Sunday, December 21, 2008

Restaurant Review: Pomme Frite



On the rare occasions when my wife and I get to take a vacation without the kids, one of our great joys is the opportunity to eat in a fine restaurant without worrying about rushing home to relieve the babysitter.

Tonight, we dined at Pomme Frite in Palm Springs. Pomme Frite, which classifies itself as a Belgian bistro, offers traditional bistro food and ambiance. When we sat down, we noticed, for example, that planks from wine crates had been used to cover the wall of our booth--an unusual but appropriate touch.

We began the meal with the traditional bread and butter. But the bread was hot, with a perfectly thick and chewy crust, and the butter was a garlic herb blend. After a long day of travel and shopping, it was delicious.

For an appetizer, we shared the Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Napoleon, which consisted of fresh goat cheese sandwiched between thin slices of roasted red and golden beets, finished off with finely diced beets and a sweet roasted beet and red pepper sauce. While I had never had these flavors together before, the combination was outstanding, and after we finished, I was already plotting out how to try to reconstruct it in my own kitchen. (I may start with this recipe from Wolfgang Puck.

For the main course, my wife got the classic Steak Frites, while I went with the Roasted-Garlic Stuffed Chicken. The steak frites consisted of the classic flatiron steak (which came topped with another round of the delightful garlic herb butter), Belgian-style pomme frites (so much crunchier than common french fries), and a small mixed-green salad. The steak frites compared well to the rendition I usually eat at Bistro Elan, though I think I still give Bistro Elan the nod here. The chicken, which was indeed stuffed with about 10-20 cloves of garlic, rested on top of a roasted vegetable stew (tomatoes, peppers, squash). Both went well with the frites, which came with traditional mayonnaise, American ketchup, and an aioli which seemed to have hints of both mustard and chilis. We accompanied the meal with a Belgian Pilsner from Stella Artois.

To round out the night, we shared Almond Cake with Red Berries, Chantilly Cream, and Creme Anglaise, and paired it with a 2004 Black Muscat, "El Dorado Noir" from Ferrari Carano. The almond cake was a light pastry, almost like a puff or popover rather than the heavy cake I had expected, and the two creams were lightly sweetened, so that the dessert was refreshing rather than cloying. The black muscat was incredibly sweet, with a fiery aftertaste, and was strong enough that its flavor improved in conjunction with the cake.

Overall, it was a fine evening with outstanding food (and outstanding company, of course!). I often tell people that I'm happy with a meal if I come away with one new discovery; this meal provided two--the beet and chevre napoleon, and the black muscat. We'd happily return to Pomme Frite another occasion.

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