5.5 L'Aumoniere de Bacchus, 40 Rue de Montreuil in the 11th, 01.44.93.58.07, (Metro: Faidherbe-Chaligny), closed Sundays (not to be confused with the L'Aumoniere de Bacchus in the 17th which has a completely different address and telephone number(s)) has been open for about 10 weeks and is a well-kept secret for several reasons.
Front story: I must have spent 30 minutes trying to make a reservation this morning; first, the card I picked up last month has black-on-black lettering, which even for an Ad Reinhart/magnifying glass adeptee was a tough job; second, because the seeming Google/etc/website gave weird telephone numbers answered by annoyed citizens in the suburbs, and third, because I was really getting grouchy.
Back Story: I was dining across the street at Tintilou with Paris' hottest chef a few weeks ago and saw some building activity across the street. Hummm, a restaurant? Then, when at Tintilou with Colette in July, I saw a stream of seemingly-decent-looking people actually walking in and followed them after my meal was over, scoping the carte and noting that they seemed to be doing a land office business; chatted up the tatooed hostess, got a card and departed.
As you can see, it's really cool; loungy-type furniture, edgy-type decor, Zebra-Square-esque atmosphere, Bobo-type clients. Plus a 2-course menu at 11.80 E, 3 for 16.80 E, holy gazoli (and wines start at 17 E). Today's special at 16 E was a daurade.
I looked over both the "menu' and carte - the carte had two things to die for - sauteed foie gras and scallops - oh, but wait - there were little ballpoint tick marks in front of them and other items. Oh, oh, "Inn keeper, does this mean you're out of these?" "Yes, sir, we're just two days back from vacation and not supplied up yet, desole." Gargggggh!
OK, I'm a big boy, I don't cry, but I sure wimpered.
So I ordered the chicken livers on green beans and salad - the first liver-lobe, while nicely seasoned, was overcooked, Oh Lordy, but the rest were undercooked - Hallelujah - and the undercooked beans and crisp salad the livers sat on were great. Then herring came prepared in a fashion never before encountered by me - cooked flat butterfly-style, like sole, with teeny-tiny-cubes of veggies (did I mention that they pride themselves on locavore, bio, organic, etc., stuff? - no, well they do) and no curry, matjes, gravlaxy, etc. Was it bad? No. Was it tasty? No. And the potatoes with chopped basil bits were outside my zone of rating-competence. Finally, I had a sabayon with red fruits that was spectacular.
With fairly decent bread (great crust, so-so interior), purple salt, good coffee, nice wine and fairly pleasant service (I mean, the mistress did say "I hope you like it" in English, and me reading Figaro and wearing my Daffy's Eurotrash off-white suit just like Alain Juppe's but with hair) my bill was 35.90 E.
Go? Well, while it's clear that the chef has been through the Aizpitarte Academy of Audacious Attempts, the resto is not quite ready for prime time - but when the products are in and the business card is readible and the phone numbers are all in sync, it could be a winner, but maybe all this bio-organic-locavore stuff has gone too far. My prediction is that when the big boys get back to town, their ratings will be: Lobrano B-, Rubin a weak/critical 2 hearts and Berger/Toinard a hesitant 3 dots.
A parting shot - Tintilou across the street finally has a sign; pretty cool, eh?
Yesterday, as I was settling into my next to last United Airlines trip to Paris (they've foolishly turned the route over to a Continental 3-3-3 plane with no possibility of upgrading - so bye-bye United, it's been great to know ya), two flight attendants wanted to know what psychiatric/psychological books I would recommend they read to understand people better. Mind you, this was pay-back time for the info they gave me last trip on how they handled dsk. Easy, I said, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Chekhov (and went on muttering Hugo, De Maupassant, Ibsen and so forth.)
6.0 La Compagne de Bretagne, 5, rue de l'Ecole de Medicine in the 6th, 01.43.29.39.00, closed Sundays, opened (my server said) at the beginning of July although it had been forecast but not reviewed July 21st by F. Simon (disclosure: Alain Fusion may have beaten him to the punch but his note is undated) before the French took off on their traditional multi-month summer vacation in his blog note "Paris, déjà les nouvelles adresses de la rentrée..." He predicted that it would be a "creperie haut de gamme ouverte par Olivier Roellinger avec M. Rochon. Impec et nickel classe avec bien entendu desproduits superbes." And indeed it was.
The rooms are wonderful; downstairs and upstairs he furnishings are angular, edgy, black-and-white and downstairs is a bright cave-like cave. And the menu is simple; galettes, specialties with products such as lobsters and dessert crepes, plus an enormous number of ciders whose mere presence intimidated me into ordering wine.
I started with a specialty one with grilled sardines in an almost jam-like confited citron/eggplant accompaniment (wow) and went on to a galette with sausage, grilled in a wood-burning oven (wooee). Two pluses were the fabulous tart dressing on the salad greens and the fabulous sauce made with moutarde a l'ancienne BTW, both galettes were reputed to be small (rather than large) but left me no room for a savoury crepe for dessert, which I would have loved a bite of. But who could complain?
