Why can't we have this? Everywhere we go there are markets. Beautiful, small markets filled with the freshest, most wonderful things. I came here planning to cook a few meals, but now I'm not so sure. In Paris you can make a meal out of anything, anywhere.
Here's a good example. We went to a dinner party on Sunday night hosted by an old friend of mine from culinary school days. Audre, the hostess, got back into Paris late from an out-of-town wedding. Being rushed, what did she serve? Kentucky Fried Chicken? No. She went to her local fish purveyor and bought some oysters, steamed shrimp and snails. They were served with fresh lemon, aioli, a mignonette (red wine vinegar and shallot sauce), with bread on the side. To start, she served some sauteed oyster mushrooms with parsley, wine, garlic, and olive oil. After the oysters were cleared, she brought out some cheese, and then, some pastries. All she had to do was set the table.
I think that there is something in this approach that Americans can emulate. First and foremost it requires faith in your trusted network of food purveyors to provide you with convenience products made with the best raw ingredients.
What do I mean? At the charcuterier, besides having the expected pates en croute, terrines, and rillettes, have a wide selection of excellent prepared foods. Yesderday when we were there they were slicing cooked Muscovy duck breast to order. Some charcutiers also prepared spit-roasted chicken, which smells beter than you can imagine.
The produce stalls are another story. From fresh almonds in the husk, to currants, to the cutest tiniest melons wrapped up in tissue paper--the sky's te limit. Take a look at this:
And look at these tomatoes, called "les coeurs de boeuf," or "beef hearts."
Here's the view from outside the patisserie right across from our apartment. Yes, we look dumb taking pictures of everything. But we don't care.
Last night dinner for us was a bottle of red wine, a baguette, a slice of pate de campagne (with Dijon mustard), a round of aged goat cheese rolled in vegetable ash, and one of those melons pictured above. Tasty, simple, and the oven stayed off.
We had our first full meal today at lunch, after miraculously waking up refreshed and unjetlagged. We walked around around Montmatre looking for a nice spot. What you're aiming for is a restaurant away from the main avenues and boulevards. Also to avoid are restaurants with the word "traditionelle" in their names and restaurants with the menu in English. We assume those places are catering to tourists who need assistance.
We happened upon a restaurant called Le Cepage Montmartrois(http://www.cepagemontmartrois.fr/) on a quiet street in a mainly residential neighborhood. After looking at the special board, we decided to give it a shot. The prices were reasonable and the staff seemed friendly.
Melissa is discovering that she remembers a lot more French than she anticipated. She surprised me yesterday--I overheard her asking a fully-conjugated question to a man in a shop. This is great, since people can't understand a damn word I say, despite my months of cooking in France a decade ago. She ordered for us and the waitress walked away
"I need more verbs," she said.
The food. We started with a plate of charcuterie, which everyone knows I love. The plate ended up being huge, too much for two people. Ham, prosciutto, hard salami, pork rillettes, and a liver pate. With bread and mustard, naturellement.
Although we were full, we moved onto a main course after ordering a small pitcher of Sancerre. I had the foie de veau avec le vinaigre de framboises (seared veal liver in a sauce of raspberry vinegar, served with roasted potatoes and a small slice of vegetable quiche). It was good, a tad overdone for my taste, but still delicious (I will say that it is extremely difficult to cook such a thin piece of meat properly to temperature). Here it is:
Melissa ordered the carre d'agneau roti (roast lamb). The cut is something I'd have a really hard time sourcing in the States, so I was glad she ordered it. It basically is an un-Frenched rack of lamb with the breast meat still attached. Like the veal liver, it was served with the roast potatoes and the delicious carrot and zucchini quiche. The meat was incredible, seared to a perfect juicy medium. Here's a picture of the lamb:
We were too stuffed for dessert, but I still managed to put down two coffees. A steal at 50 euros.
We ended up loving this restaurant, going back several more times and trying numerous specials, all of which were outstanding. This restaurant is a beautiful 15 minute walk from the heart of Montmartre, if you're in Paris and in the neighborhood.
Here we go. A culinary adventure spanning three countries. We are looking forward to unpasteurized cheese, organ meats, free-flowing wine, and artisinal bread. Not to mention all the ideas I can rip to use at Motor.
We left the house in a bit of a rush, between our own preparations and making sure everything was in order for our house-sitter. We got on the road and Melissa promptly started in on how hungry she was. That only made me hungry. By the time we got to the airport in Charlotte we were famished and cranky.
So, Columbia, here it goes: the first meal of our vacation. Up for your consideration: tacos from the airport chain Tequileria. Oh, and don't forget the bland cheese dip. I can't really say anything about it other than that.
We flew Aer Lingus to France. (Yes, it really is spelled "aer." Crazy Irish!) The plane (and flight attendants) were upholstered in a bright kelly green. The flight captain's name was Patty O'Rourke. We loved it. Our only in-flight disappointment was discovering that we were not to be served haggis and colcannon for dinner. (Dinner was an unassuming pot roast with peas and carrots).
Why do airlines and airports have such lackluster food? I believe it's because they have what is essentially a captive clientele with no options. Fortunately our spirits were buoyed in Dublin. The airport featured a United Kingdom chain called Soho Coffee Company (www.sohocoffeeco.uk). We were totally flummoxed by all the choices available: fresh-squeezed juices, sandwiches on artisan bread, just-baked muffins, and freshly-fried ham. A total departure from what we usually find when we travel.
Long story short: we're here. Sans luggage. So, we're going out to find new French duds and a bar. We hope they have French fries. Oops, sorry. Pommes frites.