Saint-Malo is a quaint, walled city in Brittany situated in the Northwest region of France along the English Channel. It is a favorite destination of my students in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center because it is known as the city in France with more seafood restaurants per capita than any other! I had previously visited Saint-Malo with Chef Christine Brown, who came onboard Marina as a guest chef with a group from Torrance, California, where Christine’s namesake restaurant is located. Christine and I hit it off immediately (as most female chefs do in our male-dominated profession), and we spent the better part of our day in Saint-Malo trying their famous buckwheat crepes and mussels with frites. We also sampled some cider, for which the region is also quite well known.
On this trip I decided to find a restaurant that the locals frequent, far away from the bustle of this summer’s busy tourist trade. I stumbled into a restaurant I was anxious to try, but discovered that they only serve dinner. However, as the chef and owner were having their lunch, I asked for their recommendation of where I might find some great fish. Without hesitation, they pointed me to Le Chalut, which was tucked away along a back street, far from the busy crowds.
No one in the restaurant looked like a tourist, and the staff definitely spoke no English. Perfect. After settling in and ordering a half bottle of a dry white wine from Loire, I was able to communicate to my hostess that I was a chef and to request that her chef please make me a lunch of his choosing. Her eyes lit up and away she went to the kitchen. A few minutes later she returned with the first offering, an amuse bouche of two white fish, a terrine of salmon with roe and a perfectly grilled cherry tomato.
A basket of hot baguettes and local butter arrived, and I was absolutely delighted! As many of our Bon Appétit Culinary Center guests have heard me say, you can tell immediately whether a restaurant is worthy by the bread the chef chooses to place in the basket and the quality of butter or olive oil that is served with it. Bread has gotten a bum rap in recent years, which is unfortunate. Great bread is a testament to the love and care of a talented baker.
Out came the next course, and I was again supremely impressed by the local scallops topped with a thin slice of truffle on a sauce of herbs and butter with fresh white beans. A side of mixed baby greens tossed in a tarragon-infused white wine vinaigrette was like a nose-dive into grandmother’s garden. Incredible.
Then the entrée arrived – sautéed sole in a tomato-infused fish stock topped with fresh asparagus, all cooked to perfection and perfectly seasoned. As a side, Chef sent out roasted white potatoes in a cinnamon-infused butter. The potatoes were caramelized – soft and heavenly in the butter sauce.
With absolutely no room for dessert (although the selection looked magnificent), I was treated to a plate of pastries and a digestif.
During my travels onboard Marina, I’ve enjoyed many memorable meals ashore, but few truly stand out above all the rest. This was one of those unforgettable lunches – a skilled chef, a fabulous setting, fresh ingredients and an attentive server.
As I wandered back to the ship, I passed by one pastry shop after another, marveling at the baguettes and delicate pastries in the windows and behind the glass counters. One window demanded to be captured in the photograph here. (IMG 1401)
These are meringues – egg whites and sugar whipped into airy clouds of sweet decadence – and they were the size of softballs. Alas, they were not to be enjoyed by me, but I bought 24 for my students in our French and Fabulous class today. The verdict? FABULOUS, of course!
Executive Chef, Bon Appétit Culinary Center