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Adrien Boulouque : an old and knowing friend

A sommelier’s secret garden

A sommelier’s secret garden Paris

Adrien Boulouque:
an old and knowing friend

It’s scandalous. The sommelier not wearing a uniform! Well what about if for once we dropped the pompous side of the profession, with the weight of tradition and its ways and rules? Lanky and youthful, in a restaurant which is at the same time chic and countrified, Adrien Boulouque is bound to cause a few surprises.
Adrien Boulouque

Frédéric Crochet

When 3 star chef, Antoine Westermann, handed over the reins of his restaurant, the Buerehiesel in Strasbourg’s Parc de l’Orangerie, to his son Eric, he couldn’t help himself from by buying in 2005 the famous Drouant restaurant in Paris, close to the Opera. Two years previously, between trips to New York and Portugal, Anthoine, who still won’t consider retiring, had bought himself a small restaurant in the rue Saint Louis en L’Isle, in the historic heart of the capital. He called this restaurant “Mon Vieil Ami" - My Old Friend - with the idea of building himself a small kingdom centred on convivial food. Shortly afterwards, he entrusted the kitchens to Frédéric Crochet, who is literally having a whale of a time in this little village that is Ile Saint-Louis. Adrien Boulouque was taken on to assist him in the dining room and right from the start he was perfect in the role of waiter with, in addition, the keys to the cellar. Adrien, 28 and every bit a Parisian, is fortunately passionate about wine. Not immediately obvious when you have been brought up on couscous with a father, a superintendent, who was born in Morocco and a mother from Tunisia. Luckily, the traditional French veal stew was also part of his culinary education. After his exams, the Boulouque family let their son decide his own future. He went into hotel management and his training, which also included wine, took him in turn to Washington, London and Paris, working at the Crillon (bar and room service) and the Scribe, where he was assistant director of catering working with Allénot. He was considering leaving to earn his living in Washington, when Antony Clémot, Antoine Westermann’s right-hand man, took him to visit the new acquisition in Ile Saint-Louis and offered him the position of head waiter. However, he was rapidly appointed restaurant manager and at the same time was offered the opportunity to join the business along with the chef, Frédéric Crochet.

Not frightened to get stuck in, Adrien embarked on creating a very worthy cellar and wine list. He has at his disposal the sommelier’s dream, a genuine vaulted cellar in which to age some of his 160 different wines. His tastes could not be more eclectic and range from the new Pas de l’Escalette from the Languedoc to the brilliant Montlouis de Weisskopf, and include Thierry Michon’s Haut des Clous from the Vendée and A. Laurans Champagne which has become the house Champagne along with Deutz and Jacquesson.

But Adrien doesn’t hide the fact that nearly 50% of his sales are for Alsace wines. It seems that customers have not forgotten that it is still the great Antoine Westermann who is behind this elegant but unusual village bistro.

Adrien takes pleasure in foraging in the local grocery store belonging to Abdel or hunting in Franck’s cheese shop, to find some gourmet treasure for his fiancée, Marie. And when the restaurant is closed and over a memorable tasting session, he loves to swap favourite addresses with the sommelier of the Drouant restaurant, Cyril Ménard.

His passions are many. He loves football, real Parisian bistros, Brazil, sea fishing with his grandfather off Quiberon, and does not balk at the idea of enjoying a good cigar on the terrace of the Le Lutétia bar overlooking le Marais, his neighborhood, on the other side of the River Seine. But nothing in the world would make him miss the annual pilgrimage in the direction of another mythical river, down the Rhone valley, to producers, Gerard and Jean-Louis Chave. A trip he quite willingly extends further south, to see his old friends, the wine growers. In fact, it may be this friendship, cultivated and constantly renewed, which makes Adrien, and many of his colleagues, think that being a sommelier is the best job in the world. So, here’s to old friends!

Serves 4 :

Poultry carcass......................1 kg
Carrots............................15g x 4
Yellow carrots....................15g x 4
Turnips............................15g x 4
French beans.....................15g x 4
Snow peas........................15g x 4
Cauliflower.......................15g x 4
Kohlrabi...........................15g x 4
Black olive tapenade...........15g x 4
Tomato confit....................10g x 4
Lamb’s lettuce...................10g x 4
Radishes.....6 to 8 depending on size
Alfalfa sprouts......According to taste
Ras el Hanout.......According to taste
Cumin.................According to taste
Fine sea salt.........According to taste
Currants..............According to taste
Almonds..............According to taste
Sherry vinegar......According to taste
Baguette...........4 slices not too thin

A recipe from Frédéric Crochet

(restaurant “Mon Vieil Ami” Paris 4e)

Once a coalman’s cafe, the restaurant first saw success in the late ’70s when, under the name of “Le Monde des Chimères”(World of Dreams), it was run with great panache by Jeannine Courreau, born and bred in the area. Following two years with Bernard Loiseau, Frédéric Crochet, son of illustrious Sancerre winegrowers, spent over four years in the kitchens of the Buerehiesel restaurant in Strasbourg’s Parc de l’Orangerie. It was here that he developed, under the leadership of Antoine Westermann, and from whom he learned the art of preparing vegetables. It's no wonder that this young chef, a lover of food and wine, was entrusted to take over the kitchen from Antony Clémot, who today works at the Drouant, Antoine Westermann’s other Parisian jewel. Now a partner in Mon Vieil Ami with Adrien Boulouque, Frédéric Crochet serves the many foreigners in the Ile Saint-Louis with his dishes cooked lovingly in earthenware casseroles. He often adds that undisguised smile which crosses his face, lighting up the kitchen, to the divine vegetables delivered by Joel Thiebault, the king of vegetables in the Paris region.

Warm Seasonal Vegetables
with tapenade croutons
Make a chicken stock using the ras el hanout. Then cook all the vegetables separately in boiling water. Roast the almonds and raisins. Make one crouton per person and spread with tapenade. Heat the chicken juices and add the trimmed vegetables. Lay each vegetable one by one on the plates (one of each type of vegetable per person) and add a few lamb’s lettuce leaves, alfalfa sprouts, sherry vinegar and a more or less generous pinch of fine sea salt, according to taste.

Adrien Boulouque’s
suggestions to accompany this dish

It was maybe the spiciness of this dish that led Adrien, but only after some thought, to choose the Alsace Pinot gris “Le Fromenteau” 2005 from Celine and Jean Meyer, “Straight, uncompromising people, just how I like them”, to accompany these seasonal vegetables. "At first, I thought about the Pinot blanc "mise de printemps" for its fresh, crisp appearance, but it is no longer available. For those who have forgotten, Fromenteau is the former name of the Pinot gris. Crisp in the mouth and full of finesse, it accompanies perfectly slightly spicy dishes and, in season, also goes well with game. Serve cool but not cold, at around 12 degrees. I also recommend considering a Chenin from the Loire Valley, because no one can ignore the Loire ... For a more festive feel, you could also try a brut from A. Laurans in Damery.

Mon Vieil Ami

69 rue Saint Louis en l'Île 75004 Paris
Tel: 01 40 46 01 35
Fax: 01 40 46 01 36