We won! And thank goodness, because the only thing that could salvage the horrendous faux pas of scheduling a dinner during a France World Cup game would be the guys pulling out the requisite win. And not just winning the game, but scoring the two points needed to advance to the next round. Jubilation! R tipped the waiter to give us updates, and the food took a little longer because the game was on in the kitchen as well. I breathed a sigh of relief when the Bouillabaisse was pronounced “good”. It always takes some chutzpah to invite someone out to taste their own native cuisine. Of course, the flip-side is that NAM is now ruined for the N orth AM erican version (our guests were shocked and appalled to hear that it often contains shell-fish, which is just wrong). As for me, I’m almost satisfied just munching on those fantastic croutes and aioli. Le Dôme, btw, is great. Go there when you’re here. Roger and out.
Breakfast included the normal stuff, but also a couple of fougasses, something I’d never tried before. Fougasse is like a French version of focaccia, these two were folded over and stuffed, one with chevre and one with tuna and tomato sauce. R&K get theirs from their favourite boulangerie, which makes baguettes (see below, not the magic ones) throughout the day. They put even the Pain Quotidien baguettes to shame. Then we all headed out for a long trek, which began along the
Rue de la Gaité, on which sex shops alternate with good Japanese restaurants. The sexy Parisiens don’t seem to mind their sex shops at all. Most are in sleazier quartiers, but the Gaité is in the middle of a respectable, if fun, neighborhood. The death march continued appropriately with a diversion in the Cimetière du Montparnasse. We stopped to visit a few of the more famous inhabitants, including Serge Gainsbourg, and of course Samuel Beckett. MW asked us to bring back two things from our trip, a stone from Paris and a stone from Rome. The Paris stone we decided on was sitting on Beckett’s tomb. Hope he likes it.
From there, we continued along the Boulevard de Montparnasse, passing by familiar joints like La Coupole, La Rotonde, and the Montparnasse temple of Bouillabaisse, Le Dôme. La Rotonde is a great place for a Montparnasse nightcap. If you don’t want to splurge at Le Dôme, there’s Le Bar à Huîtres right across the street. There are a few of these in Paris and they’re all serviceable and fun. (C’est vrai, SP?)
Continuing through Les Jardins du Luxembourg, one of my all-time favourite Paris spots, we gradually wound our way towards le Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville, in search of a couple of things: an olive-wood spice grinder and one of these beautiful Laguiole cheese knives. Found some, but ended up not buying anything. From there, passed through Le Marais, stopped for a drink, saw some silly baguettes (see below), then, gripping our wallets and bags tightly, got on the metro at Chatelet.
Our destination was Bercy Village, or, more specifically, Cour St. Emilion. We had asked R&K to show us more of the Parisen’s Paris, and this place fits the bill. It’s where the train used to pull up into the wine warehouses. After having been abandoned for some time, the old warehouses now house little shops and bistros. We stopped and enjoyed a nice little Margaux at Alice Cafe. Not sure why, but this beautiful chanson by Josquin des Prez was going through my head that afternoon:
Cueurs desolez par toutes nations,
Assembles doeul et lamentation
Pour moy de ceste peine dejetter,
Car nuyt et jour je ne puis reposer,
Mais tousjours suys en tribulation.
R&K are very uneasy about my blogging the fantastic little restaurant where we had a late dinner: Giufelli. This place is the real thing, and the three-course prix fix is 22 Euros! Little wonder that we all slept until noon the next day.
Baguette traditionelle, Montparnasse:
Baguette magique, le Marais:
The sun is back and the heat, too. Late morning, we headed over to rue Mouffetard, where NAM bought these beautiful raspberries, which we then enjoyed in the Jardin des Plantes. We headed back to Montmartre to take care of unfinished business at Les Deux Moulins. Actually had a decent lunch there, but also had one of those great “Parisiens are friendly” experiences that no one ever believes. If you recall from Le Fabuleux destin d’Amï¿½lie Poulain, there’s a phone booth in the back of the cafe. I went there to make a call, opened the cabinet and found some wires hanging out. Looks like it hasn’t been a phone for years. Asked our waitress about it and she offered me her mobile phone to use. How nice is that? Told our Parisien friends, who are as convinced as anyone that Parisiens are rude, unfriendly people, about it, and they were astonished! Headed up to Sacre Coeur once again to enjoy the views in the sunshine.
