Before our trip to France, we asked people about their favorite French restaurants in St. Louis and Brasserie by Niche made everyone’s lists. We finally made it there this week, taking Rick’s nephew, Phil, and his fiancée, Gabbi.
The dressiness of the place was oversold on the review sites. Granted, it was a nasty winter night in St. Louis, so flannel shirts and boots were a practical necessity. But I think, on an ordinary night, you would still see guys in jeans and casual shirts and ladies only slightly dressier. Business casual is more than spiffy enough for a restaurant with checked tablecloths covered by brown butcher paper. The atmosphere is old world and warm — especially cozy in the winter.
The reviews didn’t oversell the service. It’s practically magic — there when you want it and not when you don’t. That made for a very relaxed evening, wonderful for promoting conversation.
A main topic of conversation, of course, was the food. We got very cheesy on the appetizers and ordered cheese puffs and a spreadable cheese with herbs on rounds of toasted French bread. They were two separate items on the menu but came out together, attractively plated on a large cutting board. Rick and I agreed that of all the food we tasted, our favorite item of the night was the goat cheese tart with fresh fennel served as another appetizer. For a lighter meal, that tart and a soup or salad would be perfectly satisfying.
A customer at a neighboring table heard us say this was our first visit to Brasserie by Niche. She said that one of us must order the roasted chicken. One of the reviews said the chicken was amazing, too. So, that’s what I ordered. It was good – tender and flavorful. But I can guess the secret: brining — which rendered it a bit too salty for me. Keep in mind that I bake my own bread in a bread machine because commercial bread has too much sodium, so I don’t have the normal American taste buds for salt. A half a chicken is way too large of a serving me, but I shared the leg quarter with everyone at the table and brought the breast home for sandwiches — which made for two tasty lunches!
For dessert, after talking about the book Julia Child Rules by Karen Karbo, with Rule Number 10, Every Woman Should Have a Blowtorch, we ordered crème brûlée — so good that Gabbi intends to put a blowtorch on her wedding gift registry.
What is your favorite French restaurant outside of France?
Before leaving for the restaurant, I checked Plate to Pixel to see what advice Hélène Dujardin had for taking photos while eating in a restaurant. Not a lot, but this advice was helpful:
Since the table props and look for the dish are out of your control in this situation, focus on your camera settings. Make sure your exposure is set correctly and that your ISO and white balance are ready for capture –before you receive the food. P. 138
That reminded me to try some things out at home first, making sure that I got what I expected when I used different camera settings. I mostly relied on the automatic settings, but I switched between Program mode for wider shots and Aperture mode (with a setting of 2.8) for the close-ups. I made sure that the flash wouldn’t go off so as not to disturb other diners. I tested to see that the automatic settings made sense with night time interior lighting. My photos are grainy due to a high ISO, but I like that look. Also, I made sure that the battery was charged! I was pretty pleased with some of the shots, at least for presentation on the web, even though I took many fewer photos than I normally do when I’m shooting.
Do you have any tips for taking good photographs of restaurant food?
This is my post for both Weekend Cooking and Saturday Snapshot. Check out the Beth Fish Reads blog today for her foodie plans for 2014 and links to more Weekend Cooking posts. West Metro Mommy has snapshots of her children this week — cute, when you’re not the parent dealing with the unplanned paint job — along with links to more Saturday Snapshots around the web.
Of course, this works as a Dreaming of France post, too. We talked a lot about France that night since Gabbi spent a semester abroad there.