In what has now become a yearly tradition (we’ve only been doing it for two years but that’s long enough to be a tradition, right?) my coworkers and I take a long, long lunch in the spring to L’Auberge Chez Francois.
How long, you ask? Well, if you factor in the drive to the restaurant… about three and half hours.
It is totally worth it.
If you’ve never heard of it before, L’Auberge is an amazing traditional French restaurant in Great Falls, VA that has been around for years and years. It’s expensive, it’s old, and it’s a DC classic. My friends who grew up in DC (I know, they exist! Shocking.) will tell you that it’s the place they went for milestone birthdays, graduations, and all of those other big family moments. For the average DC foodie who didn’t grow up here, it might go undiscovered due to its remote location, audience of older clientele, and expensive price tag.
Luckily, we discovered L’Auberge’s $38 fixed price lunch. You get four courses (appetizer, salad, entree, and dessert) and a glass of wine. It’s expensive for a lunch, yes. But again, it’s totally worth it. You might, as we did, even get an “amuse bouche” which is a complimentary plate from the chef. Ours was a caramelized onion quiche which was perfect to start our meal with! Not to mention the garlic toasts and cottage cheese spread.
For my first course, I had the mushroom crepe (above). The menu describes it as “a crêpe with chives, stuffed with a duxelle of mushrooms, tomato concassé, Madeira sauce.” This was my favorite dish of the afternoon. The mushroom duxelle is almost meaty in flavor, the crepe crispy and smooth, and the mushrooms on the side are cooked to perfection. Perfection.
For my salad, I forked over the extra $4.75 to have the Roquefort cheese salad instead of the house salad. No picture, sadly, as I inhaled this before I remembered to snap.
Main course was a lobster salad, described on the menu as “Maine lobster salad on garden greens, asparagus, tomatoes – with vanilla vinaigrette.” This was, admittedly, a little strange when I first tasted it. The vanilla vinaigrette wasn’t totally to my personal taste (I tend toward preferring savory over sweet) but it tied the salad together perfectly. The lobster was cool and refreshing, the asparagus were cooked better than any asparagus I’d ever had before (we debated at the table as to the cooking method and finally came up with “blanched”).
The capstone to the meal, though, had to be the souffle. These must be ordered midway through the meal as they take 25-30 minutes to prepare. The fixed-price lunch comes with a complimentary dessert but the souffles cost about $8 extra. Again, they are totally worth it (seems to be the theme). If you’re dropping $38 on lunch already, what’s another $8, right?
Last year I ordered the chocolate souffle, but this year I opted for the raspberry and vanilla. Normally I’m not one to mix fruit with other food (fruit purist?), but this was heavenly. It’s fluffy, the perfect amount of raspberry, tart and sweet, powdered sugar, creamy deliciousness. It seemed huge when it came out but it melts in your mouth – I ate the entire thing.
I am looking forward to next year’s adventure to L’Auberge already!
Bonus/insider pro tips:
- If it’s nice out, asked to be seated on the patio. It’s beautiful out there (with an emphasis on the bee-you-tee-full).
- Make reservations. Even for lunch. Supposedly the dinner reservations fill up 3 months in advance.
- Dress up. The crowd is older than average and it is very, very formal. Lunch you could have more outfit leeway, but for gentleman a jacket is still de rigueur.