim Kartes has been talking about his dining experiences on Maui for as long as we have been visiting the island. Of course, he has only the best things to say about every restaurant, but I like to watch and get ideas for new places to try. I saw him talk about the Maalaea Waterfront Restaurant and it’s many awards that it has won, and we decided to check it out. We really enjoyed our dinner that night. We watched a beautiful sunset, had a lovely dinner and a great bottle of Silver Oak from their very impressive wine list.

We were very excited to return to the Waterfront this year. On Tuesday we had 6:00 reservations to watch the sunset, unfortunately, the weather was not very nice and there was no outside seating. The dining room has a very old New York night club feeling. It’s very comfy and cozy. The staff has been around for a long time and seemed to know the menu and wine list well.

We decided on a bottle of Larkmead Cabernet Sauvignon 1998. Our server broke the cork and it had to be pushed into the bottle. She decant the bottle, but we still had cork floating. The wine tasted fine, but at $90.00 a bottle, she should have brought another bottle, or we should have asked for a replacement. I am not one for confrontation, so we drank it. It was a nice wine and I would pick it up in the store for a special dinner at home.

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Tom loves his Island Ahi

Tom started with his favorite, the Fresh Island Ahi, always a winner. I had the Scallop and Shrimp Crepes. I was expecting something different. The description was very inviting: Chilian shrimp, bay scallops. oyster mushrooms, Maui onions in a crepe topped with sherry and lobster cream, Gruyere, Swiss and Parmesan Cheeses. Sounds very French, no? No! It looked and tasted like lasagna. I like lasagna, but that is not what I was expecting. I don’t know where the tomato taste came from.

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shrimp and scallop crepes

We both ordered the wonderful Ceaser salad that is prepared tableside. Our server mixed EVOO (that’s extra virgin olive oil for all of you who are not Rachel Ray devotees), anchovies. garlic, djion mustard, worcestershire, lemon, parmeasean cheese and coddled egg yolk. Fresh Romaine lettuce is tossed in and it is a true Ceaser.

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the table side Ceaser Salad

For the main course, Tom ordered the Ono, Island Style. Ono means “good to eat” in Hawaiian. The fish , also known as Wahoo, is a delicate, sweet tasting lean fish. It was broiled with Chilian red bay shrimp and a scoop of calrose rice, sauteed scallions, carrots, and shitake mushrooms finished with lemon grass, ginger and coconut milk jus lie. Here was a dish that was good, not spectacular. Tom thought it was a bit dry and would have liked more of a sauce.

I had the Opakapaka En bastille. The pink snapper was “imprisioned” in ribbons of fresh angel hair potatoes, sauteed in “Meuniere” sauce of white wine, lemon, garlic. butter and capers, than topped with mushrooms and tomatoes. Again, this was something that had my name all over it, but when it arrived , instead of flavorful and fresh, it was heavy and bland. The potaotes were very overwelming and I didn’t get that fresh island feel. I took off the potato and added salt. All the other flavors sort of blended together. Not stellar.

We went for dessert. Tom chose the old stand by of Taihitian Vanilla Creme Brulee and I tried the coconut creme pie. We liked it, but were not floored.

All in all, I think our dinner reflected our surroundings. It was very heavy and rich with an old New York feel, rather than a fresh island flavor. The Maalaea Waterfront is known as a great place for steak and for it’s award winning wine list, which I think is one of the best and most affordable on the island. I think we will try it again in the next couple of years and hopefully we can recapture the beauty of our first visit.

February 6, 2007

Roy’s Kahana Bar and Grill

Filed under: 3 Stars — by annarichmond @ 8:00 pm

When we visit Maui, we stay at the Sands of Kahana, a wonderful timeshare that we bought 10 years ago. This purchase guarantees us one week a year, just the two of us, to relax and unwind from the other 51 weeks of the year. Our home away from home is on the beach in Kahana, the North-West top of the island. Across the street from our condo is a small strip mall, home to Roy’s Kahana Bar and Grill. There is no ocean view at Roy’s but I have always enjoyed the view of the open kitchen in the front of the restaurant. I love to watch as the kitchen staff runs around and pulls bits and pieces together, and then presents a beautiful plate of wonderful looking food to be brought out to happy diners. When we first came to Maui, Roy’s Nicolina was right next door and you had the choice between the two restaurants. The Nicolina was a little quieter, and seemed a little more relaxed, where the Kahana Grill was louder and filled with movement. Both places had similar menus, with wonderful dishes, so you just had to pick what kind of mood you were in to decide which place to go to. Some trips, we did both! Roy’s Nicolina has been gone for at least five years now, but the Roy’s chain has taken over the Islands and much of the main land.

