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.
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.
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.
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.)
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
(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.