Monday, June 9, 2014

French Eats: Cafe des Federations

Oh boy! So I've sorted through about 80% of the photos we took in France and I'm finally starting to blog about it! I've got a travel-related post over on my travel blog (duh) and I've got a food related post right here. I contemplated calling this "FrencheeFrenchh Eats" HA! But I didn't. It's just too long of a title and let's face it, it's just too lame. Just to warn you, I'm going to have a few weeks' worth of French eats on here. I'll do my best to mix in a regular recipe post here and there, but since I'm still working in North Dakota anyway, I'm not cooking much these days.

If you were unaware, I went to France on holiday for 10 days and visited Lyon, Annecy, Nice, and Paris. I've been to Paris before but that was before I even started this blog so I haven't been able to share some of my favorite places yet. I did a decent amount of research on the best places to eat before I even hopped on the plane. I made a bunch dinner reservations - basically I had every dinner of the trip planned out - and it paid off. There wasn't one meal we didn't enjoy.

I'll be sharing my meals (mostly dinners) in chronological order so we're starting off with Lyon. The biggest reason I wanted to visit Lyon was for the food. Lyon is known as the gastronomic capital and rightly so. There are amazing fresh markets, countless eateries, and an amazing number of famous French chefs are from Lyon. I had some high expectations for our meals in Lyon and I was not disappointed.
My sister and I landed in Paris around lunch time and we ate our snack of homemade kimbap while we waited for our train to Lyon. Once we got in and checked into our hotel, it was almost time for dinner. We walked about a mile from our hotel (which was right by the Lyon Part Dieu train station) right to our first French meal of the trip at Cafe des Federations. I booked my table right from the website.

The walk to the restaurant was so sweet. I think Lyon is the perfect combination of city and suburb. If you're looking for a more down-to-earth French city to visit (you know, instead of heading straight to Paris like everyone else, including myself) then Lyon is the place for you!

 
Cafe des Fed is an authentic bouchon, a.k.a. an eatery based in Lyon that serves Lyonnaise cuisine where the bulk of the experience of dining depends on interaction with the owner and having a homey, personalized experience. It's located on a smaller side street with an adorable wooden facade.
One of the first things you'll notice is that there's an intense pig theme. From the napkins to the decor, it's all pigs. Even the owner was wearing a tie with pairs of pigs doing various activities - fishing, dancing, even porking (ha!). My sister and I love pigs - we have several pig decorations at home as well - so it was quite fun for us. Baby sis even contemplated permanently borrowing her napkin but decided to be an honest diner and controlled herself.
Once you're seated, you might wait and wait and wait for a menu but it will never come. There is no menu. You're just given a smashing smattering of delicious starters (which are confusingly known as entrees in France, though to be frank it's like the "entrance" to the meal so really, Americans are the confusing ones, right?). Then, after you've enjoyed your apps, you're dictated the main courses. After your main course you're given a cheese plate, and then you're dictated your dessert choices.

We were started with a poached egg in a red wine stew/soup. The stock was super savory and packed with flavor and the lovely surprise of a soft cooked egg floating around in the rich stew was amazing.
We also had a classic Lyonnaise salad with frisee, crisp croutons, lardons, and a spicy mustard dressing. This might've been my favorite dish of the whole entire trip. I love me some frisee, lardons, and mustard so it was a winning combo.
This lentil salad was also one of the most delicious things I'd eaten in a while. It had a mustard based vinaigrette but it was more subtle than the dressing used in the salad above. The lentils were cooked to perfection - perfectly tender but with a decent bite and they made for an interesting starter.
We also had some classic charcuterie and cornichons which paired really well with crusty bread.
Here's a wider shot of all of our starters (minus the soup).
We were also brought this mash of wild boar, which was cold, but delicious. It was a bit salty for our tastes, but went well with the bread.
When it came to starters, we were offered several dishes, including veal head, chicken in vinegar, and black pudding. We went for the pork cheeks with potatoes and the seafood quenelles. I'd read and heard much about quenelles so I jumped at the chance to eat them.

The pork cheeks were served beautifully in a tiny ceramic dish with two perfectly peeled potatoes. They were cooked to falling-apart-tenderness and the seasoning of the cooking liquid was so intense. I believe it was wine-based because I can't imagine that much flavor being coaxed out of anything else.
The quenelle came as one HUGE quenelle. It was cooked in the richest, creamiest, seafoody chowder imaginable. The quenelle itself was so fluffy and tender with a gold crisp top. I'd never eaten anything like it before. It was amazing, albeit incredibly rich.
At this point, our stomachs were bursting, but we were delivered a cheese plate. To be frank, we were disappointed with these cheeses. Let me be very clear that I love pungent, stinky, green cheeses. That's not the problem here. These cheese were pungent in a metallic, mildew-y way which just didn't suit our palates. The bleu cheese was probably the only yummy one. Oh, and the creamy cheese spread with chives (another Lyonnaise classic) was delicious spread on a pieces of bread.
Like I said, by the time we'd finished our main courses, we were already stuffed so we decided to forego the dessert course. Despite the fact that the desserts being served around us looking quite beautiful, we were so stuffed that there was no food in the world that would look delicious at that point. I think we could blame some of that on the fact that we'd been traveling for a solid 12 hours that morning so we were too pooped to even try.

This stupendous first meal came out to a whopping €27 per person. Man, I love prix-fixe menus, don't you? For that amount of food, I'd definitely say the price is worthwhile. Plus, you've got to remember that tipping practices are different in Europe. The service is included in the meal pricing so that you only end up leaving a euro or two on the table.

So, would I recommend Cafe Des Fed? Yes, yes, a million times yes! It's cozy, it's delicious, and the pig decor, that speaks for itself.
Don't forget to check out these little piggies before you leave!
xoxo.

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