Jump to content

Notes from a Parisite

Recommended Posts



I sometimes post reports about Paris on another site, and some friends have asked me to post them here too. I haven't done well at these reports this spring for a variety of reasons, but I hope to be more consistant during my last six weeks here. Here are the only two I've posted so far.


Maurice Naughton




Paris, 2 April 2004, mostly cloudy and cool, report 1


Hi, There--


Getting here wasn't half the fun. I rented a car to go from Flint to the Detroit airport, and a day-drinker promptly rear-ended me at a stoplight. The ensuing brawl (verbal) took up considerable time, but wasn't interesting. I got to the Hertz office at the airport with less than an hour till plane time. The folk there were, to my surprise, wonderous kind and considerate, and I managet to arrive at the British Airways check-in only twenty minutes before departure. Spent some more time at security after that, where the nice lady confiscated by beautiful little German pocket knife that separates into a picnic knife and fork. I had forgot to move it from my pocket to my suitcase. But I made it to the plane, last sod to board.


The flight, aided by an 85 mph tailwind and "Something's Gotta Give," (Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson) and not terribly inhibited by the truly lousy lasagna, was fast and Heathrow arrived at six in the morning. The charm of the international departure terminal at Heathrow is minimal at that hour, oh hell, at any hour. I thought two ounces of oscetra caviar at about £60 unreasonable, and I had no need for a Thomas Pink shirt, a Bulgari necklace, a Mont Blanc fountain pen, nor a Vacherin et Constintine wristwatch. And I hadn't enough room in my backpack for an Easter bunny. I settled for a ready-made BLT at Pret á Manger and a pint of Fuller's at J. D. Whetherspoon's Bar, whilst I read the The Daily Telegraph. Come on, guys, it's for laughs.


The short hop to Charles de Gaulle brought BA's breakfast--tea, orange juice, and an inedible wedge of something they called "pie." It brought the only memorable moment to the flight, when the collecting attendant showed up and asked, "Finished, sir?" I said, "This thing's not much to my taste." The collector said, "You, sir, are not the first to have made that observation." Brightened the morning a treat.


Up and down stairs. RER train to place Denfert-Rochereau. Up and down stairs. Up and down stairs again. Metro to Corvisart. Down stairs. Short hike to apartment. Uneventful but two small suitcases and a backpack are quite a load (I bring lots of books) to schlep up and down stairs for an hour or so.


My apartment is in all ways but one excellent. It doesn't have a real oven, just a microwave one. But it has two rooms, and everything in them but the carpet is virgin--brand-new, unused, pristine, from the cookware to the furniture to the sheets and pillows, still wrapped in plastic. I'm glad the carpet has a stain here and there. It gives me peace of mind. And it has that rarest of appliances, a bathtub, one of those astonishing French ones, about four feet long and three feet deep, with water hot enough to cook lobsters.


My landlord is a fine fellow, American with a French wife and two grown kids. He and I spent Wednesday late afternoon wandering about the neighborhood (called la Butte aux Cailles), listening to its hum, smelling its smells, catching its mood, savoring its flavor. It's in the 13th Arrondissement, fast by the place d'Italie, near two of my favorite restaurants, Chez Paul and l'Avant-Gout, a personable little neighborhood with twisty streets, short buildings, neighborly shops, and a village feel.


When Will (Faas, my landlord) left me to my own devices it was getting on to dinnertime, and I suddenly realized I was numb with wearyness, too tired to think of anything but a hot shower and early bedtime. I did buy a sandwich, just in case, and a wedge of apple crumble tarte (Ah, Paris!), but mainly I tried to find my way home (I'd not brought my map book, and the little twisty streets were a Minotauran maze about which there was apparently no reason).


But I kept asking people, "Do you know where I live?", and all of them were warm, cordial, and very thorough in their concern for an âgé perdu . When I ask for directions and have no idea of what's being said to me, which is almost all the time, I watch the hands. The first direction one of them points is the way I go. After a while, I ask someone else, knowing that when he points behind me, I've missed a turn. A half-hour or so of this backing and filling finally got me there, to 19, rue des Cinq Diamants, a fine good-omen of an address--a a 19-high diamond flush is rarely a loser.


After my shower and part of the sandwich, I fell in bed and slept.


The sun has just popped out, my signal to leave.




Much time has passed since I wrote the preceding, and I've been very busy and wasteful of my time (or not; it's a point of view). I think I'll send this much now and you'll have to wait a bit for the rest.






Paris, May 2, 2004, Report 2


Hi, There--


Let's just pretend that I've not been away and pick things up, like Homer and Virgil, in medias res.


This year, May Day, le Fête du Travail, tripped in on the first of May, as scheduled, and as scheduled, it was the occasion of some manifestations social.


Lovers of labor, working folk, and the drinking classes in general use this day to celebrate. What they celebrate, ostensibly, is travail, in both its French and English meanings. They don't, however, do it as a united siblinghood of friendly fellows and fellowettes, and in past years political differences have made the day's atmosphere, say, scratchy, but this year everyone managed to be low key, and rival factions generated almost no manifest ugliness. I didn't expect to see any bullet holes in the plate-glass along the Viaduc des Arts and the avenue Daumesnil the next day.


Maybe peace prevailed because ten new countries were welcomed to the European union that morning, and Paris didn't want to show itself testy, Or perhaps it was because morning clouds dispersed into mostly sunny and it finally got warm enough, a few degrees above normal, for the younger citoyens to shed their quilted parkas and Burberry scarves and show some pearly bare arm, winter-faded belly, and youthful springtime joie de vivre.


The predicted parade routes were published Friday. No newspapers escape their presses on labor day in France (indeed little work of any kind gets done, except by bartenders, waiters, cooks, cops, the unlicensed one–day street-corner vendors selling what must be the entire annual crop of muguet, and the City of Paris's green-clad and ubiquitous sweepers-up, very much later). I say "predicted" carefully because parades, once underway, tend to develop minds of their own, and shoot out splinter sorties like conga-lines or bunny-hoppers. In any case, four parades had been planned and were mapped out.


