We've re-visited several old favorites lately that have replaced longtime chefs with new ones. The latest is Vin De Set, which recently said goodbye to executive chef Ivy Magruder and welcomed chef Ryan Buettner into that position. While it's always a bit worrisome when a kitchen gets shuffled around, we're happy to report that this transition of power has been seamless—and delicious.
Of course, the restaurant is well-known for its spectacular rooftop seating, but this time of year, it's obviously not an option. However, the main dining room always is cozy, rustic and inviting all year round.
It's hard for us to go to a French restaurant and not get escargot, and this trip to Vin De Set was no exception. The Escargot Barigoule ($12) was especially good, pairing the tender pieces of snail with bits of smoked bacon, artichokes and pearl onions in a white cream sauce. Our other starter, the Truffle Mushroom Soup ($6), also was exceptional. The combo of these two earthy delicacies was well-balanced, with both flavors showcased with equal aplomb. Plating-wise, it could've used a bit of garnishing to bring the visual appeal up to the level of the flavors involved.
Vin De Set has long been known for its Bouillabaisse ($23), and it's still a stellar dish. This classic French seafood stew was rife with generous chunks of swordfish, corvina, turbot and sole in a tomato broth seasoned with tarragon and fennel. Just the thing to take the chill off.
We went from surf to turf for entree No. 2, ordering up the Rain Crow Ranch Grilled Petite Filets ($27), two juicy cuts of rare grass-fed beef with a hefty portion of yukon gold mashed potatoes and a stuffed tomato on the side. Three sauces were available: bernaise, shallot bleu cheese and brandy peppercorn, which we went with. It was a fairly light sauce that definitely brought out the best of the beef without overwhelming it. This dish was accented quite nicely with a glass of Gerard Bertrand Cabernet Sauvignon ($9).
Though we've always been fond of Vin De Set's version of creme brulee, this time around, we didn't leave much room for dessert. So instead of perusing the dessert menu, we opted to go back to the Fromage section of the dinner menu and picked two very different cow’s milk cheeses to finish up the meal: the firm Cotswold and the creamy Brie ($13). The cheese plate also included a nice selection of accoutrements, including grapes, dried cranberries and walnuts, as well as an array of dipping/spreading choices like baba ganoush, a sweet and spicy mustard and a tapanade.
Personnel changes aside, Vin De Set continues to keep going strong, with no signs of slowing down. For fans of top-notch French cuisine, it remains one of the area's go-tos.
--Vin De Set, 2017 Choteau Ave., 241-8989, vindeset.com.
Vin de Set’s Escargot Barigoule
•1 T canola oil
•2 oz. artichoke heart quarters
•1 oz. smoked bacon, cooked and chopped
•1 oz. pearl onions, skinned and cut in half
•3 oz. escargot, fresh or canned
•1/2 oz. fresh parsley, chopped
•1 slice toasted white bread, cut in half on a bias
•4 oz. Barigoule Sauce
Barigoule Sauce Ingredients:
•2 C heavy whipping cream
•1/4 each preserved lemons, rind only, minced
•4 sprigs fresh thyme (about a 1/4 oz.)
•1/2 oz. minced garlic
•1/2 C dry white wine
•Put garlic, thyme, preserved lemon and white wine in a sauce pan. Bring all to a boil and reduce by half.
•Add heavy cream and bring to a boil. Once the cream begins to boil, turn off the flame and strain.
•Let the sauce cool, but do not season.
•In a wide bottomed sauté pan, heat canola oil.
•Throw in bacon and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally in order to render some of the fat.
•Add pearl onions, artichokes and escargot to the mix and sauté for 1 min to heat through.
•Deglaze with 4 oz. of the Barigoule sauce and reduce until thickened.
•Pour onto serving dish and garnish with parsley and toast points.