In a letter to France's agricultural ministry, French Senator Yves Detraigne once wrote
that his country consumes a total of "30,000 tonnes" of snails each year—meaning the French chow down on 66 million pounds
of the shelled invertebrates annually, just under one pound per citizen. In Idaho, snails are a lot harder to come by on restaurant menus, but at Bacquet's Restaurant
, a new French eatery in Eagle, they're the most popular appetizer. Sitting on the umbrella-shaded patio on a balmy Thursday night, ordering the escargot was a no-brainer.
The handwritten menu at Bacquet's.
The six snails came out warm, curled deep into their rust-orange shells. Each one rested in its own hollow of butter, and the pince a escargot
(snail tongs) and tiny forks they were served with made it easy to clamp down on a shell and scoop out the prize within. While the lumps of gray-green snail meat didn't look all that appetizing, they went down pleasantly when doused with the herb-spiked butter reserved in each shell. Far from having the chewy texture of squid or mussels, the escargot at Bacquet's is soft and earthy, redolent of nothing so much as garlic. It's a flavor that's sure to sit well with anyone who appreciates a good pasta dish.
The carpaccio di prosciutto di parma, or melon with Parmesan and prosciutto.
Chef Franck Bacquet, who appeared tableside after the meal, said the recipe came courtesy of his grandmother. While escargot is usually sauced with a simple combination of garlic, butter and parsley, Bacquet's recipe uses 12 ingredients, including fennel and a dash of the hard stuff.
Speaking of alcohol, Bacquet's doesn't have a wine list. Instead, it has a miniature wine shop in the restaurant's back right corner, complete with towering shelves and multiple coolers that invite guests to browse before ordering. Generous tastes are available for free. By default, the server offered a pour of the house red—a peppery, full-bodied Cotes du Rhone starring Syrah grapes. It stood its own against the meatier entrees, while the more mellow house Pino Noir struck a counterpoint to lighter fare.
The truffle ravioli, drizzled with balsamic.
After struggling a bit to decipher the menu, which was handwritten in flowery script and packed with miniature drawings and titles in French, it was time to continue with the classics. The carpaccio di prosciutto di Parma
was a refreshing second starter. The cantaloupe slices were generous and tender, offering a sweetness that barely held its own against the salty punch of aged Parmesan and thin-sliced prosciutto. It's a time-tested combination, with Italian roots that may date as far back as the second century C.E., and it didn't disappoint.
The truffle ravioli, boeuf forestier
(brandied ribeye) and pork gorgonzola dulce
(a pork medallion in port-blue cheese reduction) were next to arrive. The boeuf
was mushroom-topped and sprawling, a challenge to even the largest of appetites and a contrast to the petite ravioli, served swimming in truffle butter and a drizzle of balsamic.
The pork gorgonzola dulce.
The lemon flan, served with a lemon-sage cookie.
From the first bite, the ravioli was impressive, with a distinct toasted-nut flavor and velvety texture. Slivers of mushroom were hidden inside each envelope of pasta, and the sweet bite of balsamic was a welcome contrast to the richness of the butter. It was a near-perfect dish, and a bit of something cool and green to offer crunch and variation in temperature would have taken it over the top. The melt-in-your-mouth pork medallions were another hit, thanks to the savory brown gravy that pooled around them, flavoring chunks of potato, summer squash, Brussels sprouts and carrot.
The desserts arrived in procession to end the meal: a classic creme brulee, a lightly sweet apple tart a la mode for two, an intensely rich chocolate mousse, a slice of lemon cheesecake topped with lemon curd and raspberry sauce, and the standout—an airy lemon flan served with a just-this-side-of-savory lemon-sage cookie and a stiff swirl of meringue. Both the cheesecake and the flan were also decorated with meringue letter Bs, a nod to the chef whose high French standards were evident in every bite.
Though the prices at Bacquet's are towering, with entrees averaging $30 each, the flavors are of equal stature, making the out-of-the-way spot a solid choice for a romantic European getaway.