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Strawberries, pastry and cream

Deliciously crispy pastry with silky sweet cream and perky, bright strawberries.

It was our last night in Paris—and half the reason I was there wasn’t for the fashion; it was for the food. After exploring for more than nine hours in a foreign city, we felt compelled to have anything less than an adventurous dinner.

I was impressed by two things in Paris (outside of architecture). One – there were no extraordinarily heavy people in site. It was like I’d walked into an American fifties newsreel and all these slim people were hurrying about with tailored suits and lovely outfits. The second — we didn’t find any bad food. Even in the touristy spot in the Rue Cler that obviously pandered to the bland, Western diets of club sandwiches and fries—nothing looked oversized, under flavored, or unpalatable.

After running around “touristing” at the sites for nearly nine hours, until I’d hit that cranky, confused state of mind where my sweet, dear partner starts to offer me wine and step away from me with a large, smile and a cautious eyebrow lift—it became clear that my culinary adventure was in danger. We set off late at eight-thirty in the rain (still), headed towards another one of Rick Steve’s recommendations. This one was described as lovely, middle-of the road price (as in, I wouldn’t have to sell any parts to enjoy a lovely dinner), and something of a foodie find in the neighborhood:  Le Florimond.

We were met with a fevered restaurant manager, who looked stressed out and overwhelmed. Please, no tables he said. Could we come back in forty-five minutes? Fully booked (there were only about nine tables in the small, warm little escape from the rain). It was inviting and smelled delicious and having to leave was a spiral of disappointment. And then there seemed to be little else that appealed as the time ticked by and we ran, dodging rain drops through the night.

We nearly didn’t return and almost copped out entirely at a typical, nice-but-obviously-tourist-trap generic café. And that we didn’t, I’m so grateful.

We returned and were greeted by the same host, with an entirely different attitude. The dinner rush behind him, he could finally see through the weeds and sat us down at a cozy table for two with an inviting smile. Sitting in a warm restaurant was such a sweet reprise from the rain, and the warm and rich fragrance that filled the restaurant made my head spin. I was ready. We went with his recommendations, diving in for whatever adventure we could find.  (Ah, my veggie friends. You may want to stop reading here!)

What a delight. Still damp and cold, we warmed up with a bottle of Chateu de Barbe’s, Cotes de Bourg (2008). It was smooth and silky, with soft berry undertones; full and rich and he promised, would go lovely with the beef. For me, we ordered a full Menu’ for which there are three parts: The Entrée’ (which comes first), the Plats (the main course), and the Fromages au Desserts (cheese or sugar!)

Risotto de boudin noir [maison] gratine’ au parmesan reggiano —the maître’ de seemed tentative that I would want it, since the recipe was made with blood pudding. I was promptly awarded for throwing safety under the bus. The risotto was firm, and tender, with a rich, soft, earthy flavor that was warm and soft and felt as though flowers petals were melting on my tongue. You could curl up with this dish as one does with a favorite blanket for a soft, warm, reassuring snuggle, it was so comforting and soothing.

Croustille de queue de boeuf, poires et girolles—not a beef eater regularly, I often make an exception while in Europe, since they’re not factory farmed (shudder). The beef is definitively different over here, and tonight was no exception. It was soft, and hearty, and fell apart inside the light, flaky pastry shell. The gravy, warm and savory, contrasted both the crisp and hearty textures, rounding out the flavor for a full mouthful of what can only be described as a warm sunshine day in my mouth. The wine brought it to the sky and back, lifting the dark, earthy flavor up with a tang and fruit that lifted it fully like a swirl of pleasure.  

Millefeuille ‘a la vanilla Bourbon —crisp, pastry that falls apart on the tip of your tongue, with fresh, whole cream floating across your taste buds with a heavy, smooth richness that only the sweetest European creams can offer.  Strawberries were added because of their fresh, tart, sweet snap that rounded out the richness vs. the crackly, buttery pastry, and the berries popped joyfully in the midst.

The evening was lovely, to say the least – and the food phenomenal. There isn’t a doubt between us that we will be back.

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