Our last couple of visits to Roy’s have been hit and miss. Once known for the utmost service, we started to see a difference a few years back. More tables were added, making for close quarters, and the water glasses that seemed to never be empty, now begged to be refilled. The staff was still very friendly, but more rushed and seen less. But, old habits die hard, and Tom does love the chocolate souffle, so we keep going back.

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Back on Maui

This visit, Tom and I both decided on the pre-fix menu. We started with an appetizer sampler. The presentation at Roy’s has always been beautiful, combining the island’s fresh ingredients and a little Asian flair.

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Appetizer sampler

We sampled Roy’s Original Hawaiian Blackened Ahi in a Hot Chinese Mustard Soy Butter Sauce, Roy’s Original Szechuan Style Baby Back Ribs, and Crispy Shrimp & Pork Lumpia with Maui Gold Pineapple Linghan Sauce. This was very good with the lumpia being my favorite. The sauces are always wonderfully paired with the appetizers. This first course was paired with Roy’s Euro-Asian Riesling 2005. It was very light and fruity.

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Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi

The second course was Roy’s classic dish, Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi with Red Bliss Potato in a Lobster Essence. This dish used to be one of my favorite on the island, but this visit, it was very plain and bland. In most fine restaurants, there is no salt or pepper on the table, as none is needed. At Roy’s it was needed, but not present. Tom had the same opinion. We both felt that Roy’s just wasn’t what it used to be. The wine for this course, Roy’s Au Bon Climat “Ohana Reserve” Santa Barbara Chardonay 2005, had not arrived even when we were half finished with the dish. We finally asked another server to bring it. As we finished our fish, our server, who was very nice, but a little stretched, brought over our wine. We had already finished the glass brought to us earlier! If you are ordering a dinner with wine pairings, it’s important to have the wine arrive with the courses.

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Roy’s Chocolate Souffle

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Macadamia Nut Tart

For dessert, Tom had his favorite, Roy’s Chocolate Souffle. You have to order it with your meal, because it takes 20 minutes. This did not disappoint, and Tom had a glass of Edmeades Alden Vineyard, Late Harvest Zinfindel 2003. I had the Macadamia Nut Tart with a Churchill 10 year Tawny Port. Both were very tasty.

All in all, there was nothing glaringly wrong with our meal, it just wasn’t spectacular. Roy’s used to be worth waiting all year for, and now it seems to be just a step up from Red Lobster. We will probably go back, because it is so close to our condo, but it could easily be replace if something stellar comes to the Island.

December 14, 2006

Solera Restaurant, Minneapolis

Filed under: 3 Stars,4 Stars — by annarichmond @ 4:59 pm

Solera is an old favorite of Tom and mine. We have had opportunity to dine here on a number of occasions. We even celebrated Tom’s 40th birthday with friends and family in one of their party rooms back in May. The staff at this fun and funky Spanish Tapas Restaurant is the best and all of our needs were taken care of. The party was a great success and we would recommend it to anyone looking for a great venue.

On Tuesday, we returned as a dining couple, to enjoy a pre-theater meal. We saw the wonderful play Twelve Angry Men, with Richard Thomas and George Wendt. I had to keep Tom from yelling out “Norm” when Mr. Wendt came on stage, and I really wanted to say good-night to John-Boy, but I behaved. The play was great and all the actors really made the characters come to life. I have never seen the movie with Henry Fonda, but I will rent it now. It is a powerful piece of drama. But, I digress…

We were seated in one of the back rooms of the restaurant after what was somewhat of a long and rude wait, while the hostess was on the phone booking a reservation. Being that we had a reservation, I think it was slightly wrong to keep us waiting over five minutes before someone else came to help us, especially when we were the only people up front. Oh, well, nothing that a great glass of Spanish wine can’t make right. Solera has an all Spanish wine list and great wine by the glass for as low as 5 or 6 dollars a pour. Their $6.00 Rojai is a real gem.

The menu consists of small plates of Tapas. We generally pick 3 or 4 each and share. The menu is arranged in three sections: Seasonal, Nuevas, and Tradicional.

