Philippe (the acclaimed Galleria-area restaurant headed up by Chef Philippe Schmit) is offering a small selection of delicacies that you can buy and serve at home for the holidays. We were able to sample some of the fare, and found some of it to be incredible.
Two salmon choices are offered. One is smoked over hickory and applewood; the other is gravlax. Gravlax is traditionally cured with salt, sugar, dill and some type of alcohol. Philippe's version uses gentle fennel rather than dill, and it works very well.
Both salmon preparations had wonderful balance. There is a fine line smoked salmon has to balance to be considered great. Far too many versions are either too salty or not salty enough. Under- or over-smoking can be a problem, too. Philippe's was just right.
I've had salmon in the past with occasionally tough, sinewy sections. There was no such issue with Philippe's. Every single bite was very tender; testament to the premium cuts used.
Of the items we sampled, the one that I adored the most was the foie gras terrine. I've had foie gras terrine and pate that are just teases. They seem to have one part liver to nine parts filler. That's cheating, and a rip-off to the consumer who thought he or she was purchasing a quality product.
Chef Schmit must feel the same way, because this terrine was everything I could ever want. There is plenty of creamy liver in this recipe. It is the kind of rich, sinful terrine that makes you want to make it a once-a-week habit.
The kicker is that it is finished with Sauternes. ("Real Sauternes," Chef Schmit said, "not white wine with sugar in it.") Of course, you get what you pay for, and this is $48 for 160 grams (about 5.5 ounces). It is a luxury item, and it will end up on my Christmas Eve table regardless.
Both the Foie Gras Terrine and the smoked salmon come with brioche. The brioche is a miracle of little tender crumbs that somehow still hold together. Yet, it's dense enough to stand up to foie gras being slathered on it. It's like the angel food cake of breads.
The Christmas Log (Bûche de Noël) just wasn't my type of dessert. I like desserts that have a little more texture and "chew" to them, so I was really hoping for a thicker layer of almond cake. The drunken figs inside were very good and helped add a little firmness, but the overall effect was like a mousse.
However, there was no denying that the pistachio filling was delicious (and actually tasted like pistachios, unlike so many renditions that just seem to be whipped cream with green food coloring that someone whispered "pistachio" over), and the overall presentation was lovely. If you like this type of dessert, I think you'll love this. It just wasn't my cup of tea. Word to the wise: the decorations, such as the signs and mushroom, are made of gum paste. Gum paste is not tasty, so admire them, but don't eat them.
Be aware that you are just purchasing the main item(s) stated and you will need to do your own plating, so consider what you'll need as accompaniments or garnishes. For example, you might serve some creme fraiche, capers and a finely-diced, hard boiled egg with the smoked salmon. The foie gras terrine was served on a small pool of balsamic reduction. The balsamic, used sparingly, was a welcome addition and helped both cut and enhance the richness of the foie gras. It's super-easy to gently simmer some balsamic vinegar and make the same kind of reduction at home.
A pecan pie that serves eight is also available. We did not try it, but it has bourbon and chocolate chips.
The price list is as follows: Philippe's Foie Gras Terrine with Brioche: $48 (160 grams/5.6 ounces) Smoked Salmon In-House with Brioche: $25 (200 grams/7 ounces) Salmon Gravlax: $20 (250 grams/8.8 ounces) Pecan Pie: $35 (serves 8) The Christmas Log: $36 (serves 4) / $68 (serves 8)
Philippe is located at 1800 Post Oak Boulevard, #6110, Houston, TX 77056-3816, and their number is 713-439-1000.
Author's Disclosure: Samples of the dishes described above were provided at no charge. Regardless, I have done my utmost to provide a critical and fair evaluation.
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