Alain Vidonne is the jolliest, friendliest, most joyful person I have ever met – and he butchers animals for a living. Who’d a thunk it?
I had the delectable pleasure of meeting Mr Vidonne and a host of gourmands at last night’s Slow Food Léman event: Everything you ever wanted to know about beef but were afraid to ask. What a way to spend a Tuesday night!
Brilliant concept right? The event started with a warm up round of wine. Initially I just thought this was to provide a warm greeting to the guests, but I later realized it also served to grease us up a little before stepping into the meat locker – not for the faint of heart!
From there, we suited up in our plastic robes and hair nets and entered the butcher’s quarters. In the business for almost 50 years, Mr Vidonne really knows what he’s talking about. The scene was quite spectacular: with two mostly butchered cows hanging in the background and a large stainless steel table covered in every cut of beef imaginable, Mr Vidonne took nearly an hour walking us through an entire cow, cut by cut, explaining where each piece came from, and what it was best for- roast beef, carpaccio, steak… you name it!
After the Q&A, Mr Vidonne invited us to walk through the actual meat locker/freezer – “And I’ll meet you on the other side to get the festivities started!” he chanted gleefully in his thick Geneva accent.
My partner in crime and I straggled in the back and chatted nervously, peering at the rows of hanging pigs, cows, lambs and other meats that I admit I wouldn’t be able to identify. Definitely a walk that takes some getting used to, and at the end of it you have this newfound respect for what this man has spent the better part of his life doing. Hearing his sing-songy voice and seeing the glint in his eye as he conjures up all the ways in which you can prepare meat, you wouldn’t think you were speaking to a butcher.
But I digress! And the best was yet to come. Our walk through the kind of hell you’d actually find a snowball in was greatly rewarded with a veritable symphony of beef: beef carpaccio seasoned with lemon, salt and pepper to absolute perfection, sea salt-crusted roast beef, petit sauté de boeuf in a Pinot sauce (like beef stew), beef bone marrow, and absolutely delicious sides of gratin dauphinois, lentils, and a variety of roasted vegetables.
Yeah, this was one of those meals where your eyes roll back at each bite.
And let me tell you, this band of 60+ year olds really know how to live! Out came the wines, bottle after bottle. First the Aligoté, followed by a slew of pinot noirs and syrahs from Dardagny (I think they were all products of Marc Ramu’s – all very respectable wines!). As people got their fill of beef, they moved on to the cheese plates. And last but not least, the industrial sized, homemade apple pie! Just in time to satisfy my incredibly demanding sweet tooth 🙂
I could go on and on about all the incredible discussions we had until nearly midnight, slowly draining Mr Vidonne of his wine supply as we joyfully discussed meals we’ve had at restaurants throughout France, Switzerland and Italy. But instead, I leave you with the most important question of the evening: what would Mr Vidonne, a butcher who supplies hundreds of Geneva’s restaurants, say are the top 5 best restaurants? He hesitated – All of them are good of course! he says….
And finally lists the following:
1. Café de Peney
2. Café-Restaurant de Certoux
3. Restaurant La Réunion
4. Le Chat Botté (at the Beau Rivage Hotel)
5. Le Grill (at the Kempinski Hote)
L’Addresse in Eaux-Vives also got a mention, and he seemed to feel there were many, many others. But, he cautioned, he never has to crack open a menu when takes a seat at these restaurants, meaning he may be getting special treatment from these clients of his…. but I can confirm that his top three are widely recognized as some of Geneva’s top gastro establishments. So test away! I’m sure your palates will be pleased.
SO! now that that’s done, I apologize now for not having any photos of this epic evening! Check out these events and more at Slow Food Léman. If last night was at all telling, you can expect incredibly warm company, delicious food, real characters and wine that’ll last ya til the cows come home.