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Here’s a report from my recent trip — late March to early April — to France. Thanks to all of you for helping me with some of the choices. I was there for 18 days but I’ll just cover some highlights. I apologize in advance for my poor memory and my weak food writing skills.
For most of the trip I was with my 31-year-old daughter, Lily, who is my favorite eating companion. For the first leg of the trip we were staying in an apartment in the 9th, just below Montmartre. It was around the block from rue des Martyrs, a wonderful street filled with great markets and bakeries.
Just down the street from us was Caillebotte where I had some of the best ris de veau I’ve ever had. They cooked it just the way I like it — sauteed I guess — and it had the texture that makes sweetbreads so addictive. I’ll attach a photo. Lily had the duck as her main dish, and liked it very much. We shared a nice starter of Jerusalem artichokes, and we shared a dessert, which we remember liking very much but not what it was. I think we each had two glasses of wine. The total bill came to about $90, far less than a comparable meal in the States.
Another night we went to Les Saisons, also in the neighborhood. I wanted to try it because I saw they had cuttlefish on the menu, which I generally like a lot. These were in a black ink sauce, which, truthfully, tasted more like what I imagine the black ink to taste like without any modification. I didn’t care for it, but the cuttlefish were fine. Lily had pork belly in a broth with celery and white beans, which she liked very much. We shared an appetizer — I think it was escargots — and a full bottle of wine, but no dessert. I think the final tab here was under $70.
On the final leg of our trip we returned to Paris and stayed on the Left Bank. During this stay we ate at L’Ami Jean, which was as fun as you said it is, Parn, and very good. It was filled with Americans that night, but they do a nice job of making it feel French and authentic. We shared a starter of squid and pork belly. It was all cooked perfectly, especially the squid which can get rubbery. For the plat, I had the pigeon, which I’ve never had before. I loved it. Lily had the ris de veau, which might have competed with the one I had at Caillebotte, although it was quite a bit pricier. We shared a rice pudding, and a bottle of wine. The bill came to about $190. (I’m doing prices in dollars because I’m referring to my credit card bill and that’s how they appear.)
In between these two stays in Paris we took the train to Avignon and rented a car. For three nights we stayed in Uzes, which we liked very much. While there we went to Le Bec A Vin, where we had a great dinner. We shared a starter of mussels on risotto topped with a lovely, light cream sauce, almost the consistency of whipped cream. My plat was duck, two thick pieces of it perfectly cooked. Lily had the octopus risotto, which made her swoon. We shared a dessert, which again we remember liking, but can’t remember what it was. We each had two glasses of wine, and the bill was about $90. The dining room was pretty and cozy, but I’ve heard the patio is magical in the warm weather.
The second night in Uzes we were both craving something simpler than the fancy three-course meals we had been having. We wanted the kind of food you’d get in a French home if someone there was a good cook. We found that in Ma Cantine. My meal was particularly tasty — braised rabbit in white wine. It really hit the spot that night. Lily had some kind of pasta dish. We shared a dessert and each had a couple of glasses of wine, and I think the total bill was $45.
On a day trip to the Camargue, we had lunch in St. Marie de la Mer at O Pica Pica. We had some delicious fried squid there. Also good was fried “small fish.” They looked almost like minnows, but I don’t know what they were.
We then spent a couple of nights in Gigondas in the Cotes du Rhone. We stayed at Les Florets, which has a very good dining room. We had a lovely lunch on the patio, and a couple of dinners there because we didn’t want to drive the dark, narrow roads at night after drinking. The dinners came to about $100 for the two of us, again sharing starters and desserts. I had a particularly nice steak one night. And the local wines, which we ordered by the glass, were terrific.
One of the nicest surprises of the trip was in Avignon at Maison Ripert, which we stumbled on. The service, food and prices were remarkable. The amuse bouche was a carrot puree topped with a mussel. We then shared a starter of truffle potato ravioli with mushrooms in a bouillon. I had a really nice chicken dish with leeks, Lily had veal with a potato puree. We shared a dessert, sous vide apples with a green apple sauce on citrus meringues, and a large carafe of wine. The total bill there was about $75. We couldn’t get over it.
Thank you again for helping to make this such a successful trip. I’m already looking forward to planing the next one with all of you.
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