Sometimes you wander, and sometimes you wander too far.
But life has taught me to travel off the beaten path from time to time to savor every sip that it serves me. Which is why on a trip that involved shuttling between South Beach Miami and Art Basel to Boca Raton, I stepped into a French dining experience in Florida, aptly called La Nouvelle Maison, all clad in my red carpet attire from a plethora of nightlife events.
It was truly an architecturally splendid set up, from a porte-cochere entrance to an intimate interior that offered a mix of traditional and contemporary dining experiences, complete with painted walls and a spacious lounge area. The perfect way to enjoy a borderline romantic dinner with a comrade on a rendezvous to remember.
Things started with an homage to the state we were in, Florida. With a Florida salad complete with bright oranges, tangy pink grapefruits and perfectly sliced avocados (a nod to the love of my life, LA), with a side of greens, this was a simple but colorful tribute to healthy eating in the land of flaunting that beach body. The cylinder sliced citrus fruits were untarnished, and the greens topped with just a few droplets of dressing to leave their fresh state in tact. Truly a healthy, light and sparkling bite.
Next was yet another rendition of a beet salad, something that had become a staple in my vegetarian diet from Vegas to San Francisco to LA. This one was constructed like a crown, reminiscent of art on a plate in San Francisco. Alongside the standard elements of ruby red and golden beets with melting goats cheese, there was an influence of the Middle East with whole figs, and a touch of Florida with clementines, all with a sweet fig sauce. The result was an interesting fusion of coastal cities, with the tangy citrus cutting the heaviness of the cheese, and the juicy beets contrasting with the chewy and sweet figs in both flavor and texture. As a whole, it worked almost like a complete meal for those craving a light bite!
Being in bikini world, we dove straight from salad into dessert, like an homage to our mangled lives of loving health but craving desserts almost every second of the day. The main dessert comprised of a Parisian hazelnut chocolate praline dequoise, which was a new favorite floral cake. The praline was buried inside a spherical chocolate ganache dome and melted chocolate mousse, with a hazelnut biscuit shaped like an opening virginal floret, topped with dulce de leche ice cream and hazelnut ice cream. With its artistic presentation, the flavors matched the traditional roots of the dessert – rich, velvety chocolate, creamy and nutty praline, and crispy nutty hazelnut. While a tad saccharine compared to my recent contemporary unsweet endeavors, it was satiating, almost like walking back in time to the French renaissance and taking a bite from their regal tables.
The night ended with the petite plate of desserts from the chef, where there were petite bites (so underrated!) with more to taste and savor. The center was a trio of French cream puff profiteroles stuffed with vanilla bean cream, slightly on the sweet vanilla side but with an adequately delicious crunch to their exteriors. The bananas foster, chocolate and Grand Marnier souffle with caramel was a temperate dessert with a strong banana and caramel flavor, almost like a gourmet rendition of a sundae. The traditional opera cake – an almond cake soaked in coffee syrup, ganache and coffee buttercream – was thankfully bitter amidst a plethora of sweet French pastries, owing to the use of coffee, and whisked me back to my days in Prague and Vienna when I used to savor the likes. The chocolate coffee merjolaine followed a similar route with chocolate sculpture paraphernalia and a more mousse-like texture across its animated layers. And the mini French apple tart was a cute little bite which withheld the layers of cinnamon, honey, apple and pie crust in its petite form.
Overall, it was a traditional but satiating meal that paid tribute to the French name, but also the freshness of the Florida region. Multicultural cuisine is truly the call of the moment, and apt for a world traveler like me.