My picks were Grilled Lamb Tenderlion with Honey Alioli and Harissa, Fried Calamari with Hot Peppers and Tomato Alioli, Grilled Asparagus with Lomo and Mahon, and Piquilla Peppers Stuffed with Herbed Goat’s Milk Cheese. One of my favorites, goat cheese fritters, is no longer on the menu. I was very sad about this, but gave other goat cheese dishes a try.

The lamb was very good and done very nicely. It was accompanied by an over spiced grilled egg plant, that I didn’t enjoy, but I didn’t order it for the eggplant. The calamari was great, not too rubbery and I loved the dipping sauce. I have always liked the grilled asparagus, and it was good, although some of the spears were very charred, and I didn’t eat them. The peppers stuffed with goat cheese came at the end and was too rich for more than just a taste. They should have been brought out before the heavier lamb.

Tom ordered The Roasted Duck with Sherry Glazed Figs and Goat’s Milk Cheese, Chorizo and Hot Green Peppers with Sidra, Ham and Cheese Croquetas, and Shrimp “a la Plancha” in Sherry Sauce with Serrano Ham.

The Ham and Cheese Croquets have always been one of our favorites, and they were as good as ever. I did not try the Chorizo and Hot Greeen Peppers, but Tom liked them. Be warned: Tom, who can eat anything, thought they were hot, so to a normal person, I would stress caution. The shrimp comes still dressed in it’s all together, including the eyes. I don’t have a problem with pulling apart the little bugger, but when they are prepared in the shell, it is a little too fishy for my taste. The highlight of the tasting was the Duck. The leg and thigh of the duck is roasted and served on a bed of wilted spinich with sherry figs and goat cheese. This was incrediable. Duck, in general, is very greasy and very rich, but so good. The goat cheese paired with it wonderfully.

Solera is where I always recommend people  go if they are looking for fun food and a great atmosphere. It is great fun trying new things and being a bit adventurous. The more items you try, the pricier your night gets, but they do have some great late night bar specials. If you only have a few minutes, they have great service in the bar area and you can give one or two items a taste.

Our service was very good, except for a couple of forgotten plates. We had to remind our server about our last dish and the wait between dishes was long towards the end. We ran out of time for the dessert sampler, but we probably didn’t need it anyway. I would give our visit 3.5 stars on this trip, and as high as 4 on previous visits. We will return and let it earn it’s half star back.

November 22, 2006

California Cafe at MOA

Filed under: 3 Stars,General Chatter — by annarichmond @ 2:19 pm

Tom and I took our four kids to the Mall Of America on Monday night and decided to give the California Cafe a try. I have eaten there before, but we have never brought the kids. This is the kind of place that has low lights, white table cloths and food on the menu that is a bit foreign to children. The kids are now older and have grown past the mac n’ cheese on the kids menu, so we went in.

The California Cafe is a chain restaurant that caters to the business person or group of people who want to enjoy a “California” style meal with good California wine. Fish and chicken prepared with lots of vegetables are the main attraction on the menu. Tom and Gabrielle ordered the salmon with a grapefruit glaze and Victoria had the braised short-ribs.  Tom and I both thought her choice was the best. The meat was very tender and just the right amount of seasoning, as not to be overpowering in flavor. Tom started with the Sesame Ahi and he really enjoyed it. There was a sauce with it, and he said it was good, although he would always take wasabi and soy sauce above anything else offered.

The kids, who have always been calimari fans, started with a plate of calimari and rock shrimp. These were great! They were perfectly done, not overcooked and dry or chewy. Very good.

For Tommy and Elizabeth we ordered off the kid’s menus. The kids menu is a very good deal. It offerers a bento box, where the child picks items off of 4 lists. Tommy had BBQ ribs, french fries, fruit, and salad along with a drink and a homemade ice cream sandwich, all for $6.90. The sandwich was made from two large homemade chocolate chip cookies with creamy vanilla ice cream inside. We ordered the grilled cheese and fries for Elizabeth. Of course, she ate none of them. Victoria ate her Cesar Salad and said it was great. There are crayons and paper to keep them busy. Even though this isn’t the place you would expect to take kids, they treat them very well.