[An aside. Muguet, Lily-of-the-Valley, is what you traditionally give your mom on Mother's day in France. On the day before, every street corner in Paris has its little table or two or three, every curbstone its urchin, with tiny bouquets of Lily-of-the-Valley, or little potted plants of them, to sell you, for a nosegay to be pinned to your mom's lapel on her special day.]


Early birds, the Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens (the CFTC, certainly not to be confused with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which preys on labor in an entirely different way) begins in the morning around the Gare de Montparnasse and goes to the Champs de Mars, to look at the Eiffel tower for a while and horse around on the greensward. I don't go out that early.


The National Front (FN) makes its piddly contribution starting from Châtelet at about nine-thirty, and finds its way to the Opera, to contemplate Garnier's overwrought confection, maybe try to estimate what the gold on all those statues robbed the state coffers of. Why the FN show up on May Day at all makes little sense to me. I think they condemned Juan Peron for leftist tendencies. I skip them, too.


The Force Ouvrière starts at noon in the place de la Bastille and migrates eastward, keeping the sun to their backs, to the place Gambetta. They are a more or less cosy, dull, orderly group, reminding me of the May Day procession of pupils and nuns from St. Elizabeth's School parading thinly across 75th and Main in Kansas City in the '50s, to sing "Oh, Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today,/Queen of the angels, queen of the May," in front of her engrottoed statue, whilst a little blonde girl in a blue pinafore climbed a wooden ladder to put a garland of lily-of-the-valley on Mary's polychromed and gold-crowned head. I can do without such reminders.


My favorite parade, combining the field operatives of the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), the Union Nationale des Syndicats Autonomes (UNSA), and the Fédération Syndicale Unitaire (FSU) gather under their banners and slogans in the place de la République at the entirely reasonable hour of 15h00 to slap another's back, sing merrily a little, and skip sociably along by way of the Bastille to the place de Nation. I discovered a couple of years ago that the reds and the greens are generally found here.


The greens seem austere and abstemious to a fault, regarding their bodies as temples, I suppose, not to be violated by anything that may have been tainted by sulfites, or sealed with the highly unnatural screw cap, and seeming as sanctimonious, pietistic, and devout as shi'a clerics, or inmates of the class of '56 at Notre Dame de Sion Academy for Catholic Girls. I tend to shy away from them.


As paraders, on the other hand, the communists are by far the most fun as well as the weirdest. They drink really cheap wine--the young ones, I mean--share it with anybody, and are generally friendly to old white-haired guys with backpacks and digital cameras. They also seem to attract Goths, with fuchsia hair in spikes, eyelids to rival Cleopatra's, and multiple body piercings, most of which they will gladly display for photographs.


I set myself north from my apartment a bit before noon. I'll cross the place d'Italie, cruise along the avenue des Gobelins, then the rue Monge to Cardinal Lemoine where I can angle right to the Pont de Sully, crossing the Seine, the tip of the Ile St-Louis, and the Seine again to the boulevard Henri IV, and thence to the place de la Bastille. It's a beautiful day for a walk down interesting thoroughfares. I intend to dawdle and think I may get to the Bastille around two.


There are few shops open. You'll find the occasional Arabe du Coin (the odd street name for the tiny grocery stores found every couple of blocks throughout Paris, with the tilt-tables of fresh fruit and veggies on the sidewalk out front, where you can pick up an emergency bottle of Côtes-du-Rhône, a cold can of Heineken, a box of Velouté de Legumes, or a roll of toilet paper, when the supermarchés are closed). Some restaurants and sidewalk cafés are unfurling, but not much more. Almost no traffic, and very quiet. Paris beset by complacencies of the peignoir.


By the time I reached the Bastille, Paris seemed to have finished her aubade, done with yawning and stretching behind her morning coffee and brioche and was now settling down for some preprandial drinking. Under the careless eye of the Genie on the Pillar, the outdoor cafés' terraces are full of Parisiens sitting in sunbeams like iguanas soaking up the heat, drinking a pastis or a pression or a citron pressée or an espress', not pressed themselves, no appointments to keep.


There's supposed to be an orchestra in the Square Louis XII, surrounded by the pink brick edifice of the most exquisite place des Vosges, and I detour a little westward to have a look. The back entrance, through the Hôtel de Sully has been closed for a while, so I head west on the rue de la Bastille, past the Brasserie Bofinger, turn right on the rue des Tournelles, left on the rue du Pas du Mule (which, surprisingly, means the street of the pace of the mule; French leads you not to expect the obvious), and into the place des Vosges at the corner entrance at the end of the rue des Francs Bourgeois.


At the northwest corner, the spilling out into the arcade, the restaurant Ma Bourgogne is very busy and noisy with chattering families in springtime clothes. Not a great kitchen, but a rather renowned steak tartare and a decent boeuf bourgogne, I'm told. The three-star l'Ambrosie is here too, very close at hand and at the same time immensely far away. There's a crowd on the square's pebbled walks, waiting for the music, but the grassy areas are still "resting" and can't be trod upon till they are ouverte, when spring has undone winter's damage. I decide not to wait. All the benches are full and I'd rather be in the open rather than in a crowd today.


I go back to the Pas de Mule and east to the boulevard Beaumarchais, then north again on that May-Day-quiet, commercial street, with few café and restaurants, but with an outpost of the British tea company Betjeman and Barton, a big Harley-Davidson showroom and service center, a little luthier (lute-maker by cognate, violin maker in practice), but too-few other shops of much interest to tourists and no "destination" restaurants, so it remains a very Parisien street.


A little before boulevard Beaumarchais becomes boulevard des Filles du Calvaire, all without warning and seemingly without reason, you could take a left down the tiny, narrow rue des Arquebusiers and find at a little turning not far along, hidden in a corner, the sequestered, elegant, and very discreet four-star-deluxe Hotel Villa Beaumarchais and its excellent restaurant l'Orangerie. This seems to me about perfect as a Paris honeymoon hotel, or the exactly fastidious place for circumspect weekends with a gilded baroness who's footing the bills.


Back on the boulevard, the organizers of the CGT-UNSA-FSU parade have been here, mounting banners that publish slogans like "Rebellez Vous!" and "Syndiquez Vous!" There are a lot of people about, strolling toward the place de la Republique, not getting into position for parade-watching, just rolling along the sunshine dappled sidewalk, on a perfect first of May.


