By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
The late Paul Bocuse was known for his (at the time) innovative cooking techniques.
Often referred to as the Father of Nouvelle Cuisine, the Lyon native who transformed butter, cream and wine into a sacred trilogy of gourmet cookery gently wrapped in a layer of puffed pastry was renowned for his unabashed irreverence for classic French cuisine.
Rather than drown his culinary creations in torrents of heavy sauces, he preferred to glorify his dishes by bathing them in a light shower of sweet cream and fine wine, and plenty of fresh creamier butter – always butter, which Bocuse considered to be the most important single ingredient in any recipe.
Alejandro Fuentes – owner of the upscale Cedrón restaurant in Condesa and arguably the best French cuisine chef in Mexico today – never knew Bocuse personally, but during his time in Paris (where he worked at the esteemed Ritz Hotel), he did study under several of Bocuse’s disciples, and the Culinary Lion of Lyon was, in many ways, his gastronomic role model.
So when Fuentes learned of Bocuse’s death last Jan. 20 at the age of 91, he decided to create a comestible homage to the French chef.
That homage took the form of a two-week food festival of recreations of some of Bocuse’s most famous dishes, now in full swing at Cedrón.
The restaurant’s 11-item Paul Bocuse menu, which will be available through Sunday, Feb. 18, includes Fuentes’ interpretation of Bocuse’s celebrated pastried fish fillet in a sumptuous choron sauce (a tangy béarnaise sauce spiked with tomato – a Bocuse tradition), this time using fresh salmon simmered in a scallop mousseline broth.
If you try nothing else on the Bocuse menu, this is the one item you simply cannot miss.
Another Bocuse classic on the festival’s bill of fare is the truffled VGE soup, a slow-cooked (we are talking 24 hours of back-burner smolder) with black truffles, foie gras and fresh vegetables served in a porcelain bowl and crowned with a flaky crust.
Bocuse created this delightful broth in 1975 for then-French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing at a luncheon given at the Élysée Palace during which he received the Légion d’Honneur for his contributions to the nation’s culinary heritage.
All the dishes on the Bocuse menu are delicious (with the possible exception of the veal kidneys in sherry sauce, which, are definitely an acquired taste, but then again, kidneys are an acquired taste no matter how you prepare them), but perhaps the star of the lineup is the deboned stuffed rabbit in a savory sauce of steamed rabbit marrow, goose liver, dried fruits and mustard stock.
For dessert, there are two options: a layered Saint Honoré puff pastry crust satiated with crème chiboust (that is not nearly as filling as it sounds) and a light-as-air crepe suzette with freshly stewed orange peels.
My best advice is to order both and put them in the middle of the table to share.
Just be sure to grab a spoon early because they won’t last on the table very long.
The Paul Bocuse festival at Cedrón will last through Sunday, Feb. 18.
Cedrón is located at Avenida Mazatlán 24 in Colonia Condesa (tel: 2155-6403).
It is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday through Wednesday, and 7:30 a.m. to 12 midnight Thursday through Saturday.
There is a live jazz band in the evening starting at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursday, Friday and Saturdays.
All major credit cards are accepted and valet parking is available in front.
Reservations are highly advised, especially on weekends.