DiningCity, an online restaurant guide, organizes “Dining with the Stars” – a two week special event where you can eat at Michelin star restaurants for a reasonable price. You pay €59,50 for five courses at a 1 star restaurant, and add a €15 supplement per extra star at other restaurants. I think they organize this twice a year and we usually try to go at least once during those two weeks. This time we chose Fred, where we had been last year when it had only 1 star, but it now has 2 stars, so we were curious what the difference (read: improvement) would be.
We were seated in a semicircle love seat in the back and had an interesting view of the restaurant the entire evening. It was actually the only table that was like that, the rest just had chairs around it. So we were wondering, how did we end up in the love seat? Also, what if you show up with your friend, or colleague, would they still seat you there? We were one of the first people to arrive that evening so perhaps they place a couple there as soon as one walks in. We didn’t ask so I guess we’ll never know. We started our evening off with a glass of bubbly. They have a champagne cart that they bring around and we just tell them what flavors we like and it’s taken care of. I had their Christian Bourmault, which is made exclusive for Fred, a very crisp and refreshing champagne. Pano went for the heavier, more wood influenced Italian spumante, San Pietro.
As usual, you start with some amuses and bread and butter. There were three amuses, the first was a mini Dutch-style kaassoufflé – breaded deep-fried cheese. This one was made with bunkerkaas which comes from the east of the Netherlands and is literally made in bunkers. The second amuse was eel with a cucumber jelly wrapped around it and pieces of pistachio and almond. Last, but not least, was a very light pastry with goose liver, truffle and madeira. The combination of flavors and textures all worked wonderfully. I always love amuses, these tiny bites hold the most exciting and unexpected combinations and leave me wanting more. The bread and salted butter that evening were also very good. The bread was perfectly light and soft in the middle, and extremely crispy on the outside.
Our picture-taking struggle continued this evening unfortunately. The dimmed romantic lighting and the cameras on our phones simply don’t combine well, but I can’t imagine bringing a huge camera to dinner just to get really good photos, and using a flash is very disturbing for other guests. I asked Pano, how do you think other bloggers do this? His answer was that a lot of the bloggers he follows usually go out for lunch. So by definition the pictures are better because there’s more light. Hmmm… what to do? For now you’ll have to suffer with semi, and sometimes very, crappy pictures. Sorry!
Up next was I think my favorite dish of the evening, perfect in its simplicity. Honeytomatoes with a basilicum pesto, a parmesan foam, and parmesan crisps. The tomatoes were skinned and sweet and sour marinated, when you bit into one it exploded with flavor. The pesto and parmesan complimented the tomatoes and the crisps added a textural dimension. Next up we had a langoustine with a potato foam, topinambour mash and finished off with truffle shavings. I had never heard of topinambour before so I Googled it: it’s a root vegetable native to Eastern North America and is also known as Jerusalem artichoke, sunroot, sunchoke, or earth apple. Apparently, according to Wikipedia, “Despite its name, the Jerusalem artichoke has no relation to Jerusalem, and it is not a type of artichoke.” Well that makes sense… A long explanation then follows with various theories as to the origins of the name, have a look if you’re interested. To me it just tasted like a yummy mash with truffle and the langoustine was cooked to perfection. We had a dying breed of wine to go with it, Diwald’s Frühroter Veltliner from Austria. We were told this grape is rarely grown anymore, accounting for maybe 1% of the vineyards in Austria, and is diminishing. It was slightly fruity and acidic, and paired well with the dish.
The third course was the tuna tartar with herring caviar, curry ice cream, sesame cookies, melon balls, and avocado rolled in tomato powder. To drink we had the Laborum Torrontés, by El Porvenir de Cafayate, Argentina. The wine was very flowery and had a bit of a muscatel smell and flavor. It paired well with the food but we didn’t really enjoy it on its own. The different flavors and textures of the dish made every bite a new and different sensation. Our fourth course was turbot with a ravioli of mergelgrot mushrooms, celeriac foam, a violetta potato chip, and chopped brazil nuts. The mergelgrot mushrooms are grown in underground limestone tunnels in the south of the Netherlands, Limburg. The wine pairing was a Spätburgunder by Johannes Geil. Our fifth course was venison steak with pumpkin, beets, mushrooms, and a red wine and onion sauce. A red wine was poured, the Laya DOP Almansa, Spain. The venison was tender and did not have a strong gamey flavor. All in all, a very good dish as well.
To cleanse our palates they served mandarin orange in different ways: ice cream, an egg white foam, a slice of mandarin, mandarin sauce, and finally some rind. Palates freshly cleansed we were ready for course number 6, dessert. We didn’t really realize at the time that we were having 6 courses instead of 5, but what a wonderful treat it was! For dessert we had the option of cheeses or something sweet. I chose sweet, Pano went for cheese. The dessert was a panna cotta with poached pear, nutty ice cream, vanilla sauce, and a chocolate ganache ball. It was topped off with some gold leaf for extra decadence. I really enjoyed it, though the pear was rather unnecessary in my opinion. For the cheeses they come around with a huge cheese cart and you can pick and choose what you like. Pano had a Langres, an unnamed goat cheese from the Pyrenees, Le Nuits d’Or, Rondo biological goat cheese from Italy, and last the Blu ’61. We had two different dessert wines but both don’t remember what they were and the notes taken on our phones made no sense the next day. I guess that happens after bubbles and four glasses of wine. We had a great evening with very good food and interesting wine pairings. After four hours I was tired and ready to go home so we skipped the coffee with friandises, even though they looked amazing. For a two star Michelin restaurant, Fred is actually not that expensive, nor is it overly stiff and formal. It is definitely worth a visit!