Jump to content
jswwiles

L'Auberge Chez Francois, The Haeringer Family's Romantic Alsatian Getaway in Great Falls

Recommended Posts

We had an excellent meal on Saturday night. Our waiter was funny, even if it was a well-rehearsed routine, and patient, given it was our first time eating there. He carefully explained how the menu works (you choose the entree first, then consider an appetizer, and the meal comes with a bunch of other items as well), and went through the specials of the day. We ordered our food, and then they brought out a bread basket and butter, a plate of garlic bread, and a cup of cottage cheese (primarily mixed with garlic and some unidentified herbs). I've been avoiding cottage cheese my whole life, but what they brought over was amazing. I could have eaten a gallon of it with just a spoon. I realize we're just talking about cottage cheese here, but still, they paid great attention to a seemingly unimportant item, which i will now have to learn how to make for myself. The garlic bread was also excellent, and it appears it may have spent some time on a grill. The amuse bouche was a small cup of split pea soup that had a pleasant creamy texture, and was very good. We stuck with the mixed green salad, which was sourced from the garden. It was dressed with one of the better vinaigrettes I've ever tasted. For apps, I got the caramelized onion and bacon tart, which had a nice smokey taste. And bacon. My wife got a special app, which was a piece of filet mignon (around 7 bites) served with a tomato salsa (of sorts) and potato. This was very good, and I was (pleasantly) surprised there was no upcharge for this item. A sorbet of lemon, orange and rosemary followed as a palette cleanser, and I seriously considered asking for a bowl of it as my dessert. For mains, my wife got the poached lobster and crabmeat in a butter sauce, and the bite I had was very good. I got a plate of seafood served in a lobster sauce. It was amazing. The lobster sauce was to die for....creamy, rich, and tasty. I need this recipe! (Alas, not listed on the website.) For desserts, we ordered a chocolate soufflé and baked alaska. Both were very good, but not worth bragging about. We were also very full, so that may have tampered our enthusiasm. The bill came with two chocolate truffles and two almond cookies as well, which was a nice touch (and good!).

2 minor quibbles: [1] I went to adjust my plate when they set my entree down, and the plate was so hot that I damn near burned my fingers; [2] I wanted a scotch and asked the waiter what they had, the waiter said they had everything, and then they didn't have what I wanted. A list would have been useful, so I didn't have to play the guessing game. 

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

and then they brought out a bread basket and butter, a plate of garlic bread, and a cup of cottage cheese (primarily mixed with garlic and some unidentified herbs). I've been avoiding cottage cheese my whole life, but what they brought over was amazing. I could have eaten a gallon of it with just a spoon. I realize we're just talking about cottage cheese here, but still, they paid great attention to a seemingly unimportant item, which i will now have to learn how to make for myself. The garlic bread was also excellent, and it appears it may have spent some time on a grill.

This was a great post! But do you think they're making their own cottage cheese? I've dined here numerous times, and am pretty sure I've had their cottage cheese more than once, and I don't remember it being anything special (but I'm also remembering a dried-out, hollowed-out, black olive, and a tomato slice that was so unripe that its color was something of a pale-whitish pink). I trust your palate, so maybe I've just forgotten it, or they've started making it in-house? Do you think they might just purchase it, and have a prep cook mix it with seasoning? If so, I suspect the chef would be happy to give you the recipe if you were to write him a polite note.

Also, don't get me wrong: I like this restaurant, and think that it went from being the most overrated restaurant in the area (which it absolutely was, for many years) to one of the more underrated restaurants in the area (despite Chef Haeringer's valiant attempts at social media, how often do you read about L'Auberge these days? It's a classic example of a restaurant that doesn't have buzz, so never gets any attention from the know-nothing media (and this post is a classic example of why I'm hated by same (and couldn't care less))).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But do you think they're making their own cottage cheese?

I honestly have no idea. It's probably the first time I've eaten cottage cheese in 30+ years, so I have nothing to compare it to. All I know is that I ate more than my fair share, much to the chagrin of my wife.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I find it kinda funny...I just came to this thread after looking at the Rose's Luxury thread, where people are already souring on it. A page ago it was the best place ever, now it's slipping down in to the "good but not memorable".

Contrast that with this place. I've been going to Chez Francois for around 35 years, and I've never had a meal that was anything less than excellent. Yes, the food is pretty uninteresting for those looking for cutting edge, but I haven't seen a change in quality from Don's overrated to underrated eras. It is as it always has been, for better or worse.

And for a place that doesn't have buzz, it still winds up regularly in "best of" lists and gets mentioned in chats pretty often...all without overzealous publicists or active social media.

