My first planned trip to Paris was in my mid-20’s and I decided to take a vacation with a handful of friends. We drove to JFK Airport and got stuck in between the shuttle bus shifts in long-term parking. By the time we got to the gate, Air France had just closed the flight and gave our seats away. They had two seats left and two of our companions went. Three of us decided to go later and one went solo. Needless to say, this is the second Air France flight in my lifetime where I have “missed” a flight to Paris, but let’s just say this one had a happier ending and I went home with a belly full of food and wine fit for the finest connoisseurs. 😋
A few weeks ago, Air France had a promotion to give away invitations to a culinary dinner experience curated and prepared by venerable French chef Daniel Boulud and his teams at Feast & Fêtes and Restaurant Daniel. Two lucky guests would win a pair of business class tickets to Paris including two nights stay at a Marriott Hotel and a dinner at Michelin restaurant The Saint James.
The contest promotion began with announcements on Instagram and Facebook encouraging interested participants and travel addicts to visit the Air France airline stairway in Union Square in New York City. The day that I visited with my daughter was a whopping 93F/33C heat in the middle of New York City. Festive greeters in chic French attire greeted you upon arriving and fans were escorted up the stairway. Once at the top, you were given a French macaron for each visitor and a chance to win one of the coveted invitations to dinner with Daniel Boulud’s team. Finalists were asked to pack a suitcase and bring it with them to the dinner, in case they were the lucky guests to be chosen to fly to Paris on Air France that evening.
Prêt à Aller
There were four nights of catered dinners for Paris for Dessert in a pop-up location on Mulberry Street in SoHo/Nolita and the first night included many Instagram influencers who were selected in advance to attend the event and one pair, again pre-selected, flown to Paris that evening. Once arrived at the venue, guests were greeted, given a boarding pass, luggage “checked in”, and immediately served effervescent La Caravelle champagne and sumptuous caviar from French purveyor, Caviar Sturia with its mild, medium, and strong varieties. First class all the way! Some guests mixed and mingle, others were busy on Instagram and Snapchatting the night away.
Guests were led downstairs to a makeshift room that looked very much like a set of an interior of a private jet with a long table accommodating 12-14 guests depending on the evening. The menu consisted of some of Chef Boulud masterpiece creations and signature eye on detail by his teams.
A Mise en Bouche, La Fève, of Fava Bean with Mint Chive was served with more La Caravelle champagne followed by L’Entrée of white asparagus, almond oil, chorizo, and a “Hollandaise au Vin Jaune” sauce paired with Légende Bordeaux Blanc 2016. Luscious white asparagus were rare in New York City until only a few years ago and one wonders where do they find such large and perfectly prepared ones.
Le poisson, a fish course of Cured Lime Yellow Fin Tuna, was next paired with the most refreshing and clear Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis Premier Cru 2015. I am not a typical fan of chablis wine, but this one was refreshing and divine as a cool brook in the woods during time summertime.
As the dinner progressed towards the reveal, guests were served Hudson Valley Duck with Bing and Rainier cherries paired with their choice of Beaune Legende Medoc Rouge 2015 or Joseph Drouhin-Vaudon Côte de Beaune Rouge 2012. I chose the latter and enjoyed its lighter fruity palate immensely with the duck.
Once the evening came to dessert, two lucky winners were announced and off they went, being escorted by the exuberant Air France, La Caravelle, and Gradient Experiential hidden behind the entry curtains for the La Volaille, the reveal. The remaining guests were served and encouraged to share two desserts, Crème Brulée and Cherry Tarte with Sicilian Pistachio Griotte Confit. One could not depart from the lovely dinner without the signature Boulud lemon madeleines, which the entertaining and charming staff sent me home with a bundle of them.
Sadly, Chef Boulud was not there that evening, occupied and engaged in projects in London, Provence, and the incredible Red Bull Hangar in Salzburg (future post to come!) but whenever Daniel Boulud is involved with something, you know that you will have a very special occasion and memories.
Les Mémoires du Chef
To dine a Daniel Boulud meal is certainly well worth packing a suitcase even if you didn’t get to step foot on a Boeing 747 that evening.
Thank you Paris for Dessert and Air France for a most memorable evening, including the Paris bug where the only cure for la malade is really going to Paris or France. Merci beaucoup!