Spending the weekend in the 14th with the fabuleux R&K. Dinner in was the usual extravaganza. Not going to say how many bottles of Champagne (K’s home town) we had–the 2002 Joseph Drouhin Vosne-Romanee was nice too. Have you ever had farmer’s radishes with butter and salt?
I have a confession to make. After a few days of eating French dinners, I need to do something else. Once, during a working trip, I had to fast completely by Wednesday. It hadn’t quite gotten to that point yet, but we clearly needed a change of pace. So after more tramping about the 1st and 8th, we headed back to the hotel to plan the next step. Already 22:00h and still light out. This is actually on the late side for dining in Paris, so as the minutes ticked by, our options began dwindling. Found the perfect choice in a great Thai place: Baan Boran, on rue de Montpensier, right next to the Palais Royal. Asked for everything tres, tres epicees and got it! Actually the green papaya salad was a bit over the top, even for me. Never had spicy food in Paris before.
On the way over to the restaurant, we spotted a very cute little cocktail bar and made a mental note. Stumbled across several of these over the years. Had a funny experience at a little place near Place des Vosges. Sitting there sipping a whiskey, we were approached by a young UCC brat, who was earnestly sharing his dream of escaping to Paris to be a writer. I think he showed us some samples too. The best part was at 1:00 am when his father stormed in, grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and dragged him out, not saying a word. There’s also a very cute one on rue M. Le Prince in the 6th.
Back to rue de Montpensier. The bar we settled into after dinner is called Caveau Montpensier. It really is a cave-like set of small, comfy rooms and had the just right combination of tunes and couples making out. One of those situations is which after conversing for a while in primative French, you realize that everyone in the room is English. Now apparently owned by a guy from Boston. The place is also frequented by this pooch by the name of Bleu.
Drizzly day tramping around Montmartre, and the drizzle only adds to the effect. Were headed towards Les Deux Moulins for a Celluloid Pantry photo shoot (you’ll just have to wait until next Tuesday to see what the movie is), but, as we still needed some lunch, postponed that. I might as well just come out and say that I sometimes struggle with the concept of lunch in Paris. In a French restaurant, you go from haute cuisine to “Croque Monsiuer sans jambon” (and get a “wtf?” look from the server) with little in between. Not being meat-eaters, 90% of bistrot food is off limits. So, Italian is always a good choice. Pizza Napoletana two days in a row? Well, like the Ramones, I can eat pizza every day. Especially when it’s good, like at La Rughetta:
Always packed with the young crowd and celebrities from the neighborhood, this lively Montmartre trattoria serves very good pizza and pasta that are redolent of Rome; so what if the personnel is not always nice and the decor is minimal? the terrace is really cool in the summer.
I had noticed this place on previous trips to Rue Lepic, and yes, it’s always packed. And, for the record, the Italian woman looking after us was nice.
So, I told NAM last night that the Manufacture des Gobelins was where gobelins, or gargoyles were made. I was only partially correct, which is to say completely wrong, it was a tapestry and furniture factory for the royals. But Gobelin really does mean goblin in French, honest! Right around the corner from the manufacture is a crazy, way old-school Sud Ouest restaurant called Auberge Etchegorry. There we dined with the inimitable SP, a Sud-ener himself. SP strikes up lively, long conversations with waiters and such everywhere we go. He somehow finds long-lost chums or people who know his aunt, or something along those lines. We had some wonderful Jurancon, Madiran, and good Basque food to along with it. We took it easy on SP and only went to one place afterwards (in every arrondissemnt, there is at least one bar where he’s greeted by name–he thinks this is an exaggeration, but I don’t). So we topped the night off at Carr’s, an Irish pub which happens to be right across the street from our Hotel. What a coincidence!
