Saturday, July 12, 2008

Le Trianon

Another of the inspirations from my youth was René Verdon's Le Trianon. This restaurant was the epitome of a classical restaurant. It was dark and plush and beautiful. The environment was contrived to allow the diner to focus on his food, amidst the dusty pink brocades and ivory walls.

And the food! My God, if there is food in heaven, let it be prepared by René Verdon! Common misperceptions about classical cuisine: It is heavy, unhealthy and wasteful. Truths about classical cuisine: It uses butter appropriately, but not excessively (René Verdon was no Paula Deen!); it employs more fish and poultry than "pop" cuisine and it uses up every part of the animal! I am not going to suggest that Le Trianon was an ideal place for a dieter, no good restaurant is, but the food was exquisite and wholesome.

Verdon's first claim to fame in this country was as the chef to the white house during the Kennedy years. In his later years he wrote a marvelous book that does not get nearly enough attention titled The Enlightened Cuisine. In addition to his brilliance, he was a gentleman, through and through. When I was a sprout, dining at my parents' table atop a stack of cookbooks, Verdon made one of his typical tours of the dining room. In order to afford my parents some privacy, I now suspect, he took me to the kitchen where the help fawned over me. He gave me his toque and signed and dated it. That remained my most prized possession until a few years ago when it was lost with many other treasures.

Back in the era of places like Ernie's, Le Trianon was the true queen of the San Francisco restaurants. It was the last exponent of a great era of San Francisco dining.

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