Gourmandistan

Guy Savoy, blood orange tart and the meal that almost wasn’t

Blood orange tart

We purchased our copy of Guy Savoy’s 120 recettes comme à la maison in January 2001, the day after we dined at his then-two-Michelin-starred restaurant near the Arc de Triomphe. The day before our cookbook purchase began with Steve learning (having slept through it) that Michelle had spent the night on our chic Paris hotel’s bathroom floor sick with food poisoning (oysters blamed), followed by her announcement that we should probably cancel our dinner reservation. Michelle was at that point refusing to put anything in her empty stomach, including water. Things looked grim for what had been planned as the final blowout dinner of our anniversary trip, but Steve refused to believe Michelle could not rally.

Notre Dame

Leaving our hotel for a nearby shop, the then-completely-Frenchless Steve wandered from aisle to aisle before finally locating some crackers and ginger ale, which in some corner of his mind qualified as stomach settlers. He got back to the hotel and gave them to Michelle, who by then at least could keep food down. After a bit of walking about, a shower and some fresh clothes, we believed we were ready for Guy Savoy. We had no idea what we were in for.

Steve

Once seated at the restaurant, we chose the “Winter Degustation” menu with wine pairings. That decision set off a meal that lasted for four hours, included what may be the most incredible soup on the planet, and by the end had us begging that food stop being brought.

Michelle

Starting with champagne and a raft of amuses bouche, our meal lasted through 12 courses. Foie gras and fleur de sel, langoustines with coconut, lozenges of bone marrow and veal shank, John Dory with salsify and that amazing artichoke soup with black truffles and Parmesan served with mushroom brioche. (The sadists even offered us seconds on the soup.) Around the time we were served venison with chestnuts, we could have called it a meal. But then came cheese and a parade of desserts that never, never seemed to end. At some point we were visited by M. Savoy himself, though Steve still thinks it could have been a food-induced hallucination. Towards the very end, as we both lay back in our chairs feeling very much like Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote, a server appeared with a little Earl Grey ice cream with pepper custard sauce, “for our digestion.” At the very end, frighteningly, we were served a “wafer thin” sliver of apple tart along with our longed-for coffee, which we felt finally signaled the end of our meal. Fortunately we did not explode, but Michelle’s trip diary records Steve both asking “Why did they try to kill us?” and saying “I may never eat again.” (Steve did start eating again, but it did take a couple of days.)

Notre Dame

We returned home with the cookbook, and in later years returned to Guy Savoy’s restaurant again and again, always enjoying ourselves immensely. But we never tried to make any of the chef’s recettes until recently, when Michelle was once again in a dessert-ish mood. Facing a lack of anything other than citrus, she found this tart recipe and decided to try it. Translating the instructions and following them closely, we ended up with a soupy, strangely curdled filling sloshing around inside a deep-dished pâte brisée. We liked the taste but not the texture, so the chickens ended up with most of the middle. (Steve did nibble away much of the crust, as he noted it was of excellent quality.) On the second try Michelle halved the filling, reduced the juice and made it in tart form with a sweet crust. The result was quite nice—a velvety, orangy-sweet custard that reminded Steve very much of a Creamsicle.

We have not been to Paris in a while and haven’t returned to Guy Savoy in many years. But we’re happy to have the memories of some amazing meals, as well as the knowledge that one’s stomach can handle some amazing transitions. And we’re glad this little cookbook has finally become something more than a memory trigger.

BLOOD ORANGE TART

  • Servings: one 9-1/2 inch tart
  • Print

(adapted from Guy Savoy’s 120 recettes comme à la maison)

  • Partially-baked 9-1/2″ pâte sucrée*
  • 2 blood oranges
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 TB sugar
  • 1 tsp. blood orange zest
  • 1/2 c. blood orange juice, strained (takes about 2 oranges)
  • 2 TB crème fraîche
  • Handful of shelled unsalted pistachios, toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Peel and clean all pith off 2 blood oranges, using a sharp knife. Slice oranges into thin pinwheels (about 1/8″ thick). Remove seeds (if any) and any pithy middles. Set aside.

Whisk together eggs, sugar, zest, orange juice and crème fraîche.

Pour filling into tart shell. Arrange orange slices evenly over the filling. They may sink a bit. Use only enough to mostly cover the filling. Don’t overlap.

Bake for about 18 minutes, until filling is set.

Cool on a wire rack, then remove outer ring of tart pan.  Sprinkle with toasted pistachios.

