Foodie Newz

Le Refuge, An Old Town Alexandria Gem

Alexandria, VA – There is a small and treasured gem in Old Town that you may have driven past multiple times without knowing it’s there. Le Refuge, at 127 N. Washington Street, has been serving authentic country French food for over 40 years. It was started by Jean Francois Chaufour and his wife Francoise who emigrated to Washington D.C. from France in 1976. Together, they opened the quaint restaurant in 1983 in the spot where it remains today.

The Chaufours have both passed, leaving the award-winning restaurant in the loving hands of their daughter Anne Claire, who grew up in the business. The family continues to welcome new and returning customers to this small corner of France with a well-curated wine list and incomparable French country food.

I recently had the occasion to enjoy a special dinner at Le Refuge. Upon entering the intimate dining room, you are transported to an authentic bistro on a quiet Paris street. The walls are covered with wine bottles, European posters, decorative plates, and other accouterments. Sit down at your white tablecloth-covered table and settle in with a well-chosen wine list filled with white, red, rose, and sparkling wines. Or choose from a full menu of cocktails.

Choices range from Soupes, Salades, and Hors D’oeuvres to Poissons and Viandes. There is an additional menu of specialty items available, including Dover Sole or soft shell crabs and other seasonal items, The Soupe a L’oignon Gratinee is the real thing, a baked onion soup with Swiss cheese oozing richness.

Le Refuge creates a delicious version of escargot with garlic butter

The first course list of savories lured us to the Mousse de foie de canard au Cognac and the Escargots avec tomates en des, ail, persil – snails with diced tomatoes and garlic butter. The pate was smooth and unctuously luscious. The snails were over the top. The sauce was tangy and addicting, attracting multiple dips of our crisply crusted pieces of baguette. We added the Salad Caesar with anchovies made with fresh romaine and tossed with a house-made Caesar dressing that is better than most you will find anywhere.

If you love foie gras, try the foie gras mousse

An extensive list of tried-and-true entrees includes Coq-au-vin and Beef Wellington. There’s so much to try and so many reasons to return again and again. For example, two classic dishes include the La truite belle meunière aux amandes, a rainbow trout sautéed with lemon juice, butter, mushrooms, and almonds, or the Coquilles Saint Jacques Marseillaise—sea scallops sautéed with garlic, parsley, diced tomatoes, and finished with Pernod.

A not-so-common dish today is offal and Le Refuge excels with the Foie de veau Lyonnaise, calf liver with sautéed onions and Madeira sauce. Veal is well represented with classic dishes like Escalope de veau Normande made with veal scaloppini in a brandy cream sauce with mushrooms, and the Escalope de veau Francaise, veal scaloppini sauteed with lemon juice, butter, and parsley.

Duck a la ‘Orange a la Le Refuge

The restaurant was kind enough to fulfill a special request for our dinner entrée. The kitchen prepared a delicious meal of Duck a la ’Orange. The dish was accompanied by scalloped potatoes, a warm cabbage salad, fresh sautéed vegetables, and sweet potatoes. The rare duck breast slices were bathed in an orange jus that enriched the unctuous bird with layers of tangy sweetness.

The crème brûlée and crème caramel

Dessert is not to be missed. There is an array reflecting the beauty of French cooking. My guest and I opted for the crème brûlée and the crème caramel. The crème caramel was redolent with a hint of citrus while the crème brûlée was the perfect balance of custard and bruleed sugar.

Open for lunch and dinner, Le Refuge provides a respite from the day-to-day craziness that is life today. You must stop in and relax, while you enjoy a meal to remember.

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