Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Meals so Far

A nice thing about having a home here is that not all the meals so far have occurred in restaurants, though of course meals in Paris restaurants aren't exactly a hardship. But at my age I do find that eating out day in and day out here does eventually wear me out, it gets to be just too much rich food, never mind the wine, and so it is nice to be able to take a meal off from time to time and eat leftovers out of the frig like in real life. Plus it saves money, of course.

When we arrived on Saturday we wanted someplace quiet and in the neighborhood, because we knew we would be exhausted. We selected Marie Edith, which is just a metro stop down on the Rue Cambronne.

Yay... the photo tool seems to work on this (fairly crummy, actually) blog app. Anyway, we had a wonderful meal. Running down everything that everyone had would take a while and might get a little boring. Let's see, I started with a terrine of oxtail, served room temperature, basically a pate to be spread on bread and eaten with little cornichons. Then I had duck confit, a simple bistro standard here. Confit is duck, in this case a leg, which is cooked slowly in duck fat, after which it can be stored in the fat inside a crock for a long time. Then to prepare it, they just put it under a broiler to crisp up the skin. Nothing fancy, and it wasn't the best confit I have ever had, but it was good, and it came with wonderful roast potatoes, which may have been why I ordered it. I was tired and wanted comfort food. All three girls had the salad de chevre chaud first, it's a family favorite. Little round pieces of chevre (crottins) put under the broiler to brown and soften them, then placed on a salad with vinaigrette. This one came covered with little slightly sour red berries that we thought were pomegranate seeds but weren't, and the waiter couldn't come up with an English word for them
L. just informed me that she actually had ravioli first, homemade and basically just in butter. M. had joue de boeuf, beef cheek, which is a cut of beef slow-stewed until it is very soft, served in a wine and meat reduction. I don't think it is literally the cheek... maybe the butt cheek? Not sure, but it was very good, tender to the point of falling apart. Classic french desserts: oeuf a la neige (egg in snow.... I don't have my dessert expert here at the moment, but a concoction of meringue and cream), creme brulee, dark chocolate cake. All in all not great but delicious, and basically what we were looking for on our first night. Comforting.

Sunday we had our friends Sandy and Philippe over for our first homemade dinner. Sunday is market day on the Rue de Grenelle, so in the morning I set out to find things for dinner. I thought I would buy fish at one of the two or three amazing, and virtually identical, fish stands in the market. I think I have said before that if any one of these were in the US, it would be the best fish market within 100 miles. Dozens of varieties of fresh fish, and an old-fashioned fish-guy who asks you how you want it prepared, filleted, skin removed, etc. I decided on salmon, and for the second time in two tries got a little snookered by the fish guy (it was the butcher last time). I asked for a kilo and a half of salmon, the guy grabs a piece, throws it on the scale and says, in very rapid French, It's 1.9, is that OK? I am already really nervous about conducting this business in French, there is a line behind me, so I figure keep it simple and say, sure, and wind up with 50% more salmon than I really need, since I was estimating high to start with. And they don't give it away, it isn't a whole lot more expensive than a nice piece of salmon at a good market in the US, but it isn't a lot cheaper, either, even with the dollar a little stronger than it has been recently.

So I wind up with too much salmon, added some little potatoes and beautiful French green beans (which I realized later were exactly the vegetables I bought when Sandy and Philippe came over to our rented place on Easter, under these new circumstances I guess I go with what feels safe.) This time I boiled the potatoes instead of roasting them, served them in butter and parsley. The butter here, even in the supermarket, is noticeably better than back home, and the bother you get from the little cheese stands in the market, made at some farm somewhere, is just out of this world. Oh, that's what butter is supposed to taste like, you think. Sandy and Philippe brought wine and cheese, including a Brebis from Basque that was wonderful, we crowded ourselves around the little four person table and various couches and chairs, the windows open so the breeze could blow though, and had a wonderful time. A fruit tart from the market for dessert.

Well, CAM and E. aren't back yet, so I'll keep going. Monday night we ate at La Regalade, a place that CAM and I visited a couple of years ago, and is now open in a new location.

The general trend here is that each meal has been a little better than the one before. L Regalade is a step up from Marie Edith fanciness-wise, slightly more expensive, and a little less traditional. It is possible to get bored with traditional French bistro food if you eat too much of it. There is so much UPDATED bistro food here, though, that it doesn't really matter.

Anyway, I had a modified gazpacho first, a cold tomato broth pureed with peppers, surprisingly spicy for France, with roasted shrimp and fennel greens sprinkled on top. Then, for a main course, I had poitrine de porc, which was just amazing. Poitrine means chest, but this is pork belly, a rectangle three inches long and an inch high, layered with fat and meat, slow roasted until the fat is running, the meat brown, and everything falling apart like pulled pork, sitting in its juice and little tiny French lentils. M. had a deconstructed lasagna first, big wide noodles baked with cheese and basil. He then had pork belly with me. The girls all had foie gras first, mi-suit (half cooked) in little slices lined up on a plate with slices of baguette. CAM rarely passes up a foie gras opportunity. Then the girls had risotto for the main course, topped with a chicken breast stuffed with the liver, which I got to eat in both cases. CAM had a saute of veal.

It was a truly wonderful meal, with wonderful service, but I am going to lodge a small complaint. I notice on the menus lately that they advertise, say a menu for 30 euros, entree main course and dessert. Then, half of the choices on the menu are labeled with "supplement." So the lamb chop is supplement 6 euros etc. They can charge whatever they want, but at some point all the supplements kills the original point of the fixed-price menu, which is to relieve you from worrying too much about money while you order your meal. I don't like having to worry about whether it is worth it to order one of the expensive items, or whether it is OK if one of the kids orders it.

Location:Square de La Motte Picquet,Paris,France

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