It's getting on to half past two, and the crowd is swelling. By the time I pull up even with Chez Jenny, the very beautiful but overrated turn-of-the-century brasserie, the crowd ahead, beyond the restaurant Indiana, Paris's Tex-Mex chain that always makes me laugh, is just milling around in little eddies and waves, not doing much.


The outdoor tables at the big chain brasserie Taverne Maître Kanter, with probably better choucroute garni and certainly better prices than Chez Jenny, is chock full, and offers little hope of a front row seat for the pre-parade festivities and antics. Even the Lily-of-the-Valley sellers seem to have been swept away. Last year, over a million showed up for this parade. Some had not even left Republique before the vanguard arrived at Nation. Looks like a repeat this year. I don't do well in shoulder-to-shoulder, breast-to-back crowds. Last year, I hadn't got into the center of things like this; I'd joined the commies late, by the awful Opera Bastille and along the avenue Daumesnil.


I determined to escape eastward to the rue du Faubourg du Temple, peel off left along the quai de Valmy and stroll along the quietly lovely Canal St Martin, till the distant shouting and peripheral noise suggested the parade was well underway. Then I'd get a metro to the Gare de Lyon and pick up the parade at Diderot and Daumesnil. Wasn't to happen. There was no way I could make it across the place de la Republique, no way to get through the river of people swarming out of the metro station entries, nothing but to turn back toward the Bastille, try to get to the boulevard Voltaire and the Metro at Oberkampf.


That plan worked. Bastille is the third stop south from Oberkampf and I got into the shadow of the Genie on the July column before the parade arrived. I was on the north edge of the place, and headed toward the rue St Antoine. As I got to the Café des Phares' big outdoor dining terrasse, a big group, maybe from a tourist bus, all got up to leave together, and I grabbed a chair. A little rest off my feet would do me fine. I ordered some Belgian beer (Leffe) and a sandwich jambon-fromage and caught my breath.


The parade arrived while I was still there in the front row. A great glacier of people--striding along, carrying banners, pushing kids in strollers, carrying them on shoulders and in backpacks (and frontpacks, too), distributing leaflets, chatting and laughing with their camarades-- flowed into the big circle around the July column. Many had red flags, red CGT ribbons on their lapels and shirt-fronts.


The folks who'd been "recalculated" were there--the unemployed whose benefits had been slashed on January first. They were the ones with leaflets, explaining their position, why so many had sued for reinstatement of the cuts. One contentious point. But here were many others, too, too many for the unions to agree to any kind of common protest, too many splinter groups for there to be a true coming together. And the little groups marched apart.


Nevertheless, flags, balloons, banners, red, yellow orange, sunshine and warm weather blew somberness away, and people were celebrating. I had an uncustomary cup of coffee after my lunch, sat and took pictures for a while, and finally, when I'd calculated maybe half the crowd had passed, I got up to join them.


The Unions aren't very picky. If you want to join the parade, choose a group whose ideology or wine you savor, and then just jump in.


Instead of turning left across the place de la Bastille and heading east down the rue du Faubourg Saint–Antoine, the parade has come around towards me, past the Café des Phares to move into the rue de Lyon and down the avenue Daumesnil


The space running north up the center of the boulevard Richard-Lenoir, where the big Thursday and Sunday Marché Bastille is held, holds an amateur art market today, and across the place to the south, overlooking the Port de l'Arsenal, is installed a more commercial art and brocante market with an entrance fee. The newspaper L'Humanité has a tent by it, with a live rock band, playing music to march to, if you've got the swing.


The city has put a fence around the July column in the center of the place, but some nimble youths have hopped it and climb up its base as far as they can to display their "Euro - May Day" banner for a little while. But soon they disembarked and continue their banner along its way to the place Nation.


The column has a bit of a raised base, and from this I can see paraders still filling the Boulevard Beaumarchais, with red flags still waving and the balloons still advancing slowly.


At previous May Day parades I've attended, the police contingent was huge and mightily visible, with their big transport buses lined up along the boulevards Bourdon and de la Bastille on either side of the yacht anchorage in the arsenal basin, and windowless blue paddy-wagons parked in the rues Lacuée and Jules Caesar branching north from the basin. But the presence is curiously lacking this year, just the officers assigned as parade marshals and some scooter and bike police. No buses, no vans, no black mariahs.


I continue with my splinter group of commies and Goths up Daumesnil to boulevard Diderot, where they peeled off to the left down Diderot to Nation. I turned right and stopped at the brasserie Europeen across the street from the Gare de Lyon, for a bowl of moules provencale and a bottomless basket of terrific double-fried frites, bien cuit, and some sauce mayonnaise to dip them in, an artery-hardening bad habit I'd picked up in Belgium years before and remembered with fondness recently. A bottle of Chimay, the trappist-made Belgian beer, made it a meal.


Tomorrow is the first Sunday in May, so a lot of the museums will be open with free admission. That means that the lines will be miles longer and the crowds inside several feet thicker than the awful usual. I think I'll get an early start on the Marché Auguste Blanqui just down the street from me, get a half a roast guinea-fowl, some leek and white asparagus vinaigrette, a tomato, a little fromage St-Felicien, a flute ancienne, a bottle of cold vinho verde, and a barquette of strawberries. I already have some crème fraîche. There's a little park by the rue Croulebarbe across from the fine old basque eatery Auberge Etchegorry, just a stone's throw from my apartment, and I think I'll have a picnic there.


Later will be soon enough for the Foire de Paris, which began its 11 day run on Thursday, April 29. I'll reveal its wonders to you later.


bien amicalment,


Maurice :)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 498
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, 8 - 10 November 2004 - Rainy and cold Monday, a little sun Tuesday, and it looks like more rain today. Typical autumn days in Paris.   Hi, There--   I've had a num

Well, yeah, but I'm old and alone and admit to experimentation.

A Band Apart holds up pretty well--especially the dance sequence.

Paris, Friday, May 14, 5:00 am, radio says it'll be sunny and warm today.


