Saturday, May 19, 2007

Paris Report Part Deux: Gastronomie

View from our hotel room window.

To say we ate well would be a gross understatement. While not every single meal was eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head good, enough of them were and the rest were still several notches above your above-average restaurant meal in the U.S. I joked that you almost have to be really trying to find a bad meal in Paris and we've been jonesing for the baked goods since we walked back in the door.

I don't know whether it's because the ingredients there are fresher, or have fewer preservatives, or whether it's because they aren't afraid of butter, or whether the French just have some extra cooking gene the rest of us are missing, but even dishes made from the most common ingredients just sing. When people talk about "French sauces" one tends to think of heavy, creamy sauces, but we found that this was rarely the case. Mostly the sauces even when made with butter or cream were complex and sometimes even delicate, and enhanced the flavor of the food rather than overpowering it.

Most restaurants also had good wine lists, and the staff invariably made excellent recommendations for which were best to pair with our food. We both enjoy wine, but neither of us will usually drink more than a glass or two, and so we were very happy to frequently find several offerings in "half bottles" which were just right for the two of us. Most places also had wines by the glass.

I was surprised that for the most part, portions seemed not much smaller than the restaurants we frequent here, though they do serve on smaller plates. I rarely was able to finish everything. They serve coffee after dessert, not with.

Some highlights:

Café Fernand in the St. Germain area. This place was in a little alley off the street, and we were looking for somplace to get lunch, saw the awning and wandered over. While we found very little in Paris that was "cheap", this was a great value for the money. I had Boeuf Bourgignon and it was falling-apart-eat-with-a-fork fabulous.

Taillevant. This was our one big spend-a-month's-rent-on-dinner (well not quite, but it was up there) splurge, and it was so worth it. Everyone should have one meal like this at some time in their life. The food was beyond incredible, and I loved that the prix-fixe menu we choose had several small courses that were just a few bites each. The servers were almost telepathic without hovering, it would seem like you'd be thinking, hmm, I'm ready for some more wine and they'd be right there pouring it. I can certainly understand how this restaurant garnered the almost legendary status it holds.

Le Comptoir. This is where we went our last night, and from all appearances, it's an unassuming little bistro. The prices are mid-range, but this place is also apparently one of Gourmet magazine's "five places you must eat before you die" selections. This is also in the St. Germain area (which really ended up being my favorite part of the city, had the most charm and atmosphere). I had the Carré d'Agneau (rack of lamb) and it was the best lamb I've ever tasted. And I love lamb. It was light, delicate and very, very tender. I also had a salad of haricots vertes with artichoke hearts and duck paté that I'll probably remember on my deathbed. Doug had heard about this place and that it was impossible to get into, but we had been tipped off the previous night by a very nice French couple that they have a first-come-first-served policy on weekends, so if you show up and are willing to wait for a table, you can get in. We did, and ended up only having to wait about 20 minutes, which apparently is nothing for this place.

The Little Brasserie We Found On Our Way To A Jazz Concert That We Didn't Write Down The Name Of. Here's where we met the nice couple who recommended Le Comptoir. I had an insanely good casserole type thing (which the waiter had recommended as being "very typical French") that was made with potatoes, cheese and wonderful ham and sausage.

Breakfast at the hotel. We'd purchased a package for our hotel that included continental breakfast as part of the price. The great part was that we could get it delivered to the room, which worked out well as I'm usually up first and sniffing around for coffee. The coffee itself was fantastic, made with a french press though decanted into a porcelain pot, and the baked goods that came with breakfast were everything you've heard about French baked goods. Croissants (and my favorite, chocolate croissants!) as light as air, rolls that were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, brioche and very small sweet rolls. Excellent fresh butter and lovely jams were included.


Blogger Maya's Granny said...

Paris has to be the place for the food. Julie and Ted were there on their honeymoon and they are still raving about it 14 years later.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Deja Pseu said...

Yes, I can believe that! We lucked out over the weekend and found a little French restaurant/deli, and picked up some nice ham, cheeses and bread to bring home. I can see that this may become an addiction.

11:41 AM  

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