I am motionless at the center of the square. I look like one of those street artists that people pay to see them moving.
I am stuck. Better: I am enchanted.
I keep on staring at this effigy. I almost feel like use my hand to touch it. To give a real dimension to my thoughts. To transform the contact with the fingertips, what I see and mostly imagine, into something tangible.
I am in Valenza, a few steps away from the river Rodano precisely in Place du Champs-de-Mars.
I am in Valenza and I watch an image of Jacques Pic, son of André and father of Anne-Sophie.
I am in Valenza and I walk not to a simple restaurant but to the physical representation of a dynasty of master chefs of three generations.
I am in Valenza and I am about to visit the Maison Pic.
Valenza is a small French city in the Alps in central Europe. It is a village in the hills with 20.000 inhabitants. The same who walk through the streets full of history: here they have had the French revolution, Pope Paolo VI has died, many Armenians have found asylum after their genocide.
One of these streets hosts Maison Pic, Anne-Sophie’s restaurant. It is a temple of French and European food service, rewarded three times with three Michelin stars: in 1934, when the restaurant was run by the founder André, in 1973 when it was run by his son Jacques, and then in 2007 with Anne-Sophie in charge. She is now one of the woman chefs most paid all over the world (she can boast 58 million dollars a year), but initially she did not want to follow the family tradition. Anne-Sophie wanted to be a manager and for a short time she has also followed her projects. Then she has decided to come “home” and using her management knowledge for food service has managed to open restaurants all over the world.
The Maison Pic is in the dell’Hotel Maison Pic, a five stars extra luxury with 14 rooms. The rooms of the restaurant are beautiful, bright, wide, and with an avant-gardist furniture, and can host until 50 guests.
The welcoming is immediately superlative: I am welcomed by young but prepared guys, also the maître is young and he is one of Anne-Sophie’s closest collaborators.
The menu is fascinating, studied in every single perfect detail. It is written only in French to safeguard tradition (in France it is very important) and because there are not many foreigner tourists here at Maison Pic. I had prepared myself before I arrived to Valenza. In particular I had read an article by Claudio Sacco alias Viaggiatore Gourmet who said that the transalpine restaurant was very high quality, in particular as for details. I would add to it their precision and fastness in serving the courses, prepared by a team of sixteen people.
I choose the discovery menu: the list of the dishes is inside a booklet closed with a bow, where you can find the explanation for every course. There is a main menu, that the waiter brings away, and there is another small menu that they print for you, with the dishes I have ordered. I will bring them both home with me: they do not always allow it. They did an exception for me.
After wine, a very good Domaine, and the amuse-bouche the dish I have enjoyed the most was pigeon. At Maison Pic it is served barely browned, with its skin softened by a pigeon extract and mushrooms. The rest was all mousses and creams, typical of French traditions. In my very personal opinion I can say I have eaten better pigeons such as the one of the chef Guida of Mandarin Oriental or at Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence.
The real feather in her cup in Anne-Sophie’s menu is dessert though: a white cube with mille foglie inside with alternate layers of Tahiti vanilla cream, emulsion with Voatsiperifery pepper, and jasmine jelly. It is reductive saying it is good: it is definitely the best dessert I have eaten in my whole life.
I leave my last comment for the restrooms as usual: they are wonderful and overflowing. In particular the story of Maison Pic told through the walls of corridors is amazing. I am also literally kidnapped by an open air space with a lake and a cascade, where you can have your aperitif sitting on some chairs. That is really a place where you can be in peace with the world and your life.
Final mark: four beards.