Coming Out of the
Into The First of Many D'Artagnans
the way to the formal dining room of the newly opened D'Artagnan
Photo by Harvey Frommer
|People in the little New Hampshire town where we’ve been living
for nearly five years now still talk about D’Artagnan, the French
restaurant that used to be down on Route 10 named for the brave and
reckless fourth musketeer in Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Three
Musketeers. It closed before we arrived, but our neighbors tell
us if the food critics from France had come to New Hampshire while
D’Artagnan was still around, there’d be a three star Michelin in
Well we've begun spreading the news: a new D'Artagnan has just
opened in midtown Manhattan.
It has nothing to do with its erstwhile northern namesake although it
has much to do with its literary one. And the verdict, according to a
group of us who tried it on the night a predicted blizzard never
materialized and the city was a mess of wet snow and eerily quiet streets,
is in: "Vive le nouveau D'Artagnan!"
Outside was dim and damp, but inside D'Artagnan was bright, busy, and
bustling. We divested ourselves of our stormy weather paraphernalia before
a gleaming display case filled with packaged charcuterie, foie gras,
pates, cheeses, meats, and breads which was enough to make us forget the
chill and get the digestive juices flowing.
Just beyond stood the restaurant's open kitchen where chefs in
their whites were stirring, chopping, sautéing, and attending to beef and
poultry turning on a gigantic red rotisserie. People seated at the long
wooden bar, its bottles arranged in a large hutch of the sort you’d
expect to find in a French country house, were sipping their drinks and
nibbling on hors d'oeuvres as they watched the revolving of the rotisserie
with hypnotic fascination.
But D'Artagnan has a second specialty: combining this
authentically French style of cooking with an American attitude that
stresses healthful preparation -- hence the rotisserie for duck breast,
leg of lamb, organic chicken, and the like.
Coming in from the cold on such a dismal night,
several of our group longed for hot soup and swiftly ordered the thick and
hearty soupe du jour made with black beans. Another of us chose the crisp
mesclun salad served with warm goat cheese. But still another determined
to try the specialty of the region. "L'assiette des 3 Foie Gras"
is a platter with three versions of this sublime delicacy: a terrine of
duck foie gras, what they call "Gascon sushi" -- that is foie
gras rolled in duck prosciutto, and what they call "French kiss"
-- a prune marinated in a strong liqueur and stuffed with mousse of
foie gras. The bliss brought on by this trio of taste sensations is
something she has not stopped talking about.
the cassoulet (the typical Gascon stew of beans, garlic, duck sausage and
confit) promised just the kind of comfort a cold and wet night demands, we
were intrigued by the "La Rotisserie du Jour" selections. The
chicken was pungent and juicy; the duck breast was cooked to absolute
perfection, not dry, not rare. What a rare delight to enjoy delectable
food and suffer neither guilt nor clogged arteries.
All the bad cholesterol was left behind in the dripping pan.
D'Artagnan's reasonably priced wine list centers on
vintages from Gascony and nearby Bordeaux.
The wine connoisseur among us suggested a bottle from Cahors, a
smooth, dry 1995 Chateau Haute Serre "Gerone Dadine" which cost
$45. "The wine should complement the food," he said. "It
should not stand up and say 'Here I am. Notice me.'" And indeed, his
choice proved a most pleasing accompaniment.
Before dessert, we were treated to Gascony's fire
water Armagnac served in little liqueur glasses whose curved bottoms make
them impossible to put down while any liquid remains. The cheese platter
included goat cheese, Roquefort and also a delicious sheep's milk cheese
from the Pyrenees that was new to us. To conclude this memorable meal, we
indulged in creme Catalane, the smooth Spanish-style creme brulee we
developed a great fondness for during a recent visit to Spain, and an
assortment of homemade ice creams.
Dinner at D'Artagnan runs about $50 per person,
exclusive of wine, tax, and tip; lunch of appetizer and entree is $20 --
excellent value, we think, for such sophisticated preparation, quality
ingredients, and, it must be added, warm and attentive service.
Lise Winicki from Lyon, one third of the D’Artagnan ownership trio
in the formal dining room - Photo by Harvey Frommer - Click to Enlarge
|Perhaps the best thing we can say about D'Artagnan is
it is about to multiply. We learned this from the young and lovely
Lyon-born and raised, Lise Winicki who is one of D'Artagnan's three
managing partners. In
1999, Lise was a stock portfolio manager living in Paris and
visiting the United States when friends introduced her to Ariane
Daguin who had came to New York from the Gascon city Auch to study
at Columbia's School of Journalism. To support herself, Ariane got a
job with a company that sold French specialty foods. There she met
Georges Faison, an American from Texas.
Fifteen years ago, Ariane and Georges went out on
their own, forming D'Artagnan, a wholesale supplier of quality French
products to upscale restaurants. They also have a wholesale outlet in Newark,
"When Ariane and I met, she told me she and
Georges wanted to open a French restaurant. She asked me to join
them," Lise said. "I told her a restaurant didn’t interest me
but a chain of restaurants did.
D'Artagnan concept sprang from that conversation. We decided the know-how
would be from France; the products, for the present, would be mostly from
the United States because they are the best quality. The stress would be
on healthy foods and fresh ingredients. My experience in the financial
world would be put to use in setting up a chain of restaurants."
chain of events seems natural to Lise. "Food has always been my
passion. My parents are crazy about food. When I was growing up, every
weekend we would visit two and three star Michelin restaurants. My
mother’s parents came from Provence; they brought with them the love of
Provencal-style food. My father's parents were Jews who came to France
from Poland to escape the Nazis; from them I got my love of food like
chopped liver and gefilte fish."
With this, the first of what promises to be many
D'Artagnans off to a spectacular start, Lise, Ariane, and Georges foresee
their foie gras (from upper New York State), their rotisseried certified
organic chickens, their cassoulets, their garbures , their array of duck
dishes, and all the rest delighting diners in major cities, suburban
areas, even at airports.
With any luck, we'll even convince them to open a
D’Artagnan in Lyme, New Hampshire.
D’Artagnan: The Rotisserie
152 East 46 Street (between Lexington and Third Avenues)
New York, NY
Photos by Harvey Frommer
# # #
About the Authors: Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband
team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional
scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories
It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in
America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in
Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.
They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining
as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United
States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
about these authors.
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This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer. All rights