Sunday, August 22, 2021

Chez Francois Vermillion ultimate fine dining experience

Chez Francois Vermillion ultimate fine dining experience 

Enroute to Conneticut for our gala family gathering and wedding celebration for son Alec and Vivianna, we laid over in Northern Ohio and dined at Chez Francois Vermillion, as we close out our anniversary week celebration. 

Chez Francois in Vermillion, Ohio presented the ultimate fine dining experience - perhaps the most extraordinary we have ever had, exceeding our expectations in every respect - food, wine, service, ambiance! 

Chez Francois has been cited as the highest rated Zagat restaurant in Ohio and was chosen as one of OpenTable’s 2015 Top 100 restaurants in America.

Traveling to Vermillion takes one through customary rural and ex-urban farmland and small town settings until arriving at the destination. Downtown Vermillion is a historic district setting of a quaint picturesque New England town centre with picture postcard mainstreet, town square park and a magnificent amazingly extensive waterfront of waterways of the Vermillion River where it meets Lake Erie, with a labyrinth of four lagoons named for the great lakes, with blocks of private as well as public boat docks. The Sunday evening was bustling with people everywhere with a welcoming, hospitable atmosphere. 

Owner, General Manager and Wine Director Matthew Mars was working the room, overseeing service,  operations and meeting dining guests. Personable and unpretenscious, he sat at our table with us and answered questions about the clientele, seasonal coverage, special events, and shared insights, perspectives and experience regarding the extensive wine cellar collection and list.

Our server, a 21 year veteran in the Chez family, was delightful, charming and equally personable, advising us on the menu selections, cuisine, locavore sources, and local area information. 

Chez Francois sits on the waterfront with the elegant fine dining room on the lower level adjacent to the water. Their Touche wine bar dining room is on the upper level, above, with outside dining wrapping around the building overlooking the waterway, bustling with sport boats and pleasure craft. 

There are three dining rooms, the main dining room, the Parisian Room for special occasions, and the waterside Riverfront Cafe, a porch setting outside the main dining room adjacent the waterfront. There is also the adjacent Touché Bistro and winebar.

The main dining room is a combination of rustic, chic and elegant with brick floors covered with persian rugs, brick walls adorned with French posters. 

Another wall is covered with framed certificates denoting the artist labels of First Growth Bordeaux Chateau Mouton Rothschild artist labels. Other walls feature paintings of French cities, villages and landscapes. 

The ambiance and atmosphere is comfortable and  hospitable, but all business in presenting and delivering extraordinary cuisine and service. They enforce an appropriate dress code suitable for the setting resulting in a respectable and more formal atmosphere, yet it is relaxed and comfortable.

The Riverside Cafe dining room on the waterside porch of the building faces the bustling waterway. Nearby adjacent slips can accommodate boats up to 63 feet in length.

The Chez Francois menu provides an broad selection of authentic French and Northern Italian preparations of midwestern cuisine of the finest locavore selections and ingredients, masterfully crafted and artfully presented. 

The dinner course begins with classic Amuse Bouche - the most tasteful imaginable, followed by mixed green salad bed in a cucumber coral with baby zuchini and heirloom tomatoes. 

We selected from the broad list of delectable options for the starter course the Maine Lobster Zucchini Blossoms - sautéed Erie County zucchini blossoms filled with a Maine Lobster stuffing topped with hollandaise sauce.  It was exquisite, bursting with flavor sprites and a perfect pairing with our wine accompaniment.

For our entree course, we selected the daily special, Lake Whitefish Snapper, lightly breaded, covered with a layer of savory native sweet white peaches, with a side of whipped potatoes and grilled baby zuchini spears. 

The substantial extensive winelist features a selection of 750 wine labels from a cellar inventory of 8,500 bottles, cited by Wine Spectator for strengths of offerings from Bordeaux, Burgundy, California, France, Rhône, Italy and Port. The Wine List was awarded the Wine Spectator Magazine “Best of Award of Excellence”. 