And yes, I love the cottage cheese spread on the bread. :)

Oh, and I just saw this way up-thread..".I've enjoyed the few dishes I've prepared from their cookbook, especially the chocroute and the herbed cottage cheese."

So if you want more info on the cottage cheese, I guess you know where to look.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, the food is pretty uninteresting for those looking for cutting edge, but I haven't seen a change in quality from Don's overrated to underrated eras. It is as it always has been, for better or worse.

Correct: It hasn't changed that much, but the media coverage of it has (it was ranked #1 in the Washingtonian reader's poll for some insane amount of time, like 15-20 consecutive years). I went here on my 30th birthday - I remember liking it, and being charmed by it, but not loving it, and that's pretty much the way it has always been with me; the very first time I went to Inn at Little Washington (probably also around that time), I remember thinking I could die then and be perfectly content - I had yet to go to my first Michelin 3-Star (a problem that was remedied the very next year at Lucas Carton - I remember their foie gras wrapped in cabbage to this day (and I remember the sommelier trying to fool me in a blind tasting with the cheese course - I guessed Hermitage; it was St.-Joseph ;)).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

L'Auberge Chez Francois....totally overrated...one of the worst "fine" dining experiences that my wife & I have ever had.  Not worth the time, money & effort to get to this place.  Its very stuffy & has a feeling of being frozen in 1985 - plus the food was just average - not worth the $200.00 we spent.  I have heard from friends that there is a smaller bistro that serves some good food - but have not tried it myself.  I cannot understand why this place gets rave reviews - definitely would never visit this place again. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

L'Auberge Chez Francois....totally overrated...one of the worst "fine" dining experiences that my wife & I have ever had.  Not worth the time, money & effort to get to this place.  Its very stuffy & has a feeling of being frozen in 1985 - plus the food was just average - not worth the $200.00 we spent.  I have heard from friends that there is a smaller bistro that serves some good food - but have not tried it myself.  I cannot understand why this place gets rave reviews - definitely would never visit this place again. 

We went there one time in the late 80s for my MIL's birthday. I thought the food was terrible. Lobster bisque was too salty to eat and their much ballyhooed plum tart was simply inedible. Glad to know I haven't missed anything in the intervening years. The 90-minute drive in rush hour to get there didn't help matters, either.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll be headed back again this weekend to celebrate the wife's birthday. Here's the recipe for the cottage cheese (thanks, mtureck!) which I'll be attempting tonight. (Talk about delayed reactions!)

Also, anyone care to weigh in on using green onions vs. chives?

L'Auberge Chez François Herbed Cottage Cheese Spread

Adapted from The Chez Francois Cookbook by Jacques E. Haeringer

Servings: 2-2/3 cups

Total Time: 15 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound 4% small-curd, cream-style cottage cheese (I use Breakstone's)
  • 2/3 cup sour cream (I use Breakstone's)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced green onions or chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced parsley, plus more for garnish

Instructions

  1. Combine the cottage cheese and sour cream in a medium bowl and blend well. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly and adjust seasonings. Cover and chill well before serving. Serve with toasted garlic bread or crackers and garnish with fresh parsley if desired.
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

After our recent trip, I thought the meal was very good, but never great (like it was 2 years ago), which was slightly disappointing for a $300 meal. We had many of the same things as last time, but they didn't hit with the same intensity, particularly the main dish that has the lobster sauce. In fact, both my wife and i got that seafood sampler in lobster sauce, mostly because it was so great last time, and we both wanted more than just a bite or 2 of the other's portion. Again, it was very good, but it wasn't great. The roquefort salad was a nice mixture of greens, came with ample clumps of cheese, and was very good, which justified the up-charge ($7) imho. I had onion soup, while the wife went for the bacon tart again. The onion soup was a very good version of the dish, but I forgot about the asparagus (iirc) soup amuse bouche, so I went soup-soup, and could have though that out better given the many had many options. Fine, the cottage cheese was great, but I don't think that's enough to skew the narrative. So, a very good meal, from which we left satisfied and stuffed, but which never got us all the way there. worse things have happened.

Strangely, the only real negative was our service. Many times we felt rushed: The moment we were done with our apps, they brought over the sorbet palate cleanser, and the moment we were done with that, they delivered our mains. It would have been nice to have been able to take a breath between courses. On the other hand, it took a half hour to get the check. Go figure. Also, the waiter took away the cottage cheese before we were finished with it! By the time I realized what was happening (he began by moving my wine glass, which i thought he was taking since i wasn't having wine), it was too late to stop him. If you've read any of my other posts on this thread, you know how tragic that was for me.

