Continuing to try and catch up with my diary from a recentish trip to Europe.
Le 40th Fete, Bastille Day, 2004
We arrived back from our little trip to Provence (which I completely forgot to write a diary for) only to find that, other from the boulangerie, all the cute little food shops were closed. The only place that was open was a small neighbourhood supermarket named "Shop". I know that sounds cool, but believe me, it wasn't. It was like a mini version of Safeway that had been cross-pollinated with Kwik Save. It was in this cheap, ugly little place that we were forced to buy all of the food for Fred's 40th Birthday soiree.
It was not what we had in mind. Despite the odds stacked against us we managed to prepare a very pretty spread of green, red and yellow pepper crudities, mozzarella, tomato and basil salad, charcuterie, cheeses, nuts, crisps and other nibbles. V bought home with her some gazpacho which spiced up the menu. T bought beautiful tarts which, dotted with candles, the children presented to Fred.
The next day, Bastille Day, July 14th, Fred's actual 40th birthday, we woke up late, even the children. We only just made it to the local Farmer's Market in Meudon on the outskirts of Paris, by the midday closing time where V bought some wonderful things for lunch from the so charming and totally French stalls inside the market building. On the way back we stopped at Pierrot for a little lunchtime drink before heading home to eat our meal.
Foie gras du canard and little spicy sweet peppers filled with herby cheese and drenched in olive oil were her choice of appetizers. Everything tasted fresh and wonderful sitting in the quiet garden in the peaceful, mid summer sun with only the sound of crickets to keep us company.
V cooked us a simple rose maigret de canard -Pink (medium rare) duck breast- served with a simple green salad. Large chunks of ripe, sweet, fresh melon completed this long, lazy, summer garden picnic.
We uuhmed and aaahed all afternoon. Having been born 11.27pm in the midst of a cacophony of explosions and rockets, Fred is naturally fond of fireworks. Maybe obsessed is a better description. So, one part of him wanted to go into town do see the HUGE firework display Paris stages every year on this national holiday that he loves to pretend is a celebration especially for him. The other half of him was lazy and didn't want to get caught up in the crowds, or do all the traveling we would have to do. The decision, therefore, was made to eat locally (there wasn't much open) so we walked to the chi-chi sister restaurant of Chez Pierrot...
Le Relais des Gardes.
42 Avenue Gallieni. 92190, Meudon.
The restaurant was virtually empty, just us and one other distant table where four besuited gentleman were enjoy a manly dinner with lots of drinking and smoking prevailing. It was tranquil but a little sterile, having the entire space to ourselves (the other four departed soon after we arrived.) We started with outrageously priced Kir Royales. They were about double the price of the same drink we'd tried everywhere else in France (and, believe me, we'd been testing the prices quite fastidiously). At least they were served with free canapes - gougere, tomato tartelettes and a tiny gazpacho soup, none of which were dazzling, not even close. Fred started his dinner with a simple fanned melon and serrano ham while I chose a Fraichure de Crab with tartare de tomates. It tasted very clean and fresh.
My main course of langoustines were soft and succulent, served on a bed of confit of ratatouille and homemade pasta. But the mixture of tastes didn't seem to go together very well to me. Fred meanwhile was in a duckish mood despite his maigret at lunch opted for the cuisse de canard - a duck leg with roasted potatoes. He thought it was ok, not great. We washed everything down with a bottle of chilled red sancerre. It was obvious that the one server and presumably the chef, really didn't want to spend much longer in an empty restaurant so, feeling hurried, we wolfed down an unmemorable chocolate fondant dessert and some coffee before rushing out to try and catch a glimpse of the Feux D'artifice being launched from close by the Eiffel Tower, a distance of at least 13 miles away but clearly visible from our vantage point up on the hill.
This restaurant was much much more expensive than Chez Pierrot and not nearly as much fun. Ok - so we chose a bad time to go - in terms of finding any kind of buzz or atmosphere, but for the food quality, representation and taste alone I would choose Chez Pierrot over Le Relais des Gardes just for the vibrancy and quality of the food every time whilst dining in the Meudon area.