Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Eating out in Paris

During our 2008 research sojourn in The City of Light, we did keep costs down by cooking as much as we could in our limited kitchen. To be truthful, a lot of it involved buying and then heating prepared foods. From the street market at the bottom of the hill, we bought a rotisserie coquelet (small chicken) with potatoes carrots and onions cooked in the juices (lovely), rabbit in mustard/creme sauce (even more lovely), and our favorite “hotel room cold meal”: sausage, paté and other charcuterie, handmade cheeses, sliced raw vegetables and all washed down with a red from the south of France, all hot-grape flavors and only 2.50 euros.

We only ate out a few times, and this was mostly when we couldn’t be carrying food with us. We had a rather unmemorable dinner in a small local restaurant and another when we visited Beauvais, a provincial town north and west of Paris that figures in the plot of the novel I was researching.

The main dining room at Brasserie Julien. Sumptuous, is it not?
But we did have one very memorable meal, a lunch actually, in a Parisian landmark from La Belle Epoque, Brasserie Julien. It’s located near the theatre district on a street that begins with a large triumphal arch. I mean this thing is huge and looks as if someone pushed a few buildings to the side and plopped the thing right down on the street. To be honest the area is a little dodgy but the restaurant itself is a real charmer. Each table has its own coat stand, topped by a large light, there are mirrors all over and art nouveau glasswork and paintings.

When we were there midweek, the place wasn’t all that busy and our waiter and the maitre’d were attentive and excellent…but this is beginning to sound more like a restaurant review than I’d like it to.

I don’t remember what Vicki ate (fish, if memory serves), but I ordered duck leg confit, something I’d never had. To quote Soupy Sales, my brains fell out with the first bite: full on duck flavor seasoned discretely with thyme, bay leaf, garlic, and I believe a bit of juniper berry. It had been fried to crisp the skin and was placed on pommes écrasé (potatoes mashed with a fork and mixed with olive oil). Oh yeah, there were some green beans, too. Our wine was the house red from bordeaux and quite excellent. Our dessert was a sampler plate of that day’s offerings.

Our dessert plate. Small portions and all exquisite.
Okay, we’re in Paris. It’s expensive to eat in Paris, right? Not here and not on that day. It probably would have cost us about 120 euros at dinnertime, but we got out of there for less than half that and I would have gladly paid more.

I’m running a bit out of time here. The launch for The Fallen One is this evening and I still have a lot of things to get ready. When I return, it will be laden with the recipe we got from another French source for making duck confit at home. It’s easy, but a bit time-consuming. However, the results are well worth any effort. In a word, it will make a spectacular dinner for anyone you care to impress.

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