"This is very sexy food. It would be a good place to come for a date."

A Foreign Affair 

"This is very sexy food. It would be a good place to come for a date."

Page 2 of 3

Combe's surrogates have kept the menu consistent, probably because this intimate bistro has loyal followers who like the stability of a dinner selection that always includes lamb, beef, duck, pork and half a dozen seafood dishes.

After making quick work of a tiny jumble of fresh greens lightly dressed in a simple vinaigrette, Peter all but gnawed on the bones of the splendid grilled rack of lamb, cote d'agneau aux herbes. "Fabulous, fabulous," he said, dipping each tender chop into a dark puddle of Cabernet tarragon sauce.

For me, Marciniak's stuffed trout came steaming from the oven, covered with a layer of chopped wild mushrooms and herbs tucked into the center, all splashed with a sinful white truffle oil.

"This is very sexy food," Peter said later, as he cracked the caramelized surface of a petite crème brûlée with a spoon. "It would be a good place to come for a date."

That was obviously true on the bitterly cold Friday night when I returned to dine with two of my amis, Lou Jane and Franklin. An attractive couple sat at the next table, their fingers interlaced; I assumed they were on their second date. When I asked, they both laughed and announced that they were getting married the next day. At a corner table, another young couple was also holding hands and gazing deeply into each other's eyes.

Lou Jane says French restaurants provide the best culinary foreplay because the cuisine uses a lot of supposedly aphrodisiac ingredients — such as the steamed mussels floating in a soothing cream-and-sherry broth that Franklin indulged in before dinner. Lou Jane and I shared the sautéed frog legs — one of the most powerful aphrodisiacs ever, I'm told. The exquisite garlic-wine sauce was nearly as potent as the meaty limbs, and we lustily sopped up the lingering sauce with hunks of warm bread.

Because it was a weekend night, the two small, dark dining rooms had filled up quickly. And because the tables were, as usual, pushed a bit too close together, eavesdropping was unavoidable. When the man sitting behind Lou Jane started quoting radio right-winger Michael Savage, I half-expected her to turn and toss a frog leg at him. The guy piped down only when he started listening to our conversation, which included not-so-blurry recollections of various sexual escapades.

I was too focused on my filet de fletan to add much to the conversation; in spite of the Marquis de Sade's suggestion, even sex talk seemed less important than my hunk of lovely halibut slathered in a satiny sauce made with saffron and citrus crème fraiche. It was almost too rich to eat, but I forced myself.

Franklin was excessively fond of a tender filet dripping with a blue-cheese-and-brandy demi-glaze. After Lou Jane recovered from her initial disappointment that the Berkshire pork chop was boneless — she prefers the bone, you know — she noted that it was gorgeously tender and discreetly cloaked in a glaze of apple and sherry.

Soon enough, we realized that, despite the Marquis' encouragement to satisfy one's appetites with "little restraint," there's something to be said for a bit of modesty at the end of the meal.

Franklin raved over his doll-sized dessert combo plate: a tiny espresso cup filled with a dark-chocolate mousse and a crème brûlée not much bigger than a cosmetic compact. "It's the perfect size," he said. "You can't overindulge on sweets this way, even if you want to."

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