For our Thanksgiving the other evening, we headed to Le Bordeaux in Ho Chi Minh Ville (I love that ville, all the French restaurants say that on their menu) for a special dinner. Once our taxi driver actually located the restaurant, things were very nice, if a bit more than I'd anticipated.
We started with a Champagne aperitif and enjoyed some kind of crab amuse in a spoon with dill and a mayonnaise-life creaminess holding the chunks of firm crab together. For my appetizer, I ordered a "Foie Gras Three Ways" (which Jason, ha ha ha, called "ménage à foie"). There was a slice of terrine, a poached sliver, and then a crisply seared chunk. Each was nearly the size of a typical order of foie gras, so when they put the plate down before me, I was both overjoyed and a bit overwhelmed. It was a lot of foie, but it was delicious! My favorite was the seared piece. It had a wonderful crust on the outside but was cooked just enough so that the interior maintained its firm texture. It was the least transformed or adulterated of the three preparations and so its true flavor was most evident. And being a liver lover, I appreciate that!
For my main course, I had a magret de canard with an orange sauce that was sort of marmaladey. And what did I spy atop the beautiful fanned presentation of tasty duck breast? Mon dieu! It was another chunk of crispy seared foie gras! It was delicious, but by the end of the meal (I could only eat half of the duck, and the owner came to ask if everything was OK with the duck when they saw how much I sent back to the kitchen!) I couldn't help but wonder: is there such a thing as too much foie gras?
I love foie gras but it's so rich. Moreover, it's so special. For me it's a few-times-a-year indulgence, and something I really look forward to. Each bite is a nibble of magic. Eating that much at once caused some of its magic to diminish, as if I'd exceeded the foie gras limit. Because I believe for everything, even the yummiest most delicious amazing foods, there is a limit. Six oysters is perfect for me. 18 would not be. Two glass of Champagne is about enough. Three or four glasses and something is lost. A nice chunk of foie gras is just right, and I don't need three.
It reminds me of Thomas Keller's philosophy and the diminishing returns one gets upon successive bites of the same food. The tongue fails to distinguish; the Champagne's bubbles blur or a BBQ pork's tang recedes. Eventually it's just another sip of liquid or bite of liver. And I don't ever want to feel that jaded about anything I eat, be it foie gras or liverwurst. There's a magic that happens when we put tasty food in our mouths, and I don't intend to lose it.
It was in many respects the perfect Thanksgiving dinner: I was stuffed, yet appreciative of what I had. I was thankful for being able to make this trip to Asia; thankful for being able to eat such great food not only on Thanksgiving, but during the entire adventure; and thankful for being able to share it, not just with Jason, but with everyone reading along at home.