A Taste of Provence

Until Friday, the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel will be trying to prove how much California and France’s Provence region have in common. Philippe Jourdin, the renowned executive chef of the Four Seasons Provence, is in town for the week with members of his staff to showcase Provençal cuisine and match it with Central Coast wines.

Jourdin, whose culinary approach leans on the traditional side but adopts flairs of the innovative, spent some time visiting the Santa Ynez Valley learning the area’s wines. This was evident in the first course, where the crunchy character of the baby vegetables, the aged vinegar and pan-seared scallop paired smoothly with the silkiness of the Melville Verna’s Viognier. Brice Delclos, restaurant manager at the Four Seasons Provence, says in other cases the wine of choice would have been a Chardonnay or anything from the Northern Rhône region, where pure Viogner whites are most prominent.

For the second course, Jourdin brought out a striped sea bass flavored with star anis and accompanied by green asparagus, sun-dried tomato and fennel, along with a Talley Vineyard Chardonnay that balanced against the tinges of licorice. Jourdin’s touch with the asparagus and the thick-skinned sea bass shows why he’s a Meilleur ouvrier, a culinary distinction that, like the Olympics, is awarded to one chef every four years.

Jourdin demonstrates his real appreciation for the Central Coast region in the main course, a roasted lamb loin with herbs, sunchoke purée, forked mashed potatoes and shaved truffle, a soft and subtle selection emboldened by the flavors of Jim Clendenen’s Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir, 2005.

The dessert arrives in a flourish, the sinful work of pastry chef Nicolas Denis, who at 20 won the Sarzeau chocolate award. His almond parfait ice cream stacked atop a softened biscuit and layered with fine apricot gelatin is, as the French say, parfait. The Navarro white Riesling, 2003, at the dessert’s side has enough sugars in its structure not to mislead your taste buds.

The Four Seasons Biltmore, 1260 Channel Drive, is offering this special menu until Friday, January 26 for lunch ($40), from 11:30 am to 5 pm, and dinner ($80), from 5 pm to 10 pm. With wine the dinner course is $110. For more info call 969-2261.