Thursday, December 28, 2006
A Spoon in Paris
I truly felt bad about going to France without Fork. I know how much he loves the place, its food, its wine, its rap music... but when my parents decided we needed a family vacation in Paris the week before Christmas I couldn't say no. So I sucked it up, packing my suitcase with empty Tupperware and Ziploc bags to smuggle back some cheese. We stayed in a lovely apartment in the 7th and spent our days strolling, eating, visiting museums and shopping. It was miserable. Really. Fortunately for Fork, the cheese made it home, along with some yummy poultry liver pate made with port wine from Hediard. For the meals I consumed, he is resigned to live vicariously. Herewith, the rundown.
Best in show: tie between cassoulet and a variety of salads
This tie might seem ridiculous; how could a rich, slow-cooked bean/sausage/duck stew possibly be on par with a plate of cold vegetables? Here's how: the French, I learned this trip, make some surprisingly kickass salads. Salade de chevre chaud is particularly triumphant, with creamy pats of the cheese browned on toast or bread, atop greens dressed in some sort of vinaigrette (often one with a little cream). They're almost always hearty, either with or without meat (with its potato salad, haricots verts, beans, greens and other veggies, a salade vegeterienne at a cafe in the Marais was just as filling as a curried chicken salad set amid mesclun at the cafe of the Musee d'Orsay). So yes, the salads are awesome. But. That cassoulet (at Aux Fins Gourmets, a charming place Fork & I first discovered on Boulevard St. Germain) deserves major kudos. It came in its own little crock, still bubbling. Bread crumbs on top. White beans, pieces of pork sausage, bits of duck on the bone. The flavors were... how you say... magnifique.
The runners-up would be surefire winners in New York any day:
-A delicious jambon/fromage/crudite (which in this case meant lettuce, tomato and slices of hard-boiled egg!) baguette sandwich at a hole in the wall in Reims (called, hilariously, "Pause Sandwich")
-A fatty but yummy boeuf bourguignon at adorable La Varangue (jammed with Americans thanks to its great write-up in a Rick Steves book)
-An amazing leg of lamb in a curry sauce with rice, figs & prunes at a little restaurant on a cobblestone-paved portion of the 6th called La Jacobine
-Great spaghetti al vongole at our local trattoria, Carmine
In the culinary experiences category, my sister's snail episode deserves mention, if only for our reaction to it. Dripping in butter and garlic, the slippery little sucker flung right out of the clip poor Laura was using to hold the shell, hit her in the gut and ricocheted onto my shin and then my shoe. We had a hard time containing ourselves, naturally, and it was several minutes before I could compose myself enough to gracefully bend under the table and retrieve it. And then I had to convince myself it was not sanitary to eat the thing, even if the escargot was still safely ensconced in its shell.
Oh, and the boulangeries, fromageries and patisseries. Baguettes, croissants, brioches, camemberts, chevres, St. Marcellens, macarons, mille-feuilles, buches de Noel (tis the season!)... I ate them all. Bonnes fetes.--S