My friend of many years, Ariane Daguin, (who calls me Maman Gâteau) is from Gascony in the southwest of France--land of the Three Musketeers and...sound the trumpets..foie gras. Twenty-five years ago she started a company named D'Artagnon, introducing foie gras to America and has since expanded her line to an enormous range of specialty meats and foods. Last night, a huge celebration was held at Guastavino, located under the Queen's Borough Bridge in Manhattan. I walked the three miles from Bleecker Street because I knew I'd be eating a lot of foie gras among other delectables. But my main motivation of attending this event was to honor Ariane and to see her parents. I had stayed with them in their home in Auch, 21 years ago, and felt like part of the famiy. I'll always remember Ariane's mother, Joceleine, telling me how husband, chef André Daguin, was an avid rugby player and that the last time he played he ended up crawling around the field trying to find his two front teeth. His restaurant had to close for a few days due to his injuries but he refused to give up the sport. So the next time he played rugby Joceleine put up a sign on the front door saying: "fermé `a cause de rugby." (Closed because of rugby, in anticipation of the inevitable next accident. To honor the rugby players, many of whom attended last night's event, everyone was encouraged to dress in team colors of red and white and virtually all obliged. In the crowd of a near 1000 (and if I were a true Gascogne I would have said at least 5000 because everything Gascony is larger than life including the Gascons!) it was easy to find Ariane as she was more radiant than I've ever seen her. But I also managed to find her parents, my favorite of her honorary 'uncle/chefs' Bernard, and what seemed like every friend I've ever known in the food industry. I also found myself talking to a lovely young woman who turned out to be Apollonia Poilane of the famed Poilane bread from Paris. I had met her very charming father Lionel at the chocolate show in Paris two years before his tragic plane accident and when he learned I was working on a bread cookbook, he had invited me to come and visit. It was a great joy to meet Apollonia who has become his very worthy successor. And now to the food! The longest lines were for the Jamones-Segovia (ham: the best I've ever tasted--made from Hungarian pigs and cured in Spain), the foie gras terrines, and the grits with black truffle. The French Kisses, prunes, soaked in Armagnac and stuffed with foie gras, disappeared within seconds each time they reappeared. There was also unending trays of spareribs, cassoulet, and osso bucco. This is one time the foie gras truly flowed (a term I've only ever heard used in relation to wine!). Foie was also presented sautéed with tangy raisins impaled on skewers that were afixed to long baguettes--so long each extended the full length of the servers' arms from wrist to shoulder. As D'Artagnan also specializes in wild game and game birds, there were also trays of plump juicy quail legs. And finally for a dessert that no one really needed but couldn't resist there was an assortment of macarons of varied flavors. Needless to say there were lots of excellent wines and a live and loud band to which many people were dancing. The lead singer, of course, was a chef! There was also a huge monitor flashing photos of family and chefs all offering congratulations to Ariane.
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