UPDATE: The Restaurant at Walnut Hill College is now French Bistro Perrier.
Marc Vetri lamented that he missed Le Bec-Fin in last week’s Behind the Line Philly Mag article.
Le Bec-Fin is still very much alive (at least in theory) at Walnut Hill College where “King” Georges Perrier is Master in Residence. In his new role at the nationally-acclaimed culinary arts school located in University City, Chef Perrier teaches classes, hosts special dinners, and leads workshops for professional chefs.
On Friday, June 16th, I had the honor of attending one of the school’s special dinners with Chef Perrier. I’m still processing and absorbing the experience that can only be described as nothing short of extraordinary. Even better? Enjoying it with my close friend and food enthusiast Patti. We were seated with fellow food writer Sarah Maiellano (Eater Philly) and her husband Joe; as well as Walnut Hill College Board Member and Philadelphia’s Honorary Consul of France Michael Scullin, Esquire, and his wife Patricia Scullin.
The dinner started with a trifecta of scrumptious amuse bouches: Escargot in Champagne Sauce with Hazelnut-Chartreuse Butter, Lobster Bisque with Scotch Whisky, and Terrine of House Smoked Salmon. An immaculate start. The bisque was so velvety; the snail so sumptuous, and the smoked salmon so simply sublime. (Don’t you just love alliteration?)
We were treated to a glass of Domaine Michel Prunier et Fille (champagne) during the first course; it is pictured below with the Patrick Bottex “La Cueille” Bugey Cerdon Rosé which was served with our second course. My two new favorite sparkling wines, of course.
The second course Terrine de Foie Gras au Poivre de Sichuan – or Terrine of Foie Gras scented with Szechuan Peppercorns – was exceptional. Foie gras is, after all, a well-known delicacy of French cuisine so it was no surprise it was an offering on this menu. Delicate and buttery, it was sheer perfection when spread on rustic, homemade bread.
I’ll never turn down a crab cake. Georges Perrier’s signature Galette de Crabe “Le Bec-Fin” seduced me into a euphoric state. Lump crab meat and shrimp mousse sauteed with a light coating for crispy on the outside, soft on the inside goodness. The dijon mustard sauce added a tantalizingly tangy note. The epitome of haute cuisine!
The crab cake was a hard act to follow. If anything could, Roast Spring Rack of Lamb with Caramelized Vegetables would. Cooked to perfection — just a hint of pink — with spring peas, fava beans, and roasted carrots.
As the French do, we were treated to a French Cheese Course just prior to dessert as a palate cleanser. Superb!
The grand finale was a panache of five dessert samplings: Floating Island with Caramelized Raspberries, Pineapple Poached with Ginger, Frozen Grand Marnier Soufflé, Black Currant Sorbet, and Gâteau au Chocolat Le Bec-Fin. Lord have mercy! I felt as if I had died and gone to gastronomic heaven!
I envy the folks who are taking a week-long culinary tour of France with Chef Perrier, famed pastry chef and culinary pioneer Esther McManus, Walnut Hill College’s President, Daniel Liberatoscioli, and its Director of High School Ambassadorship, Joanna Smyth Lupo next week (July 2-9). I can only imagine how amazing that will be!
I am beyond honored to have been invited to attend and cover this special and unforgettable dinner. I will be sure to let you know when they do it again or watch the Walnut Hill College Facebook page for announcements.
My dear friend Patti and I with King Georges…. two very happy and humble foodies!
The Doyenne of Dining in Philadelphia and South Jersey.