My bill with an off-the scales Bolivian espresso, wine and no bottled water was 43.50 E. But consider the formule at 19.90 E with a galette and crepe, coffee and cider.
Go? My goodness yes. The rentree is off to a good rentree. But mind you, this is no startling Spring, no zealous Ze, no audacious Astrance, no ancient Ami Louis, this is, with the Breizh Cafe, still just a creative creperie, albeit a very, very good one. And check out the toilettes - coolest of the year.
You think you’ve read this before, don’t you, and it’s a slow news month so I’m recycling old stuff in new essays? Well, you’re partly correct. Certainly, I’ve expressed myself numerous times on the subject on various websites that I’ve perched on over the years but this will summarize and reiterate my beliefs.
In addition, I get new readers of this blog daily which is kind of surprising to me and my handy-dandy “Sitemeter,” for which I owe my friend Phyllis thanks, tells me that I have readers from all over, even in Kazakhstan, although that may just be Sasha Baron Cohen messing with my head.
When I first came to France as a callow youth, veloing around the Loire and Brittany, I had a metabolism and hunger that permitted me to eat all I wanted, all the time. Even when Colette and I started coming for weekends or week-long trips we put away three squares a day, sometimes at starred places for all three - the Hotel de France in Auch where Andre Daguin was host and chef is a prime example – we had his duck every which way for dinner and then were able to tuck away a 20 confiture breakfast.
It was only when we came for our first full year’s sabbatical in France that we came to the conclusion that lunch made much more sense to go hogwild at and we could do very well indeed with a bit of cheese, or charcuterie, or salad, or soup, etc., for supper. At this point it is a rare evening we do not spend quietly at home.
Well, first off, the price differences are startling. With few exceptions, dinner is 2-4 times the price of lunch. Take our favorites, Spring and Ze Kitchen Galerie. At lunch Daniel Rose’s incredible bouillon is 38 E, while at dinner it’s 64 E. And William Ledeuil’s starting lunch is 29 E while dinner is 60 E.
Then there’s the metabolic/caloric/health factor. With a big lunch and light supper we can “walk off” the calories rather than go into a soporific haze after a big dinner. And I hear it’s healthier. Now granted, both of us are able to work early in the morning and late in the afternoon/evening; not everyone is.
And I realize that if one is in Paris for three days they don’t want to “waste” 1½-2 hours at lunch when they could be chugging or chuffing through the Louvre.
Then there’s something that gets some folks exercised when it’s mentioned: eating with one’s compatriots and hearing predominately English spoken. There was a time when there was an English section or room in some restaurants; others had “quotas;” and still others used no smoking requests as a proxy for sequestering annoying Anglos. Those days are largely gone but if you’d rather hear French than English or Japanese spoken, lunch should be your goal.
Finally, I find it easier to get reservations at lunch. When I read of people calling months in advance to get into Spring or any other “hot” restaurant at night, I feel empathy but no sympathy.
My favorites at lunch:
Ze Kitchen Galerie 4, rue des Grands Augustins, 6th (Metro: Saint Michel) T: 01 44 32 00 32 Closed Saturday lunch and Sundays. Menus: 26.50-39 (lunch), 80 (dinner) and a la carte 90 €.
Spring 6, rue Bailleul in the 1st (Metro: Louvre-Rivoli) T: 01.45.96.05.72 Open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Lunch TBA after the rentree. Lunches were 38 E and the 6-course dinner menu 64 €.
As we exited Coastal Maine for points south, I had no idea how far we'd get before I was seized with hunger pangs so I had plotted out several possibilities.
Sometime around 1 PM, nearing Portsmouth NH, my hypothalamus metaphorically kicked me and we got off the pike, went back down the tight streets, found an alluring alley and ate at Cava which lists itself as both a tapas bar and a wine bar. I had no expectations and was very impressed.
Tapas being tapas, we shared the four dishes we had:
- a white corn/spicy tomato gaspacho that was magically poured 1/2 1/2 into four oversized shot-glasses,
- slices of Serrano ham on olive oiled bread with slices of Grannies with grated Spanish cheese,
- chickpea "fries" made with enough harisa to make you sit up straight on top of salad greens and crumbled feta, and
- one of the finest, if not the finest flan I have ever had with candied peanuts and a caramelized sauce that there will never be enough of on earth.
Our bill, with two glasses of wine, an iced tea and no bottled water, before tip, was $52.32
That night we made our ritual trip to the southern coast of New England to see our bicoastal-binational friends of longstanding and after a lovely bottle of Jadot white and cheese and their reconstructed house, meandered over to Bristol to Persimmon where our friends are known to the house and I soon will as well if they keep feeding us this well.
They gave us two amuse gueules; a sort-of deconstructed prosciutto and melon in the form of a sorbetto and a knock-'em-sock-'em clam ceviche; what a start.
We all independently chose to have 2 starters each, not only so we could finish our plates like good little boys and girls but to have maximum range of the kitchen. At the top is a corn soup with "sweet corn pudding and summer black truffle vigaigrette;" then heirloom tomatoes with a cucumber sorbet, herbs, feta and EVOO; and a scallop crudo with tiny melon balls, "cucumber, grapefruit, yuzu, petite herbs and crunchy celery." They all sound too busy, don't they?, what I call "Las Vegas/Los Angeles food" but actually they were not.
