Bonjour! We are taking a tour today of the Culinary Capital of the World — France — as we continue to gear up for the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival!
Okay…well, that may be a little overkill. But there’s no denying that French food is something special.
And they are back again in 2014! Woo!!!
As we prepare for this year’s festival to kick off on September 19, let’s sit down to a French Regional Lunch from 2013.
Join me, won’t you?
They’ve made the entrance door a little less secret-looking, but the entrance to Monsieur Paul is still a bit on the understated side. Head for Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie and L’Artisan des Glaces, but make a sharp left at the awning. And you’ve arrived!
Step inside and you’re greeted by a small waiting area and this elegant winding staircase that takes you up to the second-floor restaurant. (There’s also an elevator if you prefer.)
Monsieur Paul is normally only open for dinner service, so it’s a real treat to enjoy lunch here in the recently renovated dining room. During the day, the natural light flooding through the uncovered windows lightens up the formal setting considerably. It’s a nice combination.
There is no assigned seating, so arrive early if you have your heart set on a certain area of the restaurant. Tables are set close together, so it pays to be of a social frame of mind. Most of the time, people respect it if you would rather not chat with strangers. Don’t let this aspect of the experience keep you away. (And, honestly, after the fourth glass of wine, nobody’s a stranger anymore.)
You’ll notice in the photo above that there is a “host” for the luncheon. That’s because each luncheon is themed to a different region of France, and wines are paired to complement the flavors of each dish. A principle from a winery will guide you through each course and pairing.
And speaking of wine, there will be lots of it. My advice? Pace yourself.
I’m excited to show you the menu — let’s get started.
French Regional Lunch at Monsieur Paul
To me, the most interesting part of the French Regional Lunches is that they are just that — about different regions. Each week, they highlight a different region in France. During my luncheon, we were headed to Bordeaux!
Our first wine was poured quickly after we were seated. The light-bodied Château Bonnet White Bordeaux was the perfect aperitif wine. It was excellent to sip on its own, but the crisp finish also paired well with our beginning dish, which was very rich.
Speaking of, our lunch began with an Amuse Bouche. The creamy dish reminded me of a savory creme brulee, if that makes any sense. No sweetness, but the same rich consistency, with the earthiness of mushrooms.
The peppery Arugula on top contrasted nicely with the creamy custard in the small starter. It certainly did its work — we were excited to see what would be next.
Fresh Demi Baguettes arrived to the table next, baked in the ovens of Les Halles below. I’m a big ol’ fan of bread fresh from the oven, and they do it perfectly here.
Our next wine was poured in anticipation of our first course. I thought the Château Bonnet Rosé was the perfect segue from the light white we started with into the heavier dishes that would be coming.
Our first course, Cassolette d’Escargot Cauderanaise — Escargot Cassolette with Bacon — was a twist on a classic. WhileEscargot is a favorite when dining in the France Pavilion, they were made even more fantastic by the addition of what seemed like metric tons of butter and cream. Totally decadent and completely amazing. Everyone at our table wanted seconds!
To prepare us for main course, we received a pour of the next wine — Château Tour de Ségur. Soft and round, this is an excellent, crowd-pleasing wine, and a great pairing for the dish that we were about to enjoy.
Incidentally, the wines we sampled during this lunch were a good foray into French wines for the American wine novice. Not only did they demonstrate excellent variety, but in the case of the Château Bonnet selections, the varietals of the blends are printed on the label. It’s an enjoyable way to learn your French wine regions — read, then taste.
Our main course was Magret de Canard Rôti, Pommes de Terre Douce, Petite Tourte de Queue de Boeuf — Roasted Duck Breast, Sweet Potato, and Oxtail Pie.
I am a HUGE duck fan, and the Roast Duck was perfectly prepared. The Sweet Potato was simply roasted, and complemented the rich meat well.
It seemed a bit odd to me to have what amounted to two main courses side by side. But how could I complain about this? The Oxtail Pie was miniature, edible art.
Peeling back the flaky layers of Puff Pastry revealed a rich stew. This is a specialty of Monsieur Paul’s.
So far, so good.
To lighten things up a bit, we enjoyed a small cheese course next. This, of course, also brought with it another wine pairing. Château Labastide Dauzac Red was another full-bodied red…which I failed to get a photo of. C’est la vie. Things were getting a little hazy at this point, after all.
Our cheese plate was good, although I might have enjoyed something a little more interesting. Still, the semi-hard Emmental provided a nice counter point to the rich dishes that preceded it.
But I couldn’t wait to sample dessert, which sounded pretty fantastic.
The wine paired with our dessert course, J. Vidal-Fleury, Muscat Beaumes De Venise, offers a rich, honeyed sweetness that isn’t cloying, but matches beautifully to fruit-based desserts.
And that was a good thing, because next we were served a beautiful Clafoutis aux Cerises, Sorbet Citron — Cherry Clafoutis with Lemon Sorbet. Pretty, eh?
I expected it to be somewhat like a cobbler, but it was far more rich and dense than that. In fact, the inside seemed more like Frangipane studded with Sweet Cherries. The tart Lemon Sorbet offered a perfect counterpoint.
Replete with a beautiful meal and having consumed more wine than I normally do during the course of a month, I was more than ready for a stroll around World Showcase.
French Regional Lunches still maintain their sparkle. There’s a reason that they continue to be so popular. They are a true celebration of the cuisine and wines that they represent. They embrace and convey the spirit of what the Food and Wine Festival is all about — discovering the flavors of the world amid the magic of Disney. Plus, they’re a great way to spend an enjoyable afternoon with friends!
If you’re up for treating yourself and you have a soft spot for French cuisine, I would definitely give a French Regional Lunch a try. Grab your spot soon, though — these sell out FAST.
Want Even More Information About the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival?
News! The DFB Guide to the 2014 Epcot Food & Wine Festival e-Book is now available!
This 250-page guide to the 2014 Festival offers insider tips and advice as well as all of the details you need to know to plan your best Festival visit ever.
Your purchase includes several bonus items as well — including a full daily schedule of events at the Festival and a printable World Showcase Booth Menu Checklist to carry with you as you Eat around the World!
Use code prefoodwine at check-out for a $3 discount!
For more on the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, check out our Main 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Page.