French Toast Restaurant: A Passport to European Dining

What’s the best way to ring in the weekend, and experience a touch of Paris all at once? Answer: A Friday evening at French Toast in Peoria, Illinois. (Reservations: 1-309-686-0234, open Monday through Saturday, www.winecountry-frenchtoast.com).

Surrounded by paintings and candlelight, my meal began with the fromage (cheese) course. While I sweetly shared a few bites with my companions, I wanted to horde every creamy, succulent bite of cheese for myself. Next, I dove into a spinach salad with toasted goat cheese and lots of real bacon, which reminded me of the salads available in my favorite Paris cafes. I decided to catapult myself to heaven by splurging for the evening special of a 14-ounce steak of Kobe beef served with potatoes dauphinoise (a gratin of thinly sliced potatoes and cream, baked, and then cut into wedges). The flavors of the potato dish transported my taste bud’s memories back to a meal I had at La Madeleine in New Orleans. Kobe beef is known for its well marbled texture, superior taste and for being exceptionally tender. It was love at the first juicy, buttery bite (I only shared one bite). French Toast prepares this beef medium-rare beautifully. Did I mention the steak was topped with shavings of black truffle in butter slices? Cutting the steak with an antique Laguiole steak knife from France added an extra level of enjoyment to the meal.

Since champagne is always a good idea, I sipped Philipponnat Royale Reserve Brut champagne (from the wine list) throughout the meal. The champagne bubbled up into fruity perfection when tasted with the food. Feeling delightfully full from the generous portions, I still felt the sinful urge to partake in dessert. The Oeufs a La Neige (meringue clouds floating in custard sauce and caramel) along with a Sauternes (dessert wine), picked out from the adjoining Wine Country, made me coo like a little pigeon with every bite. For just a 5 dollar corkage fee all the wines at Wine Country are available as options with any meal. The meal ended with coffee served to each guest in our own gorgeous silver French press, which added extra flavor and freshness and let us linger a bit longer in gustatory bliss.

The staff at French Toast treats customers like royalty dining at home. They speak with hushed tones and are non-intrusive, all while managing to assist patrons in fulfilling their every culinary desire.

From the décor and intimate seating arrangements, to the knowledgeable wait-staff, overhead music and the fine cuisine, dinner at French Toast is an experience everyone should have once, but hopefully often.

*Victoria L. Cooksey is the author of three cookbooks including Cooking with Cooksey available at www.bn.com (Barnes and Noble) and www.amazon.com, or by calling: 1-800-288-4677.

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