The wines are presented on a electronic tablet which provides efficient navigation by wine type, varietal, region, rating, price range, or direct search. Each wine is laid out by type, presenting a photo of the label, producer, name, appellation and vintage, with a click through to a detailed producer and label profile. It was the finest winelist presentation I have ever seen, on par with and similar to the Aureole at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, the first such electronic presentation I encountered years ago. 

The winelist is broad and deep with global regional coverage, verticals of select popular labels, an extraordinary selection of 'cult' producers, first, second and third labels offering a extensive selection for every pricepoint and budget modest to ultra premium The high end wines are expensive however there are many selections at reasonable winelist value of 1.3 to 1.5 times retail pricing. 

For our seafood entree selection we were seeking a white, and the offerings were extensive from France - Burgundy, Rhone, Luberon, Italy, Germany, and new world regions, and US offerings from California, Oregon and Washington. We settled on a Chardonnay from California.

For premium California Chardonnays we were tempted by Kistler, Kongsgaard and Peter Michael, to name a few. We opted for the Peter Michael 'Belle-Cotes' Burgundian style Chardonnay, available for a reasonable 1 1/3 times typical retail price. 

Our final dessert course selection was Chocolat Moulleux, Crème Glacée - warm chocolate cake with Madagascar French Vanilla bean ice cream, caramel sauce, seasonalberries, and mint. It was delicious!

It was served with Quinto do Crasto, Porto ”LBV ”, Douro Valley, Portugal, 2012.

Peter Michael Belle Cotes Knights Valley Sonoma County Chardonnay 2017

The grapes for Belle Côtes are grown at the oldest of the four Peter Michael estate Chardonnay vineyards at a high elevation altitude of 1,700 to 1,800 feet with a naturally cool climate, sheltered from the hot afternoon sun by its southeastern exposure and a stand of trees on its western border. 

The vines are exceptionally slow to ripen at the site's growing season typically extending into October, two to three weeks longer than most Chardonnay vineyards in Napa and Sonoma counties. The vineyard's high elevation, and sheltered exposure creates conditions for a long and slow ripening, producing wine with the broadest, fullest fruit profile of Michael's four single vineyard Chardonnays.

 Belle Côte exemplifies how consistently these mountain vineyard sites produce exceptionally high-quality Chardonnay. Thicker soils; cooler via elevation, easterly exposure and trees on western border, slow ripening, longer growing season.

Producers/Winemakers notes: "The 2017 growing season began with abundant rainfall, ending California’s long drought. Spring weather was cool but dry, resulting in an extended blooming period and some shatter. Vines were vigorous thanks to the winter rains and aggressive canopy management and fruit thinning brought the crop into optimal balance. Warmer than normal conditions after veraison accelerated ripening and required careful irrigation to mitigate dehydration. A return of cooler conditions allowed our Chardonnay to gradually reach perfect ripeness. The slightly smaller than normal harvest, resulted in a forward, exotic vintage of Chardonnay with wines showing uncommon richness."

"Very intense and powerful, the nose reveals hedonistic aromas of lychee nut, rose petal and orange blossom, with a background of mineral, candied orange, yellow peach, crème brûlée, nougat, whole nut and toasted almond. The rich seamless palate is very creamy and weighty in the mouth. Notes of pain grillé, marmalade, brioche and hazelnut coupled with natural acidity and minerality complete the mouth feel. The 2017 Belle Côte is enjoyable now and will continue to develop for a decade or more."

This label was awarded 99 points by Jeb Dunnuck and James Suckling, 97 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 95 points by Vinous, and 92 points by Wine Spectator. Jeb Dunnuck says it is "flirting with perfection".

Straw colored, full-bodied, complex with layers of dense flavors of green apples, pears and white peaches turning to notes of pink grapefruit and sprites of lychee fruit with a full, crisp clean finish.

RM 93 points.


Quinto do Crasto, Porto ”LBV ”, Douro Valley, Portugal, 2012

Excellent aroma intensity and concentration, with fresh wild berry fruit notes and delicate hints of chocolate.  A perfect complement to the chocolate gateaux.

RM 92