*As usual, we used this brilliant and easy recipe from Alice Medrich, pre-baked for about 12 minutes in the bottom third of the oven. We’ve made the tart before with a pâte brisée (which is what Guy Savoy’s recipe calls for), and it was fine.

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105 comments

  1. That is a marvelous tart! I love the colors, and the Paris story is really funny – for itself, and because it made me think of similar situations feeling like a fattened goose while courses seemed endless! Merci beaucoup!

    • Aw, sweet. In recent years, I’ve thought: “I’m over Paris. I like the countryside better.” But digging out these old pics (on film no less!) made me think maybe I’ve been mistaken.

    • Thanks, Nick. I was afraid that by the time Steve got around to writing this the blood oranges might be gone. But I think we’ve still got a few in the stores around here.

  2. What is more beautiful: the presentation and color of the blood orange tart or your memories of eating (and then eating, and eating) such a special, anniversary meal in Paris? When I went to Paris, I walked the streets all day on my own, visited museums and ate quick meals from small cafes and shops. It was an amazing week. When I make this tart, I will use the pâte sucrée recipe you recommend; a good one is hard to find. Warm wishes, Shanna

    • The walking around and gawking are the best parts, aren’t they? Do try that Medrich recipe for the sweet crust. It is so easy and you can make it without any pre-planning because it uses melted butter and you just press it by hand into the pan. Plus, it’s delicious.

      • Michelle, YES, the walking and gawking are the best parts. So special and unique… and different from any U.S. city. As for the talented Alice Medrich’s crust, I will make it. I even sent the recipe to a blogging friend who makes lovely pastry. I am a big believer in butter. It has a lot of vitamins and minerals, you know. 😉 I will make this as soon as I discover some blood oranges at the market and send a photo. Delicious is good.

  3. What a beautiful tart! And I am seriously impressed by Michelle’s fortitude. In similar circumstances, I was incapable of rallying, and had to instead cancel my reservation at a two-Michelin-star restaurant. The meal sounds exquisite. And I love Michelle’s hat!

  4. I think Jody and I ate at Guy Savoy in the late nineties. It was a memorable evening for us as well. We were there with a near and dear friend who lives in Paris and it was my introduction to very high-end French cuisine. Two things remain with me from the meal (aside from the fact that our “waiter” was dressed in a significantly better suit than I was), a seafood broth thickened by whisking fresh lobster tomalley into it, and my first bottle of Condrieu, ordered to accompany our meal. We must have ordered the “petite dégustation” because I don’t recall nearly as many courses as you do. A certain kind of French food at its apex. I think you have to be at particular point in your life to fully embrace that kind of meal, and while I eschew tasting menus now, there was a time when I loved them.

    The tart looks wonderful. I made blood orange curd earlier this week, but it disappeared so fast I went back to WFM for some more blood oranges and was told they were gone for the season. Your tart will have to wait for next year. I’m pinning it just so I don’t forget. Great pictures and a lovely memoir of a post. Ken

    • Merci, Ken! To repeat a comment I made above: Ah, to be young(ish) and flush with cash again… G.S. is in a class by itself with respect to overindulgence. We were there a couple of years later just after they got their 3rd star and they were truly unhinged! There was a “bread sommelier” and an ice cream cart. I swear. I actually do like tasting menus. Sure, there’s the overeating and all, but I tire of dishes quickly (why I always like the appetizers much more than the mains) and love getting a little taste of a lot of different things. Plus, I enjoy the freedom of just sitting back and having to make no decisions. It’s all academic now for numerous reasons. But it is fun to remember. And, thank goodness I used to document everything! Oh, and you know, we had our first Viognier there. I’m not sure if it was a Condrieu, but I do recall it being the most fascinatingly floral wine I’d ever experienced. (That was before all those wretched ones started turning up in the States which have sort of ruined the memory for me.)

      Ha! I told Steve if he didn’t hurry up and write this post all the blood oranges would be gone for the year. 🙂

  5. Oh, I love the photos — from the old to the new. And the tart looks so summery and dreamy, and not unlike an edible sunrise with all those bright colors. I’m also very happy to hear you were able to rally through what sounds like a fabulous meal. I actually got sick the night before eating at the French Laundry (I think from over-indulging in rich food at Incanto) and had to have a stern talk with myself. My mental pep talk included a lot of “don’t think about it, just don’t think about it.” Somehow the next day I was fine and ready to make my way through 15 courses! Whew!