Finally, I did make the cottage cheese recipe listed above. Note that the restaurant definitely uses chive and not green onion. I also made garlic bread to go with it (as they do at the restaurant). I made the recipe to the letter, but it came out fairly bland. The garlic bread i made was also so garlicky, that it overwhelmed the cottage cheese mixture anyway. I'd probably add more garlic to the cottage cheese and less to the bread, as a solution (or, at least, next attempt).

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having dined there in their Brasserie last week, it was very nice as far as atmosphere.  The outdoor patio overlooks their garden areas and is somewhat shaded so that is nice.

Service....after being greeted promptly and being seated slightly before our reservation, we got water and drinks quickly.  Bread and butter = fine.  

Food....we ordered within the first 10 minutes of being seated, but waited for almost an hour for our appetizers, which were not overly complicated - braised Wagyu beef cheeks and a salad.  We ate efficiently as we had allocated about 2 hours for a lunch and planned to have dessert.  Our main courses came about 30 minutes after our apps (my wife actually asked if they would check on them since we were a little surprised the main course did not come out quicker after the delayed apps) which left us a little rushed to make an appt at 2 PM.  We ate, requested the bill and skipped dessert due to the extended prep times, which left us short on time.  Maybe an off day, not sure as we don't go there enough to know - however with such a nice atmosphere and talented kitchen, the service needs to step up a little.  Funny thing was we picked the Brasserie since we figured the service would be faster in a smaller venue.  The restaurant was empty when we arrived and when we left, but do not know if it was because they had better service and turned the tables quicker or it was not busy for lunch.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
31 minutes ago, Ferris Bueller said:

Having dined there in their Brasserie last week, it was very nice as far as atmosphere.  The outdoor patio overlooks their garden areas and is somewhat shaded so that is nice.

Service....after being greeted promptly and being seated slightly before our reservation, we got water and drinks quickly.  Bread and butter = fine.  

Food....we ordered within the first 10 minutes of being seated, but waited for almost an hour for our appetizers, which were not overly complicated - braised Wagyu beef cheeks and a salad.  We ate efficiently as we had allocated about 2 hours for a lunch and planned to have dessert.  Our main courses came about 30 minutes after our apps (my wife actually asked if they would check on them since we were a little surprised the main course did not come out quicker after the delayed apps) which left us a little rushed to make an appt at 2 PM.  We ate, requested the bill and skipped dessert due to the extended prep times, which left us short on time.  Maybe an off day, not sure as we don't go there enough to know - however with such a nice atmosphere and talented kitchen, the service needs to step up a little.  Funny thing was we picked the Brasserie since we figured the service would be faster in a smaller venue.  The restaurant was empty when we arrived and when we left, but do not know if it was because they had better service and turned the tables quicker or it was not busy for lunch.

That's funny...I had lunch in the main dining room a few weeks ago, and I felt that we were being rushed through.

Maybe because we came from hiking in Great Falls, and were looking a little ratty. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, Ferris Bueller said:

Food....we ordered within the first 10 minutes of being seated, but waited for almost an hour for our appetizers, which were not overly complicated - braised Wagyu beef cheeks and a salad.  We ate efficiently as we had allocated about 2 hours for a lunch and planned to have dessert.  Our main courses came about 30 minutes after our apps (my wife actually asked if they would check on them since we were a little surprised the main course did not come out quicker after the delayed apps) which left us a little rushed to make an appt at 2 PM.  We ate, requested the bill and skipped dessert due to the extended prep times, which left us short on time

If you're out on that little patio, it seems like it's very easy to be forgotten down there.

22 minutes ago, mtureck said:

Maybe because we came from hiking in Great Falls, and were looking a little ratty. :)

Billy Goat Trail? That can be a surprisingly tough hike.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

Billy Goat Trail? That can be a surprisingly tough hike.

Yeah, but we only did B and C, so we weren't that disgusting. :)

With that said, we were in hiking shorts and t-shirts, and if they had refused service, I wouldn't have held it against them.

It was pretty empty though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, DonRocks said:

If you're out on that little patio, it seems like it's very easy to be forgotten down there.

Understood, however it was not busy when we arrived in the main restaurant nor in the Brasserie.  Two other parties arrived about 15 minutes after we got seated (2-top and 3-top), and their food came out before our's despite the orders being placed after ours.  It was unfortunate, but I will give them another shot - we have been there before, but it was average at best and figured after a year perhaps things had improved.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mrs. W and I celebrated out 21st anniversary at LCF Saturday night. I have no problem reporting that the food was better than I remembered from our previous visit a few years ago. I also have to say that the full dinner is simply too much food for us now (and they added to the fun by giving us an extra side and dessert for our anniversary). I barely ate all day and I still estimated that I took in well more than the 2000 calories that I had allotted for the meal. Next time we will try Jacques' Brasserie.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×