Next came three more appetizers: a risotto with leeks, lobster and chanterelles; foie gras with figs, duck neck confit and caramelized hazelnuts;" and a warm salad of "native summer vegetables, herbs and flowers with vegetable crisps and creamy dill vinaigrette." In my book, the risotto was OK, the foie gras/duck perfect, but the dull sounding "warm salad" exceptional.
At this point I could eat no more, nor take any more photos, so I sat and watched as the other three polished off desserts of carrot cake, "native fruits" and a revisionist (in the best sense of the word) clafoutis with cherries inside and outside.
With no bottled water, three coffees and a bottle and a glass of wine for the four of us, the bill was no more than $70 a couple before tip.
Like movies that are so bad they're good, Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, St Martin's Griffin, NY 2007 is a frustrating experience.
Based on one of France's most shameful episodes, which quite simply stripped the varnish off their long and deep streak of Antisemitism, the deportation, separation and slaughter of innocent French citizens, men, women and children, in 1942, who just happened to be Jewish, Ms. de Rosnay lurches between telling an exciting mystery story and (bear with this run on sentence) providing boring after boring page of rather meaningless descriptions of the heroine's sappy husband, the worst of French men and women's cultural prejudices and deathly slow descriptions of incredibly banal events.
According to news reports, the manuscript was turned down by almost two dozen publishing houses, and one can see why, before the hapless d'Ormesson/Cohen-Solal team took her on. They had gold in their hands - a horrible still-hidden and to-this-day-denied event, a suspenseful plot and interesting characters, but they forgot one thing; a good book needs a good editor.
This was the second year we stopped for lunch en route from the Portland Jetport to Boothbay. The Royal River Grillhouse pleased us enough last year to go back; but there were big differences: the service which was awful last year, was most welcoming and apologetic about delays; the view remains great; the place was less packed and the food seemed less interesting.
I ordered vinegar and salted calamari that was most tasty, followed by "the best ever" mussels one of us had ever had; the lobster rolls (which we'd swooned over in 2010) were unexciting and the Cobb salad with lobster OK.
Our bill for 12 with one bottle of wine and three beers was $276.57 after the tip.
For our traditional evening out, after a morning on the Eastwind Sailing trip on a real sailing ship with a two-hour running commentary by husband and wife team Herb and Doris Smith - really great - and an afternoon of photos with the charming Leisha J. MacDougall, the 12 of us went to the Lobster Dock in Boothbay Harbor which had the most incredible line on a Wednesday nite, we checked out the line at the Boothbay Lobster Wharf, from which we usually order our take-out, which is usually terrific and tonight was, as is usual, not over-crowded, but the ladies insisted we dine at the Lobster Dock.
So there we were, 12 of us - 4 to 76 years old - and the dumbest of us plunked ourselves down by the bay while the wiliest of us figured out how to avoid the 25 person line and order some booze, while our daughters dutifully ordered the stuff: clam crowder, lobsters, fried clam strips, mussels mariniere, a warm (hunh?) lobster roll, grilled cheese sanish, onion rings, hot dog (unliked by the 4-6 y.o. crowd), biscuits, corn on the cobs and other fluff.
Our bill was under $250 (my great kids who paid, revealed that much) with 1.5 liters of Chardonnay (it mustabeen from a box but was very very good) and two buckets of beer, 8 sodas and no bottled water or dessert (that was delivered later, courtesy of Colette, from Gifford's stand in town).
We've been kind of casting about for a place to eat at between Williamstown (MA) and Portsmouth (NH), our traditional poles on the trek Eastward and uneasy about where we've been before; but a quick tour of the web led us to the self-proclaimed #1 in Brattleboro Top of the Hill Grille. Now this is the sort of place Francois Simon in his July 30th article, if memory serves me correctly, on American food in Le Figaro Madame, hasn't lucked into yet; too bad.
Because the gaspacho and pulled pork in a whole wheat tortilla that Colette had and the kielbasa with peppers and onions on a perfectly toasted and magnificently home-made demi-baguette that I had were true American cooking at its most primative, inventive and best.
Our bill; a staggering $22.80 (that with two big lemonades, period).
Dinner was with another couple in Portsmouth (NH) at the highly lauded Jumpin' Jay's Fish cafe which had as you can see 10 fish specials, roasted and pan-seared, largely from US and Canadian waters.
Madame, born across in Kittery a few decades ago, suggested we split one, one mind you one, order of mussels - they were divine and the sauce, jalapeno slices and tomato bits lasted a long time while the bay scallops and halibut were prepared. This is seafood as it should be; mostly local, not fussily-prepared, with no frou-frou BS.
The bill was picked up by our old/yet/new friends for our tiny kindness a few weeks ago in Paris but without any bottled water or coffee or dessert but two bottles of vino verde, I'd made a rough estimate of no more than $110 a couple before tax and tip.