Hi, There--


The birds start twittering at 4:00 am sharp and are in full throat by 6:00.


Some of my time since I returned here from England has been taken up by visits to a cardiologist at L'Hôpital Americaine in Neuilly (a pleasant bus-ride) to get some meds regulated, and, as I seem to have stopped falling over occasionally, I think I'm back to full-time flaneuring.


I had a couple of glasses of wine with Plotz, Marc Cosnard (the Foodhunter), and new guy Michael last Tuesday evening at Willi's Wine Bar. Plotz was in fine fettle, getting ready for his 50th birthday party. It was very good to see Marc again, and to meet Michael. An excellent evening.


Wednesday, I meandered around in the seventeenth for a while, checking out some restaurants I've eaten at in the past (Chez Rose, La Petite Auberge, l'Entredgeu), taking some more pictures, ending up at noon in front of l'Entredgeu, in the neighborhood of the far-flung Porte de Champerret.


This is the little bistrot Phillipe Tredgeu and his petite and pretty wife, Pénélope (who used to work for Ducasse, I'm told), opened in January last year, after he left Chez Casimir.


It's a very pleasant room, with red naugahyde banquettes, black-and-white-tiled floor, pale yellow walls, grandma's sheer café curtains, little shaded sconces, le comptoir zinc veritable, brown wooden slat-backed chairs, linen cloths with central red stripes, and excellent, thin crystal glassware, big, bordeaux-style, and about thirty covers. I was the first person there at twelve, but by one thirty every seat was taken. I deduced that about half the parishoners showed up like me, hat in hand. The other, smarter ones had phoned ahead.


The menu-carte was sur d'ardoise, and very legible (a great restaurant virtue, as some blackboard French is so byzantine in its orthographic grandeur as to make it almost illegible).


Menu à 20€, Entrée et Plat ou Plat et Dessert. Menu Carte, 28€


Soupe crèmeux de Morue, crème légere safranée.

Tarte fine au parmesan, mozzarella, tomate et thon cru moeuré.

Terrine de Campagne.

Vinaigrette d'asperges blanches, oeuf poché, jambon de Pays.

Rillette de Maquereau et avocat, gelée de tomates.

Remoulade de Celeri noir, pomme verte et échine de porc confite.

Mousserons marinés au vin blanc et vinagre, queues de langoustines rôties.

Etuvée de morilles légèrement crèmés, pousse d'epinards, + 10€.




Pavé de Colin, barigoule d'Artichaut et Celeri branche.

Filet de Rascasse, purée de fenouil.

Gigot d'Agneau de Lozére rôti, mijoté de fevette, pousse d'epinard, et citron confit.

Cuisse de Canard confite, pot au feu de légumes et foie gras.

Epaule de veau roulée et confite à l'ail et thym, petits pois frais.

Carré de Cochon rôti et laqué, jus aux epices, frites confites à la graisse d'oie.

Daube de joue de boeuf, mijoté de carottes fondantes et ? paysan.

Pigeon rôti entier et foie gras, + 6€.




Croustillant de framboises et crème legère.

Crème onctueuse du citron, caramelisèe au sucre.

Sablé fin, quenelle de mousse chocolat ble, poires pochées.

Baba au Calvados, pommes rôties, glace pain d'épices.

Soupe de fraises au vinaigre balsamique, sorbet fromage blanc.

Compote de Rhubarbe et pomme, glace vanille.

Feuillantine pralinée et mousse chocolat.

Reblochon fermier de Chez Dubois.


Tredgeu is a chef of style and some originality, his menus are market-driven, and you have the assurance that the produce he uses is of top quality, after the fashion of Thierry Breton at Chez Michel, his erstwhile mentor. This, as you can see, is a great bargain lunch.


For lunch there in mid-November last, I had a soupe de gibier et royale de foie gras (game soup with an island of mousse de foie gras d'oie in the middle), followed by palombe rôti with root vegetables, of perfect rareness and deep flavor, washed down with Cahors vielle vignes Les Camille 1999, Clos Siguier, a huge bargain at 14 €.


This time, after an aperitif of vin cuit de Provence veritable (a remarkable wine of which till now I'd only heard tell), I started with the white asparagus vinaigrette, with a copious helping of country ham, and some chopped tomato, chives, and sweet onion. A simple but tasty preparation of complementary flavors. I still, however, think white asparagus is wasted time.


For mains, I had the roasted pigeon (I'm a sucker for all the little birds I can't get back home), halved and partially de-boned, sitting on a rather skimpy little disk of foie gras, but with some supernal petits pois and a sauce au jus to walk miles for. I soaked it up with the good beige bread, probably Poilâne, with the proper sourish savor. The bird was perfect, rosy and chewy tender, even in the legs. Excellent but for the disappointing round of foie gras, whose flavor and texture evidently went elsewhere.


With that, a couple of glasses of Beaujolais Villages that was nothing special. I skipped dessert, as is my custom.


I took a bus from Champerret heading toward the Jardin du Ranelagh and the Musée Marmottan-Monet, but when we got to the place Victor Hugo, I realized that I was at the end of the rue Bugeaud where Joël Robuchon's new restaurant had opened just the day before. So I thought I'd take a look.


For a the last few days weeks, Paris's foodies had been all atwitter (like the 4:00 am birdies) because his new joint was going to open. Le Figaro had written (a little too enthusiastically for plain journalism) a while back, on 24 April:


"Bonne nouvelle pour les déçus et les éconduits, la deuxième adresse de Joël Robuchon va ouvrir début mai, en lieu et place du Seize au seize (16, avenue Bugeaud, avec le chef Frédéric Simonin qui vient d’avoir une étoile au Michelin. L’esprit contemporain devrait présider à cette table traditionnelle. Car non seulement on pourra s’attabler à la Table de Joël Robuchon (c’est le nom du restaurant), réserver au téléphone et la porte ouvrira de l’extérieur. Si la vie n’est pas belle !"


My rough translation:


"Good news for the disappointed and excluded: the second address of Joel Robuchon will open at the beginning of May, replacing Seize au Seize (16, avenue Bugeaud, but retaining chef Frederic Simonin, who has just got a Michelin star. The contemporary spirit should preside at this traditional table, because one not only will be able to sit at the Table of Joel Robuchon (it is the name of the restaurant), he will be able to reserve by telephone and the door will be open. Is life not beautiful!"


