Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Paree Is for You and Me--Day Thirteen

Believe it or not, this trip, and the chronicle of it, are coming to a close--just two more entries. But I do not have the journal notes for these last two days, so it will be a bit more impressionistic and very much keyed to the photos. No doubt we had breakfast this day, but where I'm not sure. Perhaps it was a day we actually sat and ate and had fine coffee at La Terrasse, close to Ecole Militaire, the imposing school and the Metro stop. We then Metro up to Rue Montorgueil, a pleasant pedestrian street filled with shops eager to fill you stomach. And signs eager for you to take lots of photos, only some of which I'll post.

I have to admit this next sign is much more appealing visually than as a clarion call for the sick to come forward for aid. First, I'd prefer my pharmacist not to look like a Pilgrim. Second, although I know the snakes are part of the Caduceus or Rod of Asclepius (I'll let purists argue that one out on their own), there are at least three of them on this sign, so I'm beginning to imagine that's Samuel Jackson under the Pilgrim hat ("gotta get these motherfucking snakes out of this motherfucking cauldron!").

Sorry, got distracted there watching Nomar homer so the Mets are tied for first (thanks Dodgers) and Broxton gets the win (good for my fantasy team).

Meanwhile back in Paris...we do stop and get a baguette from Eric Kayser's shop as Elizabeth at Three Forks had just recommended them in a comment on the blog. And it is good, but everything is good--the wonderful bread, that we get free wireless in the hotel, that now grown-up children of friends have such good taste they make brilliant recommendations. Of course, everything is beautiful because it's Paris, dammit. Even their snails are beautiful.

This street runs us back into Les Halles, so soon we get every possible angle of St. Eustache, where we saw/heard the organ concert on Easter Sunday. To prove there is a god, the sky gets briefly blue, too, even if the church has a clock on it, which seems to confound the senses of time the religious are supposed to have with our earthbound version. Or the architect just couldn't resist.

The area also features wonderful kitchen supply stores, and as a foodie who thinks he can cook a bit, it's probably the same as Mookie and Nigel walking into a neighborhood made of Milk Bones. We end up at Dehillerin, where even Julia Child shopped. But it's been open since 1820, so I have a hunch Victor Hugo probably shopped there, too. (Oh, don't be miserable because of that joke.) It is incredible, the best such store I've ever been in--even beats Surfas in Culver City. Amy kindly buys me a terrific copper pot as a birthday present, so we have to head back to the hotel, as a copper pot makes for a great dead weight, too.

Since we didn't go to Patiserrie Secco for breakfast, we can stop for lunch, and all the shopping for kitchen goodies has us hungry. Of course that blue sky by St. Eustache has since clouded over and we get caught in a brief downpour, but things clear up in time for us to eat along the Seine in our usual spot. I think I have a pissaladiere and Amy has a sandwich but neither of us remembers for sure. No doubt there was a post-lunch sweet.

Afterward we head back to Galleries Lafayette as it's time to do some more souvenir shopping and the place and its dome just amaze. It even has a rooftop observatory, and for it Jesus visits the Eiffel Tower in his glorious rays.

What's more, Lafayette is full of food, as I pointed out earlier. In its top floor cafe pretty much everything is self-serve, and then we discover that France is the best country in the world as this department store has self-serve beer on tap. Think about how much more smoothly shopping trips in the U.S. could go if each Macy's had a place where men could get liquored-up as their wives shopped away. Lafayette also had this surprise, a single-arched McDonald's, clearly, from this photo, a gathering spot for terrorists. (I kid, in a Tropic Thunder way.)

For dinner we played the dumb Americans. We opt, thanks to the ever-helpful Pudlo Paris, to try Le Comptoir de Relais, a place with an actual Pudlo plate (he does plates and not stars). Luckily we don't know that if you Google the place it's the star of many "impossible to get reservations in Paris" stories. Nope, we just show up and ask if we can eat there that night. At first they only offer us tables outside, and even with heaters and blankets adorned with an awfully (not ofally) cute pig, that seems extreme. But the maitre d' then asks if we don't mind taking the last table on the way to the kitchen, and we say oui oui.

The place offers one set menu every evening, no choices, for 48 Euros per. Not cheap, but it's 5 courses at a fantastic place. And you don't go to Paris to save money. Indeed, our meal was exquisite, starting with a brilliant broth with just a spot of foie gras in it, the simple and complex flavors playing off each other and upping one's hunger. The second was a coquille saint jacques, a gorgeous presentation of scallop. The third, perhaps the best lamb I've ever had, or carre d'agneau du Limousin roti, as that almost sounds as good as it tasted.

But then it was the cheese course. We could make that much out from the little postcard menus written in French that we still have, but had no idea what was going on when the previous course's plates got cleared and the waiter set up a wine bucket holder to the edge of our tiny table. Then the maitre d' swooped in with a massive slate full of maybe 9 cheeses, each with a honey or quince or jam that matched it. Since we were the first people in and eating that evening, and a course ahead of any other table, the maitre d' said, "You have a half hour to eat as much of this as possible." Of course we couldn't, but we certainly tried everything, much of it cheeses we haven't seen it the U.S., including a smoked sheep cheese we can't remember the name of but can still sort of taste, if we think hard enough. Later the table next to us got to their cheese course and asked us what was good. Turns out they had a different cheese plate, with fine examples of many things we actually knew. We really lucked out.

There was dessert, too. Lait de vache cuit, jus frais de kiwi, premiere fraises Gariguette. Speak French to my stomach and it will love your forever.



Blogger Smitty said...


Tell me. There must have been one...just one...sorta "meh" thing you ate at some point. This just can't be the total gastronomic fantasy that I am dreaming it is...

6:13 AM  
Blogger Marty said...

So long as the parent of the "grown-up [child]" can contribute oxymoronically to the conversation by refusing to acknowledge being himself grown up.

12:42 PM  
Blogger George said...

Smitty, we didn't have a bad meal. A couple were just ok, and that was mostly lunches, but most were quite quite good. But I did a lot of scouting to make sure of that. the Pudlo book I reference is wonderful.

Marty, you can remain un-grown-up as long as I can.

1:03 PM  

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