Wednesday, July 04, 2007

La Petite Auberge

My husband and I were driving back to Richmond after a day at Ikea and Potomac Mills. We had had enough of cheap Swedish meatballs, horrendous interstate traffic, and the never ceasing wail of little kids. We needed decent food in a quiet place that caters to adults. We found our oasis at La Petite Auberge in downtown Fredericksburg. We arrived around 6:30 PM without reservations and were promptly seated. We would have had difficulty obtaining a table if we had walked in any later. The place was divided into an enclosed smoky bar with red-checked tablecloths and a non-smoking dining area with more formal white cloths. The dining room space soared up two stories with rustic beams and exposed brick. Large contemporary oil paintings bedecked the upper part of the brick. White fence trellising was set along the lower part of the walls.

Marti C. took great care of us. She was an experienced and fantastic waitress. The wine list held a fair number of “House Wines” (such as House Cotes du Rhone or House Chardonnay) which was a bit confusing, at first. Make sure to ask what these bottles are. The Cotes du Rhone turned out to be a 2005 Perrin Reserve. We drooled over a 2003 Perrin Chateauneuf du Pape, but the restaurant did not have any more of the 2003 vintage, so we ordered the Cotes du Rhone ($22). Once the wine was open we received a basket of baguette-like rolls served with unsalted Plugra butter. Yum!

La Petite Auberge carried a regular menu as well as an extensive dinner special page. On this night lump crabmeat seemed to be the main feature. Appetizers ranged in price from $5.25 (Ripe Avocado and Golden Delicious Apple Vinaigrette) to $22 (Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Poached Pear and Stan Keel’s Date and Nut Bread with a Glass of Loupiac). Regular menu selections offered a wide variety - Blackened Mahi Mahi with Bananas and Spring Onions ($19), Cajun Andouille Sausage with Basmati Rice and Black Beans ($13), and Filet Grille Bearnaise ($29) – to name a few. Dinner specials boasted Soft Shell Crabs Amandine ($30), Halibut with Crabmeat and Piperade ($22), Pan Roasted Pork Chop Grand Mere with Lardons, Mushrooms, Pearl Onions, and Natural Jus ($17), and Roasted Rack of Lamb with Dijon Mustard Crust and Mint Jelly ($22.50).

We had a difficult time deciding. We shared an appetizer – Smoked Trout with Betty Poole’s Sweet Red Pepper Jelly, Bagel, Crème Fraiche, Capers, and Minced Onion ($9.95). What a fantastic starter! I had envisioned little slivers of smoked trout. I was wrong. We received a whole trout filet, smoked to perfection. The condiments subtly enhanced the flavor of the dish. I loved the intense smokiness of the trout. The capers and onions added a strong counterpoint with the jelly contributing a sweet tang. The crème fraiche bound everything together. The bagel was the only so-so part of the dish. My husband preferred to eat his trout portion with the baguette rolls. Thank goodness we shared the trout. This appetizer could easily have provided enough tasty morsels for four diners.

For dinner proper, I ordered Poached Eggs Benedict ($10.95) from the regular menu. It is unusual for restaurants around here to serve any type of main course egg dish for dinner. It was nice to see this as part of the regular offerings. And very tasty, too. The Hollandaise sauce was well prepared with only a hint of lemon. The eggs were of the proper runny consistency, and the ham added that touch of smoky salt to the dish. The eggs were also accompanied by scalloped potatoes. Very rich and creamy. My husband went for one of the specials for the evening – Baked Stuffed Shrimp with Crabmeat ($22). He received three jumbo shrimp with the equivalent of a crab cake on top of each of the shrimp. The shrimp were wonderfully sweet and the stuffing contained mostly crab with a few breadcrumbs sprinkled on top to achieve a browning effect. The dish also came with a side of scalloped potatoes, much to my husband’s delight.

We had no room for dessert.

What an unexpectedly wonderful meal after a weary day of mall shopping! We were very pleased and plan to return again, soon.

La Petite Auberge
311 William Street
Fredericksburg, VA

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