European Delights


It’s grouse season in London—and mushroom season in Paris. For people lamenting the creeping international sameness of restaurants, this is good news.

Everywhere you go in Paris, people offer you wonderfully meaty mushrooms with silken flesh. You find cèpes everywhere, and to my mind they never taste better than when they’re simply grilled.

But the best mushrooms I had were humble champignons de Paris at L’Astrance. Pacal Barbot, the newly anointed three-star chef, shaves them into paper-thin slivers and layers them with foie gras that has been marinated in verjus. It is almost maddeningly delicious.

The French aren’t fond of grouse, but here in London, where I am at the moment, I’ve eaten it every day. My favorite was at St. John, where it is hung for so long that it ripens into the poultry version of blue cheese, and then roasted to a fine, rare bloodiness. I found myself tearing at it with my fingers until only the bones remained, and then sniffing my hands the whole way home, loath to lose the fragrance.

At Moro, they do the bird differently. This is a more timid grouse, hung for less time and roasted until the meat is merely pink. This, too, is a bird with character, served with hunks of blood sausage, roasted apples and potatoes puréed with more butter than you ever thought possible. The flavor of grouse is like nothing else—both acid and sweet, with a high, flute-like note that goes floating through your mouth. If only you get grouse in the States!

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