Right up my alley – something that was all about cooking and hard to get into – the challenge I thrive on! Going onto the ArtHome website, I checked out the Nomiya restaurant and some further googling revealed that it might be worth getting up at 4am EST to try to snag a booking for that also – if you’re in any doubt, check out David Lebovitz’s review here. An art installation/ cooking class/ restaurant overlooking the Eiffel Tower? Sign me up! Well actually, let me TRY to sign myself up…
Fast forward to the week of November 20th. My alarm was set for 3.55am every morning to try to make sure I was online for 10am Paris time when reservations for the restaurant opened. November 20, 21, 22 and 23 came and went and my beauty sleep was unnecessarily interrupted since at 10.00.01 the reservations all of a sudden changed from “opening soon” to “full”. Can you say GRRRRR x 100000? I had managed to snag ONE place for the Dec 24th cooking class (having completely misunderstood the reservation process and timeline for the ateliers so missed out on a spot for Neil). November 24th came and again, I thought I had missed out on the lunch/ dinner reservations, since at 4am, they showed “full”. Completely randomly, later on when I was awake properly, I checked again before I shut the window in Firefox and all of a sudden, I saw two places free for the lunch on the same day I was signed up for the lunchtime atelier – in about 30 seconds, I had reserved and paid for those spots!!! I emailed Neil and Alicia the details of their lunch date, informing them that they would need to be taking copious notes and pictures for a guest blog entry (it’s coming….).
The day before our respective “experiences” we received a call confirming the meeting place and time (“Please make sure you are right on time” was the plea) so we were there early to suss things out at the Palais de Tokyo – somewhere I had actually never visited in my time living in Paris.
11.45am, December 24th. Not a soul to be seen in the Palais de Tokyo (well, not anyone who wanted to make eye contact…) despite our intent peering into various windows and attempts to open various doors. We headed over to the Musée d’Art Moderne next door who informed us that the Palais de de Tokyo would open at 12.00 on the dot. Mais bien sûr, what were we thinking getting there early? (oh that’s right we were told to make sure we were there on time!). In any case, a gaggle of chic-looking Parisians were all there waiting with us and looking as perplexed as we were so we were in good company.
12 noon came and with it, the opening of the medieval-weight metal doors. We all filed in obediently and lined up at the Événement Electrolux desk. The lucky 12 diners headed off to wait in their designated waiting area and myself and the other atelier participants waited in ours. We headed up the stairs and into a door marked “Do not enter” – it felt all a little bit illicit 😉
The setting was truly magical – a cook’s dream kitchen, with every Electrolux appliance you could possibly imagine or want!
Our “menu” for the day consisted of little more than a list of ingredients. The Nomiya menu changes every day more or less and is based on seasonal foods and the atelier usually makes the main course and dessert from the previous night so it’s never actually documented in writing for the diners or the budding chefs in the ateliers. It turned out that I ended up making nearly the exact same main course as Neil and Alicia would be eating and the same dessert (though ours was not nearly as neatly plated!).
As there were 12 of us, we were divided up into three stations – dessert, vegetables and the foie gras-based main course. The dessert was announced as being “Île Flottante” and since I had already had a very successful day working with egg whites the day before at Lenôtre, I chose to stay with the dessert station. I managed to complete my given tasks and help my fellow station chefs fairly quickly (as well as act as translator for a couple of Americans who has unwittingly booked the workshop not realising it would take place entirely in French) though so was able to photograph most of the steps in the other dish too.
Main course: Pan-fried foie gras with potatoes, caramelised apples and endives served with a pain d’épices toast.
The result? Absolutely stunning! Whilst it was not the 5 course meal the diners in the glass cube above us enjoyed, it was enough of a taste but more importantly, it showed us that 5-star cuisine IS do-able at home. I could totally prepare this meal with no problem for a dinner (now there’s a possible challenge….). I thoroughly enjoyed myself – what a great way to spend Christmas Eve afternoon! If you know you are going to be in Paris in the next few months and you can organise yourself in advance, try to get a place for the cooking workshop or even the lunch/ dinner. Set your alarms – it’s SO worth it!