So even before it opened, Robuchon's new one could clearly anticipate Figaro's endorsement.


The Wine Spectator produces the "duh" quote of the week: "'La Table is the same concept as L'Atelier, but you eat at a table,' said Robuchon." What he evidently means by the same concept is that he offers mini-portions for "degustation" and larger servings of the same "à la Carte."


Here's his first week's menu:


Entrées Froides et Chaudes


Les Primeurs: confits et croquants sur une fine croûte friande à l'origan, degustation 13€, à la carte 18€

Le Torteau: cans une gelée acidulée à l'avocat, 18€, --€

Le Jambon "Iberico de Bellota": esorté de pain toasté à la tomate, 13€, 24€

L'Aubergine: en cavuer légèrement fume, 11€, --€

La Tomate: en gaspacho et aux croûtons doré, 9€, 16€

Le Foie Gras: frais de canard cuit au Torchon, 16€, 28€

Le Caviar: ociètre sur un oeuf mollet et friand, --€, 49€




La Langoustine: en papillote croustillante au basilic, 18€, 54€

L'Oeuf: cocotte à la crème légère de morilles aux asperges, 13€, --€

Le Cuisses de Grenouille: aux girolles et à la purée d'ail doux, 16€, --€

La Lisette: en fine tarte aux copeaux de parmesan et olives, 13€, --€

L'Asperges: vertes parmesan aux morilles et vin d'Arbois, --€, 45€

Le Foie Gras: chaud de canard au gratin d'agrumes, 19€, --€




Les Plats

Les Poissons


La Ventriche de Thon: mi-cuite aux fines aromates, 17€, 32€

Le Merlan: à la Colbert, beurre aux herbes, --€, 23€

Le Rouget: fine pissaladiere et une vierge d'agrumes, 16€, 30€

Le Saint-Pierre: avec saveurs méridionales, 25€, 48€




Les Viandes


Le Cote de Veau: au sautoire aux olives, févettes et artichauts violets, --€, 58€

Le Ris de Veau: ?té de laurier frais et un feuille de blette farcie, 20€, --€

L'Agneau de lait de Pyrenees: cotêlettes à la fleur de thyme, 18€, 34€

Le Caneton Croise: arrosé à l'orange, petits pois à la menthe, 18€, 34€

Le Caille: carmélisée à la truffe blanche, 19€, 37€




Les Fromages


Le Tomme de Brebis de l'Abbaye de Belloc, confiture de cerises noires, 6€, 10€

Les Fromages de Saison: selectionées et affinés par Philippe Alleosse




Les Desserts, 9€


Le Souffle: chaud au café, glace canelle au gingembre

L'Ivoire Safran: balle coulante au chocolat coeur d'orange, glace au safran, dentelle au citron

Le Secret Tibetain: gelée au thé, poussière glacée au melon

Le Yuzu: compote de framboises au yuzu, crème Madame à la vanille, croustillant cacahuète

Le Chocolat Sensation: crème oncteuse au chocolat Araguani, glace chocolat au biscuit Oréo

Le Pastel Delice: fraises de bois, fines feuilles de chocolat, crème citronée, meringue molle aux groseilles

Le Total Rhubarbe: spéculoos écrasés, rhubarbe pochée, glace à la Kriek, gariguelles entières


I wouldn't mind trying all of that, even the Chocolate Sensation, mounted on an Oreo cookie and the Flemish-inspired rubarb, also on a cookie, but with Kriek ice cream, a truly bizarre notion. Would Michelob ice cream go over in the US? Probably not. Kriek, unlike Michelob, has some actual character.


I think some friends of ours are having dinner there next Tuesday, so doubtless we'll be getting a report sometime soon.


The bread festival is going on at the square of the Hotel de Ville, and I don't want to miss the opportunity.



Link to post
Share on other sites

Bertrand Delanoë, the Mayor of Paris (you can reach him at the Hôtel de Ville, but I don't have his phone number) features largely in this posting, partially in celebration of his fifty-fourth birthday on May 30. (He was born, btw, in Tunisia, is single, gay, and has no intention of permitting gay marriages in Paris if he has anything to say about it. I strongly suspect that he has).


I mention him now because last week he put up two big canvas tents in his front yard (le Parvis de l’Hôtel de Ville) for a four day celebration of bread, la fête du pain. Last Saturday, some bread guys, the Chambre professionnelle des artisans boulangers-pâtissiers de Paris, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-St-Denis et Val-de-Marne, who used to be called the Syndicat Patronal de la Boulangerie et de la Boulangerie-Pâtisserie de Paris et de la Seine (the French beat everybody except maybe the Germans in naming committees, syndicates, and chambers) when they started up in 1801, were going to nominate the best baguette in Paris. And on Sunday there was a cook-off. Too crowded and sweaty for me.


The Chambre professionnelle has as it's main interest "the study, the representation, and the defense of the economic, commercial, and social interests of the bakery and baker's and confectioner's shops of Paris and the departments of the Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-St-Denis and the Val-de-Marne." High ideals indeed.


La fête du pain was born in 1996. It was fixed around May 16, Saint Honore's day, the patron saint of bakers. Its intent is to reaffirm the quality of artisanal bread and to confirm its place in the culinary and cultural "patrimoine" (another word with big-time clout) of France. All over france, bakers get together to demonstrate to children particularly (and to the general public as well) the art of artisanal baking. One of the two tents in front of the city hall is intended for bread-making, the other for the promotion of wheat-flour bread.


Choosing the best baguette was to be a hard decision, because bread-making in Paris is undergoing a turn-around. For a while, French bread had suffered a decline, consumption was falling off and Les Panames (a nickname for Parisiens that I may explain some day) were buying a lot of crummy baguettes made in big factories and retailed in supermarkets.