I enjoyed the squash soup, which was truly wonderful, top off with sunflower seeds for a nice little crunch. For dinner, I order the special, Hawaiian Waahoo, a firmer light flavored fish from the Pacific. It was served with rice and julienned vegetables. The fish was overdone for my taste. Fish should be moist and tender, this was neither. Note to self: never order Hawaiian fish if you can’t hear the ukelle playing.

The best part of our visit was the staff. We had a server, Jan, who was training a young man named Doyle. We usually avoid sit down restaurants with Elizabeth, unless she requests them. This night, we bribed her with a trip to Sam Goody, and she was behaving relatively well. She did try a few of her tricks, just to make it interesting. She stared off by trying to re-name Doyle, George, which Doyle mis-took to think that her name was George. After Jan called her “young man” we strightened it all out and they were great with her, never making us feel like would needed to apologize for her behavior. We were able to enjoy a family dinner out, with plenty of conversation and laughs, and never had too worry about what Elizabeth was doing that might be inapproriate.

I am sure we  gave Jan and Doyle a few things to go home and tell their families about. No one ever forgets meeting Elizabeth.

If your looking for a place to take a break from the mad holiday shopping crowds at the Mall of America, give the California Cafe a try and have a glass of great California wine. I suggest the Coppola.

November 20, 2006

Eating like a movie star in Paris, or our meal at Le Grand Colbert

Filed under: 3 Stars,General Chatter — by annarichmond @ 12:45 pm

Saturday night, after the most amazing day at Montmartre and visiting Sacre-Coeur, we met with our friends Rick and Brenda Tulka. Rick and Brenda are native New Yorkers, who decided to give Paris a try over ten years ago and never looked back. I can understand their love for this incredible city, and why they have made it their home. Tom and Rick had e-mailed back and forth and Rick arranged reservations for our dinner. It wasn’t until that morning that Tom remembered that we were going to the “restaurant from that movie, the Nicholson one” Of course I knew that he meant Something’s Gotta Give. I loved that movie and even thought about looking the restaurant up myself to make reservations. I am admittedly a star-struck, fan person. I love going places I’ve read about in books and magazines or have seen in movies. I was thrilled to be visiting Diane Keaton’s character’s favorite restaurant in Paris. And I knew I would order the chicken.

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Le Grand Colbert

Le Grand Colbert is a little off the beaten path and Rick and Brenda took us on our first Metro ride and through some back streets and gardens around the Louvre, and by the Palais Royal. Quite a hike in heels. This is a true French Bistro. The decor is very early 1900’s with high ceilings, frosted glass panels, dark wood, brass,… and lots of old play bills from local theaters. It was very much like the movie, although a little less formal and much more crowded. We were shown a table that was next to the bar and slightly in the walk space. We felt a little squeezed in. The staff was very busy, but pleasant enough. Thankfully for us, Brenda speaks French wonderfully and was able to help us through the menu. I saw only one Poulet (Chicken) on the menu. It was poached in a red wine and served with Pomme Frit (French Fries).

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chicken in red wine

In the movie, Diane Keaton’s character talks about the best roast chicken ever. This wasn’t it. Even though it was baked in the sauce, the chicken was quite dry and there was not a lot of flavor. The fresh parsley was very nice with fresh bursts of flavor. I wish my French was more than “Please” and “Thank You”, I would have asked for the Roast chicken. I recently watched the movie again, and that chicken did look very good.

I did enjoy my appetizer, goat cheese in a puff pastry with salad and beets. It was fresh and flavorful. Tom had the foie gras pate and he shared with Rick and Brenda. They all loved it. Rick and Brenda split a plate of escargot. They enjoyed them.

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Yummy!

Tom and Brenda ordered the lamb chops and they were so good. The best taste was the au gratin potatoes that came with their chops. They were creamy with great French cheeses, with a strong presence of Guryee. Tom is very good at sharing and I ate a good portion of them.

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Lamp Chops

We all had the classic Creme Brulee for dessert and it was a wonderful way to top off a great evening with wonderful friends. This was our second trip to Paris and the second time that Rick and Brenda had gone out of their way to guide us through their city and make us feel welcome. We shared a delicious meal and a great bottle of French wine, what more could you wish for?

I would recommend Le Grand Colbert to anyone looking for a classic French Bistro with a fun story to go with the meal. Order what sounds good to you, skip the chicken and pretend you are a Hollywood Star. Everyone should feel like a Hollywood star in Paris! 

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