There was only one line in the email: “Does anyone know how to spell La REGALADE and frogs legs or what???”
With that we knew that we would have to make a trip to see Maria. Not only to keep our client happy, but also to get some food into our bellies after a long day of tasting.
Its one of those June evenings in Burgundy when the light is spectacular. Our clients can’t believe how light it is. I’m not driving and as we head into Beaune from the north on the RN79, the driver almost misses the little driveway on the left, after the bridge. Thinking back on it, I’m not even sure if there is a sign on the outside. As of this year, though, Maria has put some tables outside on a makeshift terrace that looks frightfully sensual.
Maria knows we are coming. She kisses us. She is a woman who likes to keep things simple. Sparse decoration. Clean white table cloths. A single blackboard of a menu. She wanders in and out of her kitchen. Tells us of her specialties. The Duc wants fish. ‘Oh I’ve got Dover Sole, it’s not on the menu.’ She’s glad we’ve come. ‘Times are tough’, she confides. Later we see that we were her only clients of the evening.
Our client knows what he wants. That’s why he requested the visit to La Regalade. No beating around the bush. Frogs legs, of course. But also morel mushrooms in chicken broth, and truffle coddled eggs. Portions are huge, so we divide things four ways.
We start with the morel mushrooms. Actually the dried kind. She serves them in a chicken broth. Morels were made to go with fowl. And this combo is like getting to the essence of that perfection. Meaty, like both white and dark meat. Also a creaminess that seems inherent in the mushrooms, even if there is no cream in this recipe.
No one makes Frogs legs like Maria. Its not because she’s invented some new recipe or way of preparing them. It is partially because she gets frogs legs that are so bulbous and meaty, and she gets the cooking time perfect to keep them like that. But primarily because they are the epitome of the traditional, buttery, garlicky festival that frogs legs should be.
The coddled eggs are another world. These are summer truffles, she says. That is why they are whiter on the inside. ‘These are the best summer truffles I’ve ever had.’ muffles someone, savoring the length of this dish. Length driven by the white pepper Maria adds. No bitterness just electricity.
Wine with all of this? We bought a couple of things off of the list. That was our corkage fee for doing some ‘re-tasting’ of Vincent Dureuil’s 2007s. We were concentrating on the whites. Perfect Chardonnay. Lemon and citrics, also accentuated by the vintage. But a mineral precision and purity that is extraordinary.
The Duc says little as he works on the Dover Sole. We help him with the pommes de terres that come with his dish. One cannot go to La Regalade and not taste Maria’s frites. The best French fries in the Cote d’Or. Everyone agrees. Cut by hand. Wide. You can still guess the shape of the potatoes. Crispy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. There is a sweetness to them. Must come from a special variety of potatoes. I’ll have to ask Maria.