But the govmunt decided that should stop and decreed that, after a while, if your shop didn't mix up the ingredients, knead them, let them rise, and bake them on the premises, you couldn't call yourself a boulangerie any more. And if you did all that on the premises, you could call yourself a boulanger artisinale, a buzzy phrase with some hard-hitting cachet, "artisinale" being the general bearer of good connotations. (It appears after Cordonnier, Fromagier, and Choucroutier, among other things. Look for it if you want honest shoes, cheese, or sauerkraut.)


The French peasantry has always been passionate about bread (only to be expected from people who'll get into fist-fights over salt). It is a custom in some parts of the countryside to make the sign of the cross on the bottom of a loaf before tearing off a chunk. And now the Panames are coming back into the fold. You can even get a good loaf in the supermarket nowadays, if you choose it (i.e. the market) carefully.


It's not hard to tell the difference between a bad baguette and a good one. The bad one is pale yellow, has a crust that won't cut the roof of your mouth into shreds, and a crumb full of tiny, evenly spaced holes. And it doesn't smell like much of anything. A good one is caramel brown, with a crust that can injure you and a crumb full of very irregular holes of many different sizes. And it smells like your grandma's kitchen--if you had a grandma who baked bread--yeasty and floury and mouth-watering.


Foreigners tend to think only of baguettes when they think of French bread, a big mistake. Paris's most famous dead baker, Lionel Poilâne didn't even make baguettes. He made big fat round Boules, chewy dark beige sourdough loaves, 15,000 of them a day, 2.5% of all the bread sold in Paris in 1961. The man must have fallen in bed exhausted every night. His eponymous (I try to use that word whenever I can, because a lot of people don't know what it means, and that makes me feel like a doctor--medical, that is) bakery is churning them out yet.


His shop is still at Boulangeries Lionel Poilane, 8 rue du Cherche-Midi, in the sixth.


His brother Max does make a baguette, a very good one, at three addresses, 87, rue Brancion in the 15th; 29, rue de l'Ouest

in the 14th; and 42, pl du Marché St Honoré in the 1st.


Other boulangers of widespread fame are Eric Kayser (85, Blvd Malesherbes in the 8th; 8, rue Monge in the 5th; and "Boulangerie-Èpicerie," BE, co-proprietor with Alain Ducasse at 73, rue de Courcelles in the 8th), and Jean-Luc Poujauran (20, rue Jean Nicot, in the 7th).


I favor four others, one on the city's north edge, one on the city's south edge, and two on the city's center edge (you sacrifice some reasonableness when you go for strictly parallel sentence structure--makes for a little edgyness that suits the subject).


In the north, the 17th, near the Porte de Champerret, is Boulangerie-Patisserie Alsacienne R. Maeder at 158, boulevard Berthier, whose baguette "retrodor" won the Grand Prix for baguettes in 2000 and 2002. Since it's an Alsatian bakery, you can also get excellent Kugelhopfs, both sweet and savoury, Stollen, Berawecka (fruit breads made with dried pears, plums, figs, dates, grapes, walnuts, almonds, oranges, lemons and Corinth raisins macerated in Kirsch), and Bretzels, which is Alsacien for big fat pretzels. You can see it all at http://www.boulange-alsace.com/


On the bottom end of Paris, down by the Porte d'Orleans in the 14th is Patisserie Thevenin at 119, avenue Géneral Leclerc, where I get toasting breads, filled with fresh corn kernels, or pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds, or other stuff, as well as loaves typical of Normandy, Brittany, and Picardy, and fugasses, that odd pretzel-shaped (sorta) bread that can be full of bacon or olives or other things, and little boules de campagne.


In the middle of Paris, in the Marais, M. Malineau has two shops, one at 26, rue St Paul and one at 18 rue Vieille du Temple, with excellent pain ancienne and, on Sundays, great chocolate macaroons.


Not far from there is Miss Manon's Bakery at 87, rue Saint-Antoine (corner of rue Saint-Paul), also in the fourth. Her specialties are baguette "bagatelle - label rouge", boulangraine (six cereals), corde (traditional leavened rye), ciabatta (flavored with olive oil, a treat), poppy-seed bread, sesame-seed bread and so on. The label-rouge is a high honor conferred on few bakers in Paris. She got hers last fall.


I think this is enough of a read for the time being.


I think I'll have me a little bread and cheese and a ballon of some fresh young Cahors.



Link to post
Share on other sites

Sunday, 23 May 2004, sunny and beautiful. What am I doing sitting in front of a computer?


Hi, There--


I've been informed this morning by the BBC and my pal John Whiting that Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 has just won the Palm d'Or at the Cannes Festival, to a ten minute standing ovation. First time a documentary has taken the top prize.


Sketchy report: At around seven this morning, the roof in a departure lounge in the year-old terminal 2E at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport collapsed, causing both chaos and at least 7 deaths and more injuries. No terrorism involved. But I betcha there're gonna be beaucoup lawsuits.


And BBC Radio 4 has presented, as a public service, the correct technique for assembling a properly safe "bomb" from flour, food coloring, and a spare condom, useful for tossing at politicians with whom you disagree. Political terrorists evidently have plenty of spare condoms, which may partially explain their discontent.


End of morning news.


On my way home yesterday from Chinatown, the older one a little southeast of the place d'Italie, I stopped at a tiny, pretty boulangerie because I'd not bought my daily bread, and I got lovely small boule levain of some regionality, but I was feeling a bit distracted and forgot to write down the name of the shop and the exact designation of the bread.


A shame, really, because it's an excellent, artisanal loaf, with a tight crumb, a chewy crust, and a close grain, tan-beige and delicious. I'm eating a sandwich I've made with it for my breakfast, of butter and some excellent, salty serrano ham ten months old. And its wondrous full-flavored chewiness reminded me that, after my last posting on the subject, there were a few comments I still wanted to make about bread before segueing down the other fork in my Bertrand Delanoë road.


I've already explained about the revival of the pre-war "baguette traditionelle," the ingredients of which are now decreed by law and which is now a matter of increasing gastronomic interest.


I should mention two relatively standard loaves whose formulae are trademarked and licensed to small bakeries, Baguette Banette and Flute Gana. (I think there's a third of these trademarked breads, but I've forgot the name.) Both (or all, if that's the case) are good brands that escape greatness.


