Pigeon Macaron Class

Within the historic Three Kings hotel, which dates back to 1681, the flagship restaurant is Cheval Blanc, named after the famous St Emilion wine. Its head chef since 2007 is Peter Knogl, originally from Bavaria and whose mentor was the prodigiously talented Heinz Winkler (at one time the youngest ever 3 star Michelin chef, a title held since 2002 by Le Calandre chef Massimiliano Alajmo). Mr Knogl also worked in Andalucia for seven years before moving to Basel, and briefly in London at Les Saveurs. He gained a star for the restaurant in 2007, a second one just a year later and finally was awarded the ultimate third Michelin star in the 2016 guide.

If you are registering online, you will be able to book for one person at 2500+ taxes, If you wish to bring a friend along or accompany your child (applicable to kids above the age of 8 years of age), You can call and inform our team at the cookery studio on or at least 24 hours before the class and pay the difference.

The dining room is on the ground floor of the hotel, looks out over the Rhine, and seats up a maximum of thirty guests. It has a wooden floor that is partly carpeted, with low noise levels. Tables are large and well spaced, with dishes served on white Limoges china. There was a tasting menu at CHF 220 (£160) that we opted for, in addition to a full set of carte choices.

The wine list had fairly broad global coverage, so as well as Swiss and French wines there were selections from Spain, Italy, the US and South Africa, amongst others. Example references were Markus Molitor Kosterberg Riesling 2013 at CHF 60 for a bottle that you can pick up in a shop for CHF 15, the enjoyable I Sistri Chardonnay 2012 at CHF 85 compared to a retail price of about CHF 20, and the excellent Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2011 at CHF 125 compared to its shop price of CHF 30. Naturally there are grander wines available too, such as Chateau Palmer Alter Ego 2011 at CHF 220 compared to its current market value of around CHF 70.

A gentleman originally from Alsace bakes all the bread entirely from scratch in the kitchen each morning. The selection today was tomato, buckwheat, baguette or olive bread. These all had excellent texture and flavour, my favourite being the olive (19/20). An initial nibble was a little cup containing a carabinero prawn in a chilled jalapeño mousse. This was a carefully judged dish, the mousse having just enough bite to enhance the flavour of the high quality fresh prawn without overwhelming it (19/20). The theme of gentle spices continued with the next nibbles. A delicate beetroot macaron was filled with wasabi cream, the spice carefully controlled and working well with the beetroot (19/20). A garam masala and foie gras macaron had liver that was prepared with a gentle Indian spice mix, served with a yoghurt crisp and orange gel. This was stunning, the liver flavour glorious and just lifted by the subtle spices, the orange providing a touch of balancing acidity (20/20). These nibbles were a really impressive start to the meal and showed considerable culinary technique and control.

Next was razor clam with red pepper ragu and balsamic vinaigrette, alongside pata negra and mushroom cream on a mushroom crisp. The clam was exceptionally tender, the red pepper ragu avoiding the slightly metallic flavour that this ingredient can often bring. The mushroom elements were also top class, with a delicate crisp and deep flavour (19/20).

The first official dish of the meal was a pretty dish of kingfish carpaccio with avocado and radish, along with little pieces of crisp pastry. The fish had excellent inherent flavour, enhanced with a little miso, a combination that went well with the avocado; the radish was high quality and there was a pleasing textural contrast from the crisp pastry. This dish was hard to fault, with its lovely combination of high quality elements, a symphony of flavours working harmoniously together (20/20).

The meal continued on a high note with cassolette of seasonal white asparagus and morels garnished with pea shoots. Both the main vegetables featured had superb flavour and were precisely cooked, resting in an intense creamy mushroom sauce with deep flavour and just a touch of acidity. This was classical cooking at its best, the sauce showing off the highly seasonal core ingredients (20/20).

Red mullet had crispy scales (using a technique borrowed from Japan) and was served with a cream of black garlic with saffron sauce, resting on a tomato vinaigrette. This was another glorious dish, the mullet having superb flavour, the saffron carefully controlled and the tomato and garlic flavours strong and distinct. Once again the quality of the sauce was remarkable (20/20).

Pigeon from Bresse was flavoured with Moroccan spices and preserved lemon, served with carrot mousseline and a reduction of the cooking juices. The texture of the high quality pigeon was impressive, its flavour enhanced by the gentle spices, and the richness balanced by the touch of lemon and the earthiness of the carrot. This was one of the best pigeon dishes I can ever recall eating (20/20). My wife, who doesn’t eat meat, had instead a terrific turbot with cucumber and deep-fried leek with potatoes on the side (19/20).

