French Classics Prepared by a French Master

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According to Craig LaBan, Pierre Calmels is hitting on all cylinders at his new Le Cheri. LaBan’s list of favorites appears to be most of the menu.

I can’t remember a better steak tartare than Le Chéri’s finely diced filet, edgy with Dijon and glossed with raw yolk, mounded atop the crispy potato lattice of fresh gaufrette chips. The onion soup is deeply sweet from onions caramelized for hours, but balanced with wine and stock, then sealed beneath the nutty tang of molten Comte. Familiar steak-frites gets an upgrade with earthy bavette (flat sirloin) and shallots soaked in Marchand de Vin gravy. The potatoes “Darphin,” crispy rails of shredded spuds in clarified butter, are the hash-brown sticks of my dreams. The choucroute is a classic crock of kraut beer-stewed to brown with bacon, foie gras fat, and house-made duck-pork sausage, then topped with a crispy blade of braised pork belly and mildly salted but flavorful duck confit.

Three Bells – Excellent

Calmelses’ Le Cheri: Back to Bistro [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Le Cheri [Foobooz]

Having a Ball at Le Chéri

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According to Trey Popp, the Art Alliance may have finally found its restaurant in Pierre and Charlotte Calmels’ Le Cheri. Popp bestows three stars on the French bistro, despite being served testicles under the guise of “pistachio fries.”

Calmels cuts his boudin noir—another “Bizarre” selection—with extra flour, pushing the sometimes-crumbly texture of that blood sausage into the realm of dense chocolate cake. Best I’ve ever had.

And if there’s ravioli on the menu, get it—even if it sounds boring, like the delicate cream cheese ones whose tangy fillings turned out to be infused with truffle peelings one night.

Three Stars – Excellent

Restaurant Review: Le Cheri [Philadelphia Magazine]
Le Cheri [Foobooz]

Le Chéri Opens on Rittenhouse Square

Val Stryjewski | Photo by Yoni Nimrod, Cook

Val Stryjewski | Photo by Yoni Nimrod, Cook

Le Chéri is now open in the Art Alliance building at 18th and Rittenhouse Square. The successor to Rittenhouse Tavern is owned by Pierre and Charlotte Calmels of Bella Vista’s much-praised Bibou. The chef de cuisine is Waldemar “Val” Stryjewski who comes from a.kitchen. The price point is less than that at Bibou with entrees ranging from $17 to $30.

For now the restaurant is BYOB but a liquor license is in the works. Reservations are already tough to land but a tipster informs us the bar is first-come-first-served.

Check out the opening menu » 

Pierre and Charlotte Calmels Look to Bring Bibou Magic to Rittenhouse

Vive La France with Pierre Calmels of Bibou

Charlotte and Pierre Calmels of Bibou are ready for their next venture. The couple who run one of Philadelphia’s most praised BYOBs are heading to Rittenhouse Square and the Rittenhouse Tavern space in the Art Alliance building. Michael Klein reports that couple are turning Rittenhouse Tavern into a classic French restaurant with a liquor license and at a price point lower than Bibou.

No name is set but they’re hoping for an October opening. Restaurants have struggled at the Art Alliance despite its location, attractive interior and tranquil outdoor garden. But the Calmelses have made a name for themselves at Bibou and the restaurant is one of just five restaurants that have received Craig LaBan’s four-bell rating. Before opening Bibou, Pierre Calmels was Georges Perrier’s chef de cuisine at Le Bec Fin for six years.

Bibou duo coming to Rittenhouse Square [The Insider]
Bibou [Official Site]

Photo by Yoni Nimrod | Cook

UPDATED Aspiring Chefs: Get Trained By Vetri, Solomonov, Perrier and More

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, we’ve already been getting questions from folks about this new program. One of the big ones? How much is it going to cost. I can now tell you that we just heard from COOK and they have decided that the 10 students chosen for the 1st semester of the COOK Masters Program will be going FOR FREE. Yup, you read it right: 20 hours of instruction by the city’s best chefs, and it ain’t gonna cost you a penny.

This is going to be huge.

No, seriously. For all of you cooks out there–for all of you apprentices, stagiers, externs, students and passionate amateurs, all of you up-and-comers, all of you line dogs aspiring for something more, all of you broke-ass, bone-tired, hard-working, up-by-your-bootstraps white jackets banging out 200 tables a night and reading cookbooks on the dock between dinner hits… Man, do I have some news for you.

Right now, as we speak, we here at Foobooz and the team at COOK are making plans for the first semester of the COOK Masters Program: A straight-up professional cooking school designed to give 10 lucky students the experience of a lifetime as they are personally trained by some of Philadelphia’s best and most successful chefs. Here’s the pitch:

After just one year and over five hundred cooking classes, COOK, Philadelphia’s premier demonstration kitchen, begins a new chapter with The COOK Masters Program: an instructional cooking series taught by some of the city’s and country’s biggest culinary names, for students who are truly passionate about pursuing a professional career in the restaurant industry.

And just wait until you hear who the instructors are going to be…

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Menu For The 2012 Chef Invitational Duck Dinner at Bistrot La Minette

See that picture? That’s some of the best chefs in the city of Philadelphia acting the way chefs do when they either have a couple of bottles in them, or have all gotten together for some kind of diversion that only they truly understand and appreciate.

When it is the former, pictures don’t generally make their way out to the press. (Also, there’s usually at least one person not wearing any pants.) In the case of the latter, what comes of such gatherings is often funny stories, lots of good will and a killer dinner served to select members of the public smart enough to know a good thing coming when they see it.

In this case, what the above snap (of last year’s team) is celebrating is the 2012 version of the Bistrot La Minette collaborative duck dinner–a “Chef Invitational” being held on April 3rd at the aforementioned Bistrot, where 7 great chefs (plus one great sommelier) will gather to cook a dinner where every course focuses on duck.

But before you get to thinking that this is just another silly special event dinner (of the sort that seem to be popping up every other weekend these days), you’ve got to check out the menu. And of course, Foobooz can provide…

The menu, the chefs and the details

2012 James Beard Semifinalists Announced

The 2012 James Beard Semifinalists have been announced and Philadelphia area chefs and restaurants seem to have a bigger representation than normal. Tashan, The Farm and Fisherman and Zeppoli all make the list for Best New Restaurant. Pierre Calmels, BibouDavid Gilberg, Koo Zee DooKonstantinos Pitsillides, Kanella and Marcie Turney of Barbuzzo all make the semifinals for Best Chef Midatlantic (remember, past winners aren’t eligible).

Le Virtu’s Joe Cicala and Fond’s Lee Styer were nominated for Rising Star Chef, while Jessie Prawlucki (Fond/Belle Cakery) made the list for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Not bad East Passyunk, not bad at all.

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