My Epicurean Adventures In Paris

A cup of vin chaud. Ooo, la la...
Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world. I've traveled there four times, which simply means that I'm pretty good at navigating the Metro and can speak "food" French--which is very different from conversational French. Speaking food French means that I can read a menu and order food. That's it. I've committed Patricia Wells' French Food Dictionary to memory and know certain phrases that ensure a well done steak ("bien cuit") as well as another round of drinks ("le mem").

Don't get me wrong. I've gone to museums and galleries, taken walks through parks, rambled through the streets in search of architectural gems and murals. I don't go to Paris just for the food--though who could blame me if I did? But my epicurean adventures in Paris are full of miscommunications because I've committed myself to speaking food French and only food French. So here it goes.

Fourteen years ago I dined at a bistro called Le Hangar on Impasse Berthaud near George Pompidou Centre. One of the pleasures of eating here is simply finding it. If you blink, you might not find the street. Oh, and the food is quite good, too. I went back there with my kids and I had the most delicious mushroom soup topped with pan seared foie gras. On the way out I related to the waitress in broken French that I had been there fourteen years ago. She then informed me that the same owners still ran the bistro. I almost hugged her, but she detected my overwhelming sense of nostalgia and backed away from me while opening the door for our "sortie." Hmm. Who says the French are sentimental.

At the exceptional falafel joint L'as du Falafel on Rue des Rosiers, I wasn't prepared to leave double-fisted. (See my previous post for a photo of me in action.) I couldn't decide between the falafel and the shwarma, so I ordered both. Personally, I enjoyed the shwarma more than the falafel. The toppings included eggplant, red cabbage, and a hot sauce that was phenomenal. The line to dine inside this cafe was quite long and will most likely become one of those things that, while not carved in stone, should be a fact. But there was a take-out line that had me double-fisting within minutes. (Wow, does that sound wrong...)

When it came to menus, literal translations were not always accurate. For example "oeuf a cheval" means "egg to horse" and I thought the meat in the dish was, uh, horse meat. But at Le Rendez Vous des Amis on Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie it was a fancy description for a fried egg served on top of the dish. It had something to do with a horse jumping over the meat, which the waiter promised was beef and not horse. (Thank goodness.) I played it safe and ordered the steak tartare--or at least I think it was steak. I didn't ask the waiter about le viande of the steak. Egads...

No matter how many pichets or pots du vin I may have consumed, there was no excuse for not double-checking the cash we left for the waiter at Les Vins des Pyrenees on Rue Beautreillis. A group of rowdy twentysomethings outgrew the back bar and began spilling into the dining areas, the Bourdeaux was getting my head, and I couldn't wait to get out of there. We walked over to our waiter, handed him the bill with a wad of euros, bid him adieu, and walked out. If I didn't stop to take a picture of the wine bar sign, I wouldn't have seen our waiter walking towards us and waving a bill. (He's the guy in the photo wearing the white shirt.) We were ten euros short. Oops! I thought of pulling the money out of my bosom for effect, but then remember that: 1. my kids were with me and 2. I didn't have any money in my bosom. So we handed over a sweaty, crumpled ten euro bill and sheepishly left the scene of the crime.
On the bright side, I had the moelle (bone marrow) and it was delicious! Moelle has replaced my foie gras obsession in Paris and Les Vin des Pyrenees does it right.

While out and about, we encountered many crepe carts. Everyone ordered crepes, but  I ordered cups of vin chaud, or hot spiced wine. I got them everywhere. Well, almost everywhere. I didn't get it from this place:

I was tempted to lift the lid, and maybe bend down to hear some hot whines.