I don't know the history of Banette, but I do know that they have a school offering a six month course in baking, and a stableful of millers who grind flour specially for them. And they've licensed a whole line of breads, not just baguettes.


Gana is a different story. A couple of decades ago, Bernard Ganachaud, scion of a family of bakers, in his bakery in the distant 20th, produced a formula and process that achieved some local and then city-wide fame. His daughters have now taken over, continue using his methods, and have licensed it to other small boulangers, so the Flute Gana, a baguette, is available spottily all over Paris.


And finally, the two new books. The books that newspapers and magazines are talking up and that are reviving le Pain as a hot topic of conversation over dinners at Guy Savoy and Pierre Gagnaire.


First, in French, is "Le guide des boulangeries de Paris," by Augustin Paluel-Marmont and Michel de Rovira, which purports to list the 180 best boulangeries of Paris. The authors are two young amateurs of bread who offer their personal comments and appreciations and provide gastronomic walking tours to introduce readers to the art of tasting pain, so to speak. Headed for the bestseller lists.


And next, "Cherchez le pain," by Steven L. Kaplan, an American professor, historian, and bread expert, who's sampled baguettes from all over Paris and makes bold to provide a ranked list of the best, not with Michelin's macarons, nor with Gault-Millaut's toques blanches, but with little wheat sheaves.


Both these books are now appearing on coffee tables and library waiting lists throughout France and are making boulangers' heads ache with their first full experience of the pressure of "Guide-Book Anxiety," the sort of spiritual attack of paranoia that has led some of the world's top chefs to nervous breakdowns and even suicide.


Both books agree that Dominique 's bakery, Le Boulanger de Monge, at 123, rue Monge in the fifth, makes the best baguette in Paris. P-M and dR say it is "very beautiful, with a tight cavity structure and a fatty and very soft interior." Dr. Kaplan says, "The toasty, caramelised flavour of the crust perfectly complements the fruity interior."


And thus we now must learn a whole new vocabulary of bread tasting terms that will not have much meaning till time invests them with it, and will probably become as silly and overblown as the huge glossary of more-or-less meaningless winetasters' metaphors that so many wine writers will be punished in hell for.


I, for one, think that this loaf shows the tantalizing ambiguity of flour milled to talcum fineness by the winds of the Atlantic, but tweaked ever so slightly by the savoriness of the fleur de sel de Guerande and with subtle lashings of minerality teased from the aquafer deep beneath the gorges of the Tarn. Or maybe not. I haven't been ordained yet.


Kaplan goes on to nominate these as the rest of the best.


Jean-Noel Julien, 75 rue Saint-Honoré, in the first


Fabrice Cléret, 10 Place des Petits Pères, in the second


Eric Kayser, 8, rue Monge, a stone's throw from Saibron in the fifth. Kaplan says that the two rivals regard one another as natural enemies and share a passionate loathing.


Jean-Luc Poujauran, 20 rue Jean-Nicot, in the seventh


Thierry Meunier, 29 rue Tristan Tzara, in the eighteenth


Remember that these baguettes have the same four ingredients, flour, water, salt, and yeast, so metaphorical tasting terms like "buttery," "caramalised," "fruity," "floral," "spiced," and "nutty," must be taken with, well, a spoonful of sugar, to help the medicine go down.


I may have overdone it on the bread. Next on the agenda is the awful quartier des Halles and what the Mayor wants done about it, and my shopping excursion to the avenue d'Ivry and exciting stuff like that. But now I think I'll go find lunch. Simple and cheap today.


Maurice :unsure:

Link to post
Share on other sites
And thus we now must learn a whole new vocabulary of bread tasting terms that will not have much meaning till time invests them with it, and will probably become as silly and overblown as the huge glossary of more-or-less meaningless winetasters' metaphors that so many wine writers will be punished in hell for.


Call me a Philistine, but I agree with you. Well said.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I, for one, think that this loaf shows the tantalizing ambiguity of flour milled to talcum fineness by the winds of the Atlantic, but tweaked ever so slightly by the savoriness of the fleur de sel de Guerande and with subtle lashings of minerality teased from the aquafer deep beneath the gorges of the Tarn. Or maybe not. I haven't been ordained yet.


Consider yourself ordained. No tonsure required, no circumcision needed, and no distinction btween men and women in this scheme of beliefs...


Boulanger professionnels de la cuissions alimentaire

Link to post
Share on other sites

Monday, May 24, 2004 - 7h45, very beautiful sunny day again.


Hello, There--


It's almost time to say "Happy Birthday" again, and to have the wish greeted by another stony silence. David, Michelangelo's Jewish boy (hah!) with a sling and a healthily buff bod, who lives in Florence's Galleria dell'Accademia, is 500 today, and has been getting a bath.


When "the experts" decided on a wash and brush up, a squabble started. Purists, pointing out that Dave lives indoors and is regularly dusted, said that he smelled ok and didn't need a bath, particularly one that would possibly involve solvents and abrasives.


They complained that some of the wax that Michelangelo probably used in his work might have remained attached to the lad, even after his bath 100 or so years ago, and perhaps a hair or some other microscopically identifiable part of the artist himself might still have been extant, and perhaps the bath would wash away this precious fragment, precious, of course, because it may, perhaps, possibly, in the best of all potential scientific outcomes, contain a strand of MA's (precious) DNA.


The bath critics didn't say exactly what they would like to do with this strand, but the wild imaginings of those for whom the abbreviation DNA connotes, not crime and conviction, but rather cloning and rebirth . . . . Well, we all can pretty well infer their wild imaginings.


Meanwhile, back in Paris, it's Monday and a lot of things will be closed, and on dulcet days like this one many Parisiens, freed from work, head for their beautiful parks--Montsouris, the Promenade Plantée, la Butte Chaumont, Monceau, les Jardins de Luxembourg and des Plantes, the Champs de Mars--, but not to the newish greenery, propped on one end by the old dome of the Bourse de Commerce and on the other by the new snake pit of the Forum des Halles.