When art stinks:
Morning in the Pompidou. Where they hiding the good stuff at? Instead of Kandinsky, saw things ranging from the irritating to the smelly: “Ketchup Sandwich” which was a stack of sheets of glass with ketchup in between, and “100 boots in their crash pad” which was 100 pairs of rubber boots stashed away in a small room, which the viewer spied through a chained door. Concerning the Rancid in Art, anyone? P.U.!
Strolling around rue St. Honore, Beaubourg and Les Halles today. Despite the vow not to have a rich lunch, had some lovely tartes and white Burgundy on the terrace. Light applause broke out in the little shop over my pronunciation of “Roquefort“. I kid you not.
The overcast days are making my amateur photography difficult, but:
La Butte, vue de Pompidou:
Can Le Pavillon N be far away?
Been on a fine dining jag for the past few weeks that has taken me to such New York gems as The Firebird, Gotham Bar & Grill, and most notably, Aureole (not to mention Shun Lee Palace, Josephina and ‘Cesca — overrated and overshadowed by our fine company that night, Mr & Ms S.Fo). Aureole was, of course, the standout. The scallops with unagi were wonderful, with the sweetness of each playing off the other, contrasted with, I kid you not, slices of cooked pickle in between. The room is befitting the former residence of Orson Welles, one of the main reasons I always wanted to visit this lovely brownstone just a few blocks away from the Hacienda.
Well, we now find ourselves on the other side of the pond, in Paris to be exact. After a long, foodless flight and missing breakfast, we started the day off with a nice pizza from one of my Paris favourites, Vesuvio. One of their Napoletanas will set you straight. After an afternoon of strolling around both banks, the Hotel delivered a nice little treat, which we enjoyed on our nice little terrace pictured at left. We had the game on in the room, but we could hear by the moans from the Irish pub below that France didn’t manage to score against Switzerland, leaving the game tied at zero.
Then it was time for the main event, L’EPI Dupin. I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to go here for years now. This time, I had the good sense to make a reservation from New York, a few weeks ahead. And when you arrive, you see why you need to reserve. It’s a small room and was packed in tightly on a Tuesday night. The place is famous for its great food and gentle prices. It did not disappoint. We both had to have the sardines entree that we had seen others enjoying. Fresh, you might say sushi grade, sardines atop melting mozzarella, tomato and toast. Formidable! I then moved on to tuna with fennel, and Mme. Celluloid Pantry had the cod. The tuna was done very differently from the US chain restaurant style (giant slab done with sesame and soy sauce, or whatever passes for an Asian accent). The three pieces, well cooked on the outside, raw on the inside, making the whole a little more flavorful. This was sitting atop large pieces of fennel. Wow. Both courses went nicely with a Latour-Giraud Puligny-Montrachet 2001 Champs Canet. More wow. We skipped a sweet desert and opted instead for some of the house special St. Nectaire, a flavorful semi-soft cheese. Capped the evening off at Le Bar Chinois back at the hotel. Mme. had the safir cocktail while M. enjoyed a glass of the 1976 Labardolive bas Armangac.
How’s this for a trifecta:
Thursday night: dinner in Rome
Friday night: dinner in Paris
Saturday night: dinner in New York
I have finally lived up to my Jet-Set moniker.
Back in the city of lights again. This time, decided to be good citizens and took the RER into town. The problem isn’t so much with the RER as lugging the bags up an down the stairs of the metro. And when we got to Gare Montparnasse, decided it was a bit far and took a cab anyway. Going home tomorrow, we’ll just cab it to Denfert Rocherau, then take the RER to CDG. It will still beat the 55 â‚¬ cab fare all the way to the airport. During our afternoon stroll, which started out with a couple of fougasses to keep the vultures away, we passed through rue Montsouris. You could visit Paris a hundred times and not find all the charming hidden treasures like this little “private” street lined with houses from the 1920s, each with beautiful gardens and vines. Also passed through Cite Universitaire before stopping on Rue Daguerre for a quick drink.
Tonight’s main event will be a celebratory feast of Bouillabaisse at the Montparnasse legend, Le Dôme. Eggads! Time to head out now! To the fishmobile!