    • Thanks so much. You’re a trooper! Those stern talks to one’s self are important! I loved the French Laundry. I don’t remember what we ate (other than the tuna cone, oysters and pearls and a few other things always written about). But I loved, loved, loved the experience. And thank goodness for that, as I really didn’t like much else about Napa.

      • The oysters and pearls blew my mind. I remember foie, lamb and desserts upon desserts upon desserts (plus the take-home goodie bags) but the oysters and pearls are what lingers in my memories the strongest. Just perfectly perfect.

        We only spent a day in Napa (drove to San Fran Friday, did Napa/F.L. Saturday and drove back to PDX Sunday — it was a whirlwind!) but I’m eager to go back. What weren’t you a big fan of?

  6. Stunning post! Ah, you’re making me suffer from the travel bug all over again! In saying that, my husband and I are booked for a trip to Paris in July so I will make sure that I visit some of the landmarks in these photos. As for the tart? Looks absolutely divine. I’m loving the colour contrast between the blood oranges and the vivid pistachios. I would very happily devour this whilst dreaming of being on holiday! x

  7. I wish for a delicious travel adventure, as beautiful and wonderful as this. Thank you for sharing such a delicious memory with us, it’s a dream destination of mine one day, #wishlist. This tart, the blood oranges & pistachio are perfection. So lovely Mich!

    • Thanks so much, Alice. It’s always good to have a trip planned. Just knowing a trip is coming can get one through all sorts of travails. One day, I’m coming your way!

      • Please do! Likewise we’re both hoping to make a big trip to the northern hemisphere ourselves. Have a few big decisions to make (before we move interstate next year,) but travel is on the cards after that 🙂

  8. I am totally in awe that you managed to push through the gastroenteritis and conquer it. Every time I have tried to do that, it has earned me an extended holiday in the bathroom!
    The tart looks gorgeous…..I tried to make one similar once and was a tad underwhelmed by the texture of the filling as well. I shall try this recipe!

    • Thank goodness, I have a very hardy constitution! Though that’s the sickest I can ever remember being. I’m a little sorry to see the great citrus going for the year. But the fact the spring is here is a great consolation!

  9. What a story! My husband got food poisoning in Florence, and I had to use my dodgy tourist Italian to buy medicine. Luckily he revived in time for Sicily. This tart looks just beautiful!

  10. Food poisoning aside, what a fantastic memory to cherish. That meal has to be a once in a lifetime affair. And you brought back the best kind of souvenir, at least for me, a great cookbook. I’m glad you decided to open it, for this tart looks incredible.
    As for the food poisoning, I, too, got it but in Barcelona. A bad clam in my paella was the suspected culprit but, really, does it matter?

    • Thanks, John! Oh, yes, I have cookbooks from everywhere. I’ll use any excuse to buy one! And, as for the food poisoning, it’s amazing I’ve never had it before or since…

  11. At least you made it in two tries, sometimes I had the same situation but perfecting it might be more than two times. Love this recipe specially when you know its a part of your memory, now I want to reminisce what food we had tried when we were in Paris and make it also at home

  12. Your tart is lovely and I know I would enjoy it very much. Isn’t it amazing that the famous restaurants serve pre dessert, dessert, and post dessert. When we were in Germany at one of our favorite Michelin restaurants, I asked our server if it would be possible to send the chocolates that they brought to the table after all the dessert courses to our room. By the time we had said our goodbyes and got to our room, a beautiful box of chocolates was waiting for us. 🙂

    • That’s a really good question. Could be the usual this chef didn’t really have anything to do with the making of this cookbook. Or maybe his oranges weren’t as juicy as ours? I dunno. Worked out ok in the end.

    • Thanks much. It’s funny that now, in the midst of all the summer fruits, blood oranges seem so far away. But I have to remind myself that it wasn’t so long ago!

    • The funny thing we didn’t mention was that the suspected bad oyster was from one of the Savoy baby bistros. (Of course I don’t blame them. And even if I did, they more than made up for it!)

  13. Ema Jones

    The pics are awesome.
    The tart is very tempting.
    I was actually looking for some new tart-ish recipe and I got yours.

  14. Reblogged this on Syrah and Spice and commented:
    This. I want to try this. Picture it: a garden party, pool-side, on a hot summer day like today, with a pitcher of sparkling water infused with fresh fruit, or a cocktail of some variety.
    Also, this is pretty much exactly how I feel about my first trip to France. More on that topic later.

  15. Pingback: blood orange pistachio tart - with love and cupcakes

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