It may be the start of fall, but that doesn’t mean summer has had its last say. Jean-Louis Evennou, head chef and owner of downtown Annapolis’ Café Normandie, has been bringing French cuisine to Annapolis for over 25 years and this month I had the pleasure of savoring some superb summer flavors in his dish Halibut Papillote with Grilled Vegetables. In case you were wondering (like me), papillote is French for parchment, in this case a method of using parchment to cook food.
Upon arriving at Café Normandie, my boyfriend and I were escorted to our table through a cozy, dimly lit interior with wood and marble furnishings. Along the way we passed a few of the café’s desserts set in glass displays, a tantalizing preview of things to come. Traditional French accordion music played softly in the background and cheerful posters of Antibes and Nice hung on the walls. The café had the feel of a casual Parisian bistro and I was ready to have my taste buds transported.
We started with gazpacho and a spinach salad before moving onto the main attractions: the halibut special for me, the seafood pasta for my boyfriend. My dish featured the catch of the day on a bed of julienned squash and zucchini. The fish was topped with thin slices of mango sautéed in sugar and tequila. Not surprisingly, the halibut was cooked perfectly, tender and juicy—showcasing the parchment style of cooking. The mango lent a subtle sweetness to each bite, finishing with a whisper of tequila.
I was floating on a cloud of sweet and savory flavors—the sweetness of the mango, the faint bite of tequila, the saltiness of the vegetables, the light creaminess of a Beurre Blanc sauce—all melding and playing off one another in a new way with each forkful. I could tell my boyfriend was similarly enjoying his meal by the contented silence that settled between us. After we couldn’t eat another bite we half-heartedly looked at the dessert menu, but knew there was simply no more room for anything else.
Alas, the aforementioned desserts still beckoned from their gleaming pedestals, but I remained steadfast and opted for liquid dessert instead, finishing my half bottle of Willm Reserve Pinot Gris. My boyfriend and I walked out into the cool evening air and down to the Eastport Bridge where we drank in the sunset for the perfect end to a sumptuous meal. As I looked out over the water, crepes and other French delicacies danced through my head and I knew it wouldn’t be long before my next visit to Café Normandie.
Photography and videography courtesy of Darren Heater