This particular park, whose proper name Parisiens seem simply not to know (it's le Jardin des Halles), lies where the beautiful old iron and glass market pavilions of Victor Baltard once stood, Victor Hugo's "belly of Paris." They were torn down in 1969 when the market moved to Rungis, a suburb out by Orly airport, and Paris was left with a big hole in the ground and a political dustup about how to fill it in. About ten years later, the miserable Forum des Halles was decreed to be the proper debris to use as filler, and Paris developed yet another pock.


What you find, if you go there, are tight paths to nowhere peopled by shockingly young boys dealing drugs, considerably older furtives selling "Rolexes" and "Montblancs," and gray specters with neither age nor sex who might help you "make arrangements." And there are the clochards, Paris's homeless, with their blankets and cheap wine and smell, and with their last year's accumulation of personal hopelessness packed into whatever carryalls the dumpsters and trash bins behind Auchan and Carrefour have given up to them. It's not a place to push your stroller nor enjoy a picnic.


A project begun in hope has ended in a kind of awfulness that even the enticements offered by the four-level underground shopping mall and entertainment complex can't mitigate. One reason is that just a block east runs the rue St. Denis, Paris's shoddy red-light street, with (legal) prostitutes lurking in doorways and a whole littoral of high-tide shops for fetishists and appliance aficionados and low-tide coin-operated xxx video masturbation parlors. The smell of hemp hangs everywhere.


And underneath it all is Paris's biggest subterranean transportation interchange, where three RER and four metro lines converge, guaranteeing huge milling crowds, the confident residents striding along and the confused strangers looking for signs--fodder for the ubiquitous pickpockets, bottom feeders, feeding at the bottom.


Well, Mayor Bertrand Delanoë doesn't like it either (see? I did get there). And he's looking at plans for redeeming it. Last April he revealed four proposals, two French and two Dutch, and opened them up for inspection in the Forum, and is soliciting comment and criticism from the public, as a good socialist should.


The French architects, Jean Nouvel and David Mangin, and their Dutch colleagues, Rem Koolhaas and Winy Maas, have created wildly divergent schemes not easy for me to understand or to summarize, so I won't try, but the Mayor will, after the accumulated advice, choose one by the end of June. Whatever happens, Paris's philosophical cafes and bars, with all their unofficial debating societies and self-ordained experts, will start to roil with argument about two hours before the decision leaks out. It's the Parisien way, and should be a lot of fun.


Thereafter, les citoyens de Paris are in for a long and incredibly expensive disruption of their city's center, which they will assuredly accept with the same even-tempered grace that has characterized their concurrence in radical change throughout the city's history. Wear your flak vest.


I think I'll find some lunch.


Maurice :blink:

Link to post
Share on other sites

Tuesday, 24 May, 2004 - Another in a string of fine days, this one will probably reach the low 70s Fahrenheit.


Hi, There--


Having made myself a little nostalgic about the old Victor Baltard pavilions at Les Halles as I remembered them from the '60s, I decided to go out to Nogent-sur-Marne to have a look at the only one to have been saved, re-erected in this small riverside town as a historical monument and tourist attraction.



Baltard Pavilion, Les Halles 1890


It's surrounded by a high iron fence, and sits on its little ground, apparently doing nothing. Public access is "interdit." Why is it there? There's a postage-stamp park in front of it, loomed over by a big apartment complex and distinguished only by its Wallace fountain, dry and sober. Little kids are playing hiding games in the shrubbery by the fence around the apartments, and mothers (no nannies here, I think) sit in supervision, talking to one another, keeping their strollers out of the sun. There are a few benches for them and the little spot of park is evidently a regular late afternoon sunning spot for moms and kids on fine days.


I walked around the area a bit, found some fine old houses behind high stuccoed walls and fancy gates of iron or wood, notes of a prosperous suburb. But I didn't go the extra kilometer or so to the town center, not curious enough, I suppose, getting old and lazy.



Nogent Mansion


Earlier, around one-thirty, I followed a whim and went to lunch at the beautiful old restaurant Bouillon Racine on the rue Racine near the St. Michael's fountain on the boulevard St. Michel by the river.



Bouillon Racine


Its wonderfully restored Belle Epoch installation is pale green trellis-work, mirrored walls, tall pier-glass windows, mosaic-marble floors, opalescent glass tables framed in dark oak, wrought iron chairs with brown faux-leather seats, very pretty, more lavish upstairs, more casual down.



Bouillon Racine, Interior


Bouillons, and there were a big handful of them, were the turn-of-the-last-century's version of fast-food eateries, generally Belgian in orientation, offering rather quick and informal meals of soups (bouillons), waterzoois, mussels, and frites, washed down by tankards of beer.


The term "soup kitchens," often used to describe them in some guides, is entirely wrong in its connotations in American English. They weren't there to serve the indigent but rather the new species of businessman in that age, who had cordage or cloth or ironwork to sell, carriages waiting, afternoon appointments with the bankers, and didn't want to spend three-and-a-half hours eating five stupifying courses and drinking a half-bottle of Champagne and two of Burgundy for their two-in-the-afternoon dinner, the standard main meal of the comfortable classes.


The Racine has pretty much abandoned its Belgian aspect, save for a grand selection of beers, and switched to traditional cookery, competent and reasonably priced at dinner, 25 Euros for three courses, but an authentic bargain at lunch, two courses for 15.50.


I had gaspacho andalouse for my starter, a coarse puree with the telltale taste of olive oil and bread crumbs, with three little squares of dark bread floating around a little chopped veggie aspic. An excellent cold soup for the first really warm day in Paris this spring.



Gaspacho Andalouse


My main was broiled filet of bar on a bed of fine vegetables and a little green sauce. The veggies were cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, baby peas (the size of a matchhead), and tiny snow peas (which French grocers call "mange-tout"--eat all--and newspaper recipes "pois gourmand"). Each vegetable was perfectly cooked, so they must have been steamed separately, and the large filet of bar was flaky and very moist. Quite a successful, albeit simple, dish. I drank with it a couple of undistinguished glasses of Sauvignon de Touraine.



Filet of Bar with Vegetables


Well, I think I've finally found an acceptable photo storage site and can post pictures in these reports without needing an extra three or four hours to do it. (It's still slow, however.)


So I'm going to post this now and see if it works.



Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...