Air France Business Class: A Luxurious Way to Travel (and Dine)
Airlines have been seriously upping their business class offerings in recent years, and Air France is no exception. We recently had the opportunity to travel round trip from New York to Paris in business class, and it was hard to not be very impressed by both the older business class seats as well as the newer lie-flat ones that are being slowly rolled out across the fleet. In both cases, the seats are extremely comfortable, the entertainment options are great and the screens large, the Champagne is free-flowing, flight attendants are friendly and professional, and (most importantly) the food is some of the best you’ll find in the sky. And if you’re flying east, the entrée is created by none other than chef Daniel Boulud.
Before dinner service, you can choose from a nicely curated selection of Champagne and wine: Laurent-Perrier Champagne, 2015 Chateau l’Hospitalet Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc, 2014 Dauvergne et Ranvier Vallee du Rhone Rouge, and 2010 Chateau La Cardonne Bordeaux Rouge. Dinner service began not too long after takeoff with an appetizer of pheasant terrine with figs as well as scallops with mango pearls and seaweed salad. The terrine was stellar and the scallops, served cold, were nicely cooked and creatively complemented by the seaweed salad and sweet pops of mango.
Entrée options included pan-seared tournedos of beef with port wine sauce, scalloped potatoes, and ratatouille; vegetable risotto with butternut squash sauce, eggplant, and shimeji mushrooms; and Boulud’s creation: braised Basque-style chicken with chorizo, peppers, and saffron sauce over rice (above). I opted for the latter, and while it might not have been the most attractive dish, it was certainly tasty: espelette pepper and chorizo gave it a spicy kick and the chicken was tender and very flavorful. The beef filet was nicely seared if slightly overcooked, but the sauce served as a rich and balanced complement and the scalloped potatoes were amply portioned and creamy. Cheeses and an individual gianduja cream-topped shortbread (as well as an additional drink service of digestifs) rounded off the meal nicely. Before landing, a light breakfast of breads, breakfast pastries, butter and preserves, fresh fruit, and yogurt was served.
A completely different menu (save for the wine) was offered on the way back with entrées created by renowned Parisian chef Guy Martin of Le Grand Véfour. The meal started with an amuse-bouche of perfectly cooked shrimp on a bed of creamy cauliflower purée topped with tomato pesto. This was followed by a tasty foie gras terrine with apple-apricot chutney as well as a nicely portioned filet of smoked salmon with seaweed salad and sundried tomato (top). Two of the four available options are from Martin: sautéed veal with maniguette pepper (grains of paradise) and organic corn penne pasta; and pan-seared shrimp with shellfish jus, broccoli with ginger, and butternut squash purée. Additional options include chicken thigh with creamy forbidden rice, fondante carrots and turnips, and verbena sauce; and mashed potatoes with turmeric, hazelnuts, mixed vegetables, and morel cream sauce. The veal (above) was tender and accompanied by a light mixture of diced vegetables, and the portion was so large that I was unable to finish it. The chicken, unfortunately, was pallid and bland, with a one-note texture. The selection of cheeses that followed it up — petit chèvre, Langres, and Cantal — more than made up for it, as did the dessert course of plum clafouti with an almond praline cream puff, peaches, and berry coulis; but by that point I was about ready to burst. Passengers also have the option of an additional light meal, including focaccia, Comté, mustard cream sauce, mushroom and chicken flan, and pepper chutney or cakes, pastries, and ice cream, during the flight, but hunger didn’t return until long after landing.
Traveling business class is a luxurious and very special way to fly, and Air France’s level of service, attention to detail, and culinary offerings will make you never want to fly in economy (or with any other airline) ever again.