Tuesday, June 1, 2010
I have been blogging seriously for more than a year now. In all that time I have had some pretty incredible experiences. I have eaten train food on an Amtrak cross-country journey. I have dined in the best and hardest to get into restaurant in the United States and I've done almost everything in between. Somehow when I get home I always find the words to convey my meal to my readers. But I'm afraid this is perhaps my toughest entry.
La Cachette is a restaurant that shouldn't even exist. It's a French Restaurant in the heart of a beach town on the West Coast of Florida. When one thinks about restaurants in CW, short for Clearwater, one usually thinks of Frenchy's, or the old Los Mariachis, not fine dining. The people who live there are not known for being foodie's. I know this because I lived in CW for years before moving up North and more recently, across the Pond.
This point became even more apparent when I entered La Cachette with my two fellow diners. We were the only people there and this didn't improve as the night wore on. In fact, not one single person other than ourselves came to La Cachette that night. When I asked the server/owner's wife about this, she said, "It all depends. Sometimes Tuesday nights can be fully booked, like last week, and sometimes not, like tonight." Some part of me wanted to believe this, but I didn't buy it. I liked the decor, the outside was also pleasant, so why was I so unimpressed? It could have been the three small pieces of hair which adorned my butter. It could also have been the wine sleeve that our server placed on our BYOB Champagne with the words La Cachette written in permanent marker, like my mom used to do with my underwear. But, up until this point I had not had the food. Maybe my considerations would change based on their culinary expertise.
Up first was a very odd looking selection of veggies. It included pickle, sliced carrots and a few other things that simply looked out of place and were not welcome on my table. Surely the starters and main courses would improve matters. Interestingly enough, they did. Markedly. The Frog Legs cooked in the Parisienne style, with Butter and Garlic and a splash of White Wine, sauteed and finished in a Parsley Sauce was so delicious I had to stop for a moment and stare around the dining room to remember where I was. They were Garlicky and rubbery and just flat out gorgeous. The Burgundy Helix Snails cooked in broth of wine and Champagne, with Green Chartreuse Butter with Garlic Shallots and Walnuts was equally good and so were the Fresh Large Deep Sea Scallops, wrapped with a Pastrami style Goose Breast, pan seared and flamed with Cognac, dark brown Balsamic Glaze.
However, I still was not a believer. Surely with a menu this exotic they must freeze their meat and serve it to us weeks after it's delivered. So I asked. The answer was, "Everything is bought fresh." Could this be? The microwaves dinging every minute, or so in the kitchen told me this was probably a lie, but still, the starters were sensational.
When the main courses came out the rest of my skepticism was replaced with sheer joy. My Farm Raised Tender Rabbit marinated in and braised with a rich Red Wine from the Cahors region in France and served in a reduced sauce with Baby Onions, Cremini Mushrooms and Pancetta was close to perfection. Had it not been for the boiled Potato which rested in my sauce like a lost soul, no dressing, no butter, no herbs, it would have been perfect. The Whole Marinated Quail, butterflied and pan seared under a brick, flamed with Cognac and oven finished, with a demi-glace infused with essence of Black Truffles almost made me forget the thin black hair that was on my butter just a few minutes ago. To round out the main courses was the Midwestern Very Lean Pork Tenderloin, split and filled with Wine marinated Red Cabbage, dried fruits and Juniper Berries, covered in puff pastry and oven baked with Madeira Wine Sauce. Like the dishes served before it this also made me forget that I was in Clearwater, Forida. Until dessert came.
The Deep Chocolate Mousse over a Chocolate Ganache, then covered with a very dark Swiss Bittersweet Chocolate was not worth eating and neither was the Old Fashioned Cherry Pie made with Michigan sour Cherries Demerara Sugar and topped with Creme-Fraiche.
So what did I think of La Cachette? I still don't know. I adored the starters and main courses, but I loathed the pre-dinner veggie selection and the dessert. The fact that I heard microwaves dinging the entire meal from the kitchen and had a hair in my butter has sealed this restaurants fate. I would probably never return. I do wish them all the best of luck and I am very glad that downtown Clearwater has this restaurant. Perhaps if the menu was shortened and they concentrated on doing several dishes really well, instead of the 40-50 items that are currently on the menu, they'd have a much better time and manage to keep the doors open for more than a year. If they don't, I'm afraid this niche restaurant is not going to make it. But only time will tell.
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