I just got back from a long weekend in Paris and had a wonderful time eating and shopping. I've been to Paris at least a dozen times over the past 20 years, and it never dissapoints. Here's the somewhat long recap.
We arrived at 7am on Saturday morning with reservations in place for most (but not all) of our meals for the next three days. (Note: we flew Air Tahiti Nui from L.A. on an obscenely cheap ticket; I never had flown to Europe on a day flight - - we departed LAX at 11:30am - - which means we landed early in the a.m. and had the entire day ahead of us).
On Saturday we had lunch at Fish La Boisonerrie, just walked in off the street since we were strolling the neighborhood. I had salmon with roasted fennel and the Saint Auban pinot noir they were pouring by the glass, and my friend had dourade with the Saint Veran. The food and the wines were great. We skipped dessert and each had a second glass of wine, the better to encourage our afternoon nap. The bill was 56Euros.
Dinner on Saturday night was at Au Fil de Saisons, a place I couldn't resist trying after reading about it on Chez Christine's blog (link below). This restaurant is definitely on my list of places to recommend and to revisit. The amuse was a tiny cup of asparagus soup. For starters, I had the house foie gras - a large slice served with a sprinkling of pepper and sea salt and a few divinely supple dried apricots. My friend had the scallops, which were outstanding. My main, the house special duck cooked for 7 hours, with foie gras melting on top of it, was wonderful. My companion had the duck breast with chestnuts and grapes, and it too was fabulous. For dessert, I had the palette of ice creams. All five were delicious, but I was too full to eat more than a few bites of each. My friend had a millefeuille with rhubarb and kiwi which I thought sounded odd, but it was scrumptious. We shared a bottle of 2005 Chateau des Hautes Ribes Vacqueryas, a very smoky red wine that paired nicely with our duck. The tab for dinner was an even 90Euros for the two of us. http://chezchristine.typepad.com/chez...
We spent Sunday at the flea market and had a not-very-memorable formule lunch at a packed restaurant in the middle of the flea market area. It was mostly notable for the bathroom - - the old-fashioned porcelain squatter.
Thanks to advice from this board, we enjoyed a warm welcome and a fine meal on Sunday night at Parc aux Cerfs. The meal began with their house aperitif. I found it too sweet, and later wished that I'd saved it for my cheese course. The house olives served with the aperitif, on the other hand, were wonderful, spiked with fresh herbs. To start, I had a salad topped with a ribbon of Comte cheese and preserved cherries. My friend had a salad of two cooked cabbages (red and white) topped with shrimp, all drizzled with a caramel-tasting dressing. Sounds odd, but it was great. I had a lamb shank for dinner, which proved to be a popular choice as we saw many other tables have the same. I enjoyed the flavorful, tender lamb with a sauce based on cider vinegar, as well as the green beans and tiny white beans that were served along with it. My companion had bar (fish) with sweet potatoes. Hers was just ok. Dessert was an assortment of three cheeses, all excellent. With a bottle of red wine (not that memorable), the tab came to 123 Euros.
Monday finally arrived, with the promise of our lunch at Taillevent, reserved many weeks in advance. Upon seating us, one of the many servers offered us tiny cheese puffs, still warm. Then another server brought our menus. We were asked about drinks and ordered the house aperitif - - champagne with a dash of raspberry liqueur. It was a festive start to the meal.
After looking over the menus, I was a bit puzzled. In one hand, I had the "normal" carte and in the other hand I had a carte with menus at 140 Euros and 230 Euros (I think that was the more expensive one). I had been expecting a menu at 70 Euros. I asked one of the servers whether there was yet another menu, and he said "there is the lunch menu" which he then produced for us. This was the 70 Euro meal. We felt not a single drop of deprivation ordering from the 70 Euro carte. And as we looked around us, everyone else in eyeshot was having the 70 Euro deal (the room was full of French people who did not appear to be tourists). The failure to offer the 70 Euro carte was the only lapse in an otherwise divine meal experience.
We made our choices then consulted with the sommelier about our wine. We selected the Clos des Messieurs Reuilly 2002, which turned out to be the best wine of the trip. It was only 23 Euros for the bottle, but man, was it delicious. Dry, but flowery, and unlike anything else. I'm kicking myself now for failing to stop by the Taillevent wine shop to bring a bottle home.
The sommelier departed and our amuse arrived. It was a sabayon, flavored with mustard and gherkin pickles, with tiny, tiny, tiny slivers of bacon (lardons) in the bottom. I don't know how the bacon stayed crispy, but it did, and provided a pleasing surprise of a crunch. I realize that this dish sounds quite odd, but it was magnificent.
My first course was a crustacean veloute. The cream soup had a big piece of lobster claw meat, crab claw meat, and a tiny lobster mousse sausage in it. I scraped the bowl with my bread to get every drop. My friend started with "presse" of pigeon and foie gras - - a breast of pigeon divided in two parts with a hunk of foie gras in the middle. She wouldn't even share a bite with me!
We had the same main, veal with winter veggies. The veal was so tender and delicate, the veggies were all cut into special shapes and arranged just-so. It wasn't a knockout dish, but it was very good.
Onto the cheese. Brie de Meaux with a layer of walnuts. Creamy, rich, and very nice. By now we were running out of steam.
Then chocolate fantasie for dessert. I wish I'd had more room, because it was one of the best desserts I've ever had. A slim finger of dark chocolate mousse encased in a ganache, topped with a thin wafer of chocolate, and that was topped with a piped bit of more chocolate cream. I can't do it justice in the description.
Of course, we also had cafe and a plate of mignardises, which included six different little bites. The citrus tarte was wonderful. The macarron cookie, on the other hand, tasted like the artificial orange flavor they used to put in baby aspirin. I was too full to try the other mignardises.
The total tab at Taillevent was 213 Euros. We arrived at 12:30pm and departed at 3:00pm. Many tables that arrived about the same time as us left earlier - - I think there were quite a few business lunch meetings around us.
To my great surprise, we were actually hungry by 8pm on Monday evening. Our hotel was near La Coupole, so that's where we we went. We just walked right in and were seated. We started with plain mixed green salads (something we'd missed the past few days). Then I had the "tasting" platter of 9 oysters and my friend had steak frites. The oysters were magnificent and a flute of champagne was just the right accompaniment. After our huge lunch earlier in the day, salad and oysters was all I wanted for dinner. The tab was 88 Euros, which felt a little overpriced to me (this meal was nowhere near as good as dinner at Au Fil de Saisons had been for the same price). I did notice a lot of kids at La Coupole, and they had a "menu enfant" at 14 Euros, so maybe I'll go back there with the kids someday.
Between all the meals, we managed to do quite a bit of damage shopping, including some food shopping of course. I'll report later on the chocolates and caramels from J.P. Hevin and the jams from Pierre Herme.
Whew - got it all down. Now back to work for the rest of the week!