Pigeon Macaron Classes

Cheese was provided by a combination of the famous Alsace affineur Bernard Antony and a Swiss supplier called Sterchi. The cheeses, mostly French but with some Swiss ones too, were all in excellent condition. A pair of different loaves was offered with the cheese course, both top-notch.

Pre-dessert was mandarin with mascarpone ice cream, yoghurt spring cake and yuzu macarons. This was a very refreshing way to transition from the savoury to the sweet, the flavours not too sharp but still having a good level of acidity (18/20). Gariguette strawberries came in several forms including marinated and as a mousse, garnished with lime cress. The fruits had terrific flavour, such a contrast to the strawberries that we have sadly become used to in the UK (19/20). Praline with a biscuit base came with little blobs of lemon and a delicate sugar decoration. This was another very enjoyable dish though I preferred the strawberry dessert (18/20).

Classes

Alongside the coffee came an array of mignardise. There was a macaron of grapefruit, millefeuille of nougat and hazelnut, croquette of cream and lemon and mandarin, and mousse of yoghurt with cocoa and passion fruit jelly. Separately served on spoons were mango mousse with lemongrass espuma and mousse of lemon with pineapple jelly. These were all superb petit fours, the mousses in particular dazzling (20/20). The coffee itself was lovely, an all Arabica Ethiopian coffee from a supplier called Rast Cafe in Lucerne.

Service was superb throughout the meal, as precise as the fine Swiss clock hanging on the wall of the dining room. A nice touch was that the staff were actually quite relaxed and friendly rather than being overly formal. The bill came to CHF 291 (£212) per person including a bottle of very good Riesling. Of course this is hardly cheap, but this is Switzerland and we are talking about a three star Michelin restaurant. Overall this was a deeply impressive meal, thoroughly deserving its recent three star accolade. The skill level in the kitchen in the preparation of sauces in particular was dazzling, and the ingredients were of the highest quality.

Macaron Baking Class

Macarons—those delicate, multi-hued French sandwich cookies available in flavors such as caramel, passionfruit and pistachio—have taken New York by storm over the past few years, threatening to displace the cupcake as the city’s favorite sweet indulgence. Once as rare as a clean and tidy pigeon, the colorful snacks can now be found in shops all around the island of Manhattan, and beyond. But making them at home may seem daunting; any baking task involving a piping bag is sure to intimidate. But Simon Herfray is here to help.

The French-born, classically trained pastry chef is the head of French’Encas, a dessert catering company and personal chef service. Since last January, he’s led small, hands-on French pastry classes out of the kitchen of Bosie Bakery, a Second Avenue pastry shop owned by Herfray’s friend Damien Hergott. During informative two-to-three hour classes, Herfray instructs home cooks on the finer points of buttery French desserts such as éclairs, madeleines and profiteroles, and, in his most popular class, those trendy macarons.

“I’ve always liked teaching,” Herfray explained recently in the empty Bosie Bakery kitchen as he waited for a class to arrive. “And the classes worked very well right away. I started them last January, and by February I was leading four classes a month.”

Herfray was born in Nantes, in France’s northwest Brittany region. At the age of 15, he opted to forgo high school and instead pursue a “stage,” or apprenticeship, an option available to all French students. He spent five years of intensive training learning both classic French pastry as well as bread baking, and graduated with masters in both pursuits. Since completing his education, the 28-year-old Herfray has worked in restaurant kitchens in England and Australia. After moving to New York in 2009, he held a string of jobs in restaurants including Manhattan’s Le Cirque and Peter Luger Steakhouse and Bacchus in Brooklyn.

Over the past few years, Herfray noted, he’s seen an incredible upsurge of interest in professional cooking. But, he said, the profession is not one for the faint of heart.

“I loved baking right away,” he said. “And to do this job, you need to love it. If you just like it...well, do it at home. And that’s wonderful. But to do this professionally, it’s a very tough job.”

As his class of 10 students—three couples, and a mother with her three grown daughters—filed into the kitchen, Herfray got down to business, whipping egg whites, mixing almond flour dough and preparing fillings for the macarons. When asked what they knew about the cookies, the group admitted not much. “They’re delicious,” one student piped up, and the rest agreed heartily.

It was a point they’d get to test at the end of the evening, when they walked out of the kitchen and into the warm night, each with a box of 21 macarons—seven raspberry, seven chocolate, and seven hazelnut—that they’d made themselves.

Simon Herfray leads six baking classes per month in the kitchen of Bosie Bakery, at 2132 Second Avenue. For class schedule and additional details, visit frenchencas.com.