Paris


I’ve had a passion for food that has bordered on gluttony for many years.  To feed that passion (pun intended), I’ve always sought out new restaurants and types of food – from elegant meals in 5-star restaurants to a $0.50 curry dish on the streets of India.  For me, a trip to Paris is pure heaven. 

The restaurant I’ve most looked forward to in Paris was A Beauvilliers, a small, old French and absurdly romantic restaurant in the Montmartre district recommended by a former colleague of mine who also has the food affliction.  A BeauvilliersThis is the kind of place where you shouldn’t even look at the prices on the menu since you know they’re outrageous; luckily, the restaurant partially assists in this area.  When we sat down at 10:45 p.m. (jet lag is still fully intact), Shanna and I were each handed a menu.  As I was perusing my menu, Shanna asked on 3 separate occasions where the prices were located.  After telling her the location 3 times and starting to wonder if I had really made the right marriage decision, I finally looked at her menu and realized that the restaurant had given her a menu without prices – a patriarchal effort on the part of the restaurant to reduce the heavy burden a woman must feel when presented with financial decisions.  I doubt this practice is alive and well in many American restaurants.  From that point on, I requested that Shanna only talk when spoken to unless she’s talking about raising babies, cooking dinner for me or cleaning the kitchen.  Surprisingly, Shanna rejected this request.

We ordered from the prix fixe menu, where you order an appetizer, entree and dessert from a variety of choices – a style of ordering that gives you a cheaper price than if you ordered all 3 dishes separately but mainly a brilliant effort on the part of the restaurant to trick you into ordering dessert since there’s no way you would ever do so after stuffing yourself with the appetizer and the entree.  Since the menu was only in French and Shanna dropped the ball on learning the language on the plane, we basically ordered our dinner by pointing randomly at the choices presented.  This method proved very effective.  The highlight of the meal for me was braised beef braisedbeef.JPG(a dish that tasted like your Mom’s roast beef on crack), covered with a wheel of perfectly-cooked potatoes and some sort of foam (that, we’ve learned, comes standard with almost all fancy Parisian dishes).  The other dishes included asparagus soup, trumpet mushrooms and sea bass (served almost rare – the only way to eat fish this good).  One of the desserts included 2 small chocolate cakesIMG_0299 062.JPG with a warm, chocolate center that oozed out of the cake once we dove in.  Needless to say, we were without words for several minutes.

The food was almost upstaged by the service.  Our waiter was working so hard that he was visibly sweating – not a visual highlight of the meal, but indicative of the attention we received.  At one point, Shanna tried to pour a glass of water from the mineral water we ordered (as a side note, it seems no one drinks tap water in Paris, but instead doles out at least $7 each meal for a bottle a water; the Nashvillian in me wanted to reject the bottle on a couple of occasions and instead order a glass of the “Cumberland River’s finest” or, more appropriately, the “Seine River’s finest”), but was quickly scolded by the waiter who practically yelled, “I work; you no work”.  

When people ask me about my favorite dining experience, I never have a single answer.  There have been so many great ones – the tasting menu at Le Bernardin in New York; the beef brisket at Kreuz’s Market in Lockhart, Texas; the soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai in New York’s Chinatown; a cheeseburger on French Bread at Rotier’s in Nashville; the shrimp noodle soup made by an old Vietnamese lady (wherever you are, God bless you) on a side street in Saigon.  Without hesitation, I can say that our dinner at A Beauvillier will quickly come to mind the next time that question is asked.  

Although we arrived in Paris only yesterday, Derek and I have already begun to understand what Hemingway meant when he called this city a “moveable feast.”  Finally liberated from our pre-wedding diets, we have spent the last 24 hours in a near-constant state of consumption.  PantheonAs I write this, we have just wiped away the baguette crumbs from our makeshift picnic on the wrought-iron balcony of our room in the Hotel de Grands Hommes (about which all of the spectacular reviews on tripadvisor are, indeed, true).  We have a room overlooking the Pantheon, an ancient building that Derek has fallen in love with.

We spent yesterday afternoon wandering the narrow streets of the Rue de Mouffetard and, of course, pausing to indoctrinate ourselves into the French lifestyle via a Nutella-filled crepe.  Following a touristy-but-still-cool cruise on the Seine, we joined throngs of Parisians in line at Le Relais de VeniceParis 038, where the waitress, when she arrived to take our order, asked us only a single question: “rare or medium rare?”.  Nothing more was needed, as there was no doubt that we, like all the others, were there for the steak frites (aka steak and french fries), a French classic.Paris 033  True to their reputation, the steak and the frites were both extraordinary, as was the meringue/chocolate concoction (with the greatest chocolate sauce ever created by man) that followed.Dessert - pre-devastationPost-Devastation

Jet lag and recovery from our wedding-related sleep deprivation meant that we didn’t rise this morning until well after our guide book’s recommended hour of 8:00 a.m. (Waking up this early apparently allows one to take in Paris’s most famous sites while avoiding most other tourists.  It is a theory that we will never test.)  We wandered into Guy Savoy’s Les Bourguinistes for a late lunch, during which we ordered–and then devoured–everything on the prix fixe menu.  Among the stars of the show were my soup (labeled “carrot,” but more aptly described as “butter”)Paris_Sep_7 008 and Derek’s duckParis_Sep_7 010, which, as best we can tell given my still-limited language skills (the studying on the plane could only carry me so far), was drizzled with fig sauce.

We’re now preparing (yes, we’re still hungry) for a 10:00 dinner at A Beauvilliers.  (Jet lag allows us to eat as late as the actual residents of this city.)  While our bellies are certainly rounder than they were last week, the ill effects of our binging are somewhat lessened by the fact we’ve been walking all over the city.  Today’s jaunts took us to the Pantheon (which is located about 200 feet from our balcony), the Palais de Justice (where we happened upon a trial for drug possession in full swing–incredibly interersting even despite the language barrier), the amazing stained glass windows of the Sainte-Chappelle, a quaint flower market and, of course, the Notre Dame, where we lit prayer candles (a candle burns in Paris for you, Uncle Larry) Prayer Candlesand ascended the 387 steps of the church’s North Tower to see Paris from a completely different perspective.View from Notre Dame

I’m currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love.”  In one chapter, Gilbert hypothesizes that every city can be summed up with a single word (so, for instance, Nashville’s word might be “musical,” while Detroit’s could be “recovering”).  The people who most enjoy a city are those who can be described with the same word.  On our walk back to the hotel this afternoon, Derek and I decided that we and Paris currently share a single moniker: “splurge.”  Perhaps that explains our love affair with this town.

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UPDATE:

We have just returned from what can only be described as one of the best meals of our lives (a label not given hastily, given all we’ve been eating since we arrived here).  I know there’s a book called French Women Don’t Get Fat.  French women must not eat at these restauarants.