The French have a glorious way with cheese. Oh don’t get me wrong, so do the Italians, the Scandinavians, and whoever else makes cheese. I ❤ cheese. I’ve always wondered what my life would be like if I was lactose intolerant or vegan. Sometimes I choose to not eat dairy products or animal products, but life without cheese would be like the sky without sun. Of course, we can get too much sun, or not protect ourselves from possible damage caused by too much cheese. Everything in moderation EXCEPT when you eat at La Bonne Soupe in NYC. You really have no idea of how much cheese you’ve eaten … until the next day. Kinda like not realizing how many bottles of wine you drank, or how you accidentally tried one too many types of mixed drinks, and then finished the night with wine. You wake up with a hangover. A cheese hangover.
I’ve written about it before, just over a year ago. I’ve been planning this meal with colleagues ever since. I tried to save up my non-weight-watching program points to use at dinner. Can you use other people’s points, like how you can share air mileage? I’m sure I used up a city block’s worth of points. I’m sure we ate enough cheese to feed a city block for a week.
The service is fast, staff attentive and willing to indulge our French, n’est-ce pas? We felt good about starting with salad, our meager attempt to balance what was to with greens. Mesclun greens, endives, tomatoes, caramelized walnuts and gorgonzola. Naturally the salad we ordered was sprinkled with crumbled cheese; I think the word is covered, not sprinkled … I should say that anything we ordered was being split four ways. It wasn’t like we each ate an entire salad by ourselves. I didn’t take a picture of the salad. Shocker. I was too busy waiting for the fondue.
Next up: fondue. You cannot NOT order the fondue here. I know, a double negative. But doesn’t a negative and a negative make a positive? This is clearly a positive thing to do. (Or is that an odd and an odd? It would be odd NOT to have fondue.) Anyway, you must order the fondue au fromage. Cheese fondue. Order the sliced green apple too, to help balance out the cheese and bread.
Remember that the melted cheese is melted, and is staying in its liquid state because it is H.O.T. You want to enjoy the house white between bites, not gulp because you couldn’t wait to dip your fork-pierced bread into the ooyey-gooey goodness and just as quickly put the bread into your mouth. Slow down. The cheese was so hot — and we really had a hard time slowing it down — we extinguished the flame. The downside was that the thin layer of cheese that remained crusted the fondue pot. It didn’t stop us, though, from using our fondue forks to mine the gold. [I had fondue a couple of weeks ago at the place where hubby and I had our first date. My 11 y.o. loved the skillet version. I texted her this photo and she was drooling. That was mean of me, I know.]
After our stomachs were coated with melted Gruyere we shared croque monsieur, one of les specialties of the house. You’ve seen me make this recipe at home, but nothing compares to eating it in an authentic French bistro in the heart of New York City, except of course eating in a real French bistro.The secret ingredient to this grilled ham and cheese sandwich is the bechamel sauce, just like in really good lasagne. Look at the gorgeous browning on top of the bread.
Course number 4. We clearly needed more cheese. Salad, fondue and sandwich wasn’t enough. We needed a crepe too. La complete or la forestiere are two of my favorites but we didn’t want any meat (ham, in this case), we were trying to show some restraint. We chose la fermiere: leeks and, you got it, cheese. Goat cheese. Leeks are very popular in French cooking, especially from the Brittany region, which is where one of our schools is located. This was also served with greens. Balance … it’s all about balance.
After all the greens we had no room for dessert. We would have gotten cheesecake — to continue the cheese theme — and the chocolate fondue — no explanation needed. After dinner we waddled back to our hotel and bean our cheese intervention. We made a pact that there’d be no cheese at breakfast. But what’s the best way to cure a hangover? You got it. By lunchtime we started eating more cheese. This time, it was Italian.