Friday, June 8

The Best Things I Ate In Paris

Because clearly, eating is the only reason why I went.

I ate a lot of schtuff in Paris, and while many things were stellar, not everything was worth writing home about. (Much-recommended salmon croque monsieur at Le Comptoir, I'm looking at you.) These are the things besides the snacks mentioned here that were so phenomenal, I'd punch someone in the face for and run two blocks to stuff into my face 1920's Depression-style.

If you're planning on gluttoning it up in the city of fromage and frenchmen, do plan on making dinner reservations either through a hotel, a friend who paid attention during high school french class, or as we did, a credit card concierge. (Who knew they'd be so helpful!) You'll get saddled with the first (American) seating at 7 or 7:30pm, but with some restaurants (Frenchie, Le Chateaubriand) offering first-come, first-serve second seatings, you can choose which way you wanna roll.

(Instead of linking to the restaurant's websites below, I linked to Paris By Mouth's reviews, because 1. Who the fuck wants to translate french when they're daydreaming about food and 2. We wouldn't have ended up half these places without them. Holla.)

Let's get this party started:

Brioche with Butter and Jam at Bread & Roses

Or, as I choose refer to it, the only thing we understood on the fucking menu. Still fresh off the plane, still in oh-my-god-I-just-said-Bonjour-out-loud mode, still too nervous to ask what was on the salads or how we could get jamon into my desperately hungry system, we ended up eating a loaf of butter bread on an empty stomach. Think if a Shabbos challah had a love affair with the broad on the Land o' Lakes packaging, and then tried to sock away their mistake within five yellow-tinged slices. And then eating all of it on an empty stomach. Heaven and hell, in a fluffy yeast purgatory.

Can't Remember What The Fuck It Was Soup at Chez L'Ami Jean

This castle of meat offers three menu sizes, of which we obviously ordered the largest — an 80 Euro chef's tasting menu — because now is not the time to cut back when MEAT and a chef's unbridled imagination are at stake (no pun intended). And, of it all, my favorite course was the soup, which my hazy, at-the-time-inebriated memory can only recall as some sort of parmesan foam with fennel and lobster and other cream yummies. Somehow, someway, somewhere we were served mostly fish courses at what I was previously promised was a meat-eater's paradise, which was deeply upsetting until I drowned my sorrows in an Olympic-sized pool of rice pudding and drunkenly stumbled over to the see the Eiffel Tower for the first time with wide tourist eyes. I'm still embittered about the table that got a bucketful of sausages and assorted charcuterie while we ate raw tuna, but the soup! Mmm, liquid gold.

Fresh Baby Scallops at Chez L'Ami Jean

Alright, so we didn't get to Le Medieval Times the shit out of this place like I hoped, but I won't lie - taking gigantic spoonfuls of seashells and sucking buttery fresh scallops out of them like popcorn was dope as fuck. We almost got a round of applause from the wine aficionados next to us for polishing the whole bowl off, like not doing so was an option.

Piggin' out picnic style at Rosa Bonheur

When furiously looking up a blackboard of unfamiliar words in a food glossary iPhone App leads to a surly Parisian gal rolling her eyes as she puts airplane meal-style plastic bins on a cafeteria tray, you don't expect to get a knock-out lunch. But, olive pate, a plate of jamon, a sack of bread, a GladWare full of manchego and a cold beer from the top of the far-away Parc des Buttes Chaumont you randomly discovered in a Paris guide book ended up being the best ingredients for a perfect late afternoon picnic among Parisians.

Escargot at Le Comptoir du Relais

ESCARGOT. ESCARGOOOOOOOOT. The first time I had snails was on a cruise with my family, where you could order whatever you wanted from the menu, and since everything was unlimited you could keep ordering and ordering. This was not a rule nor a policy of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines but instead a loophole my mother found when she went, "Oh my, these escargot are delicious — can we possibly get three more trays?" and I proceeded to stuff my silly little fat face with buttery snails while thinking, "HA! Lucille Ball's got nothin' on me! Fuck you, ketchup!".

That tale of badassery ends in too many Disaronno on the rocks and hours in the cigar lounge (I was a weird kid, shocking), but this one concludes with me, two glasses in (read: DRUNK), picking critters out of their tiny shells and nearly crying over how mind-explosively delicious they are. On the eighth day, God created the escargot tray, and on the ninth, he decreed that all bread baskets must be utilized for sopping up butter droplets and stray herbs.

Le cochon de lait braise et roti at Le Comptoir du Relais

While waiting in line for Le Comptoir's Sunday bistro dinner — it's no-shits impossible to get into during the week, but you can join the mass line and watch everyone eat with your tongue hanging out of your mouth on weekends and at lunchtime — we chatted up our English-speaking line-mates because it was a two hour wait, they spoke our same words, and they were carrying a plate of ham so they were clearly worth befriending. During those hours we smiled together, we laughed, we talked about the Knicks while the other girl and I rolled our eyes, and most importantly, shared in the horrifying fear that we, fuckitty fuck fuck, might not actually get seated at this restaurant before the kitchen closes at 11pm. After stress stomachaches and exercising our American-ness by loudly saying, "who just SITS there when people are WAITING!", we finally reached the front of the line as the French Canadian behind us said "whatever you do, just order the cochon" like a porky angel straight from the hardened artery heavens.

So, whatever I did, I ordered the cochon. and holy cocks on a stick was it the right thing to do. This was the best entree I had in France, and quite possibly one of the most unbelievable things I've ever eaten. Ever. And I eat five to eight times a day.

The funny thing is, all the best foods in Paris tasted like the fake supermarket versions that have years of flavor research and chemicals injected into them, only they're real. At Frenchie, the butter tasted like I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, of which there are an innumerable amount of jokes to make, none of which I will attempt, because I seriously could not BELIEVE it WAS butter. This pork dish at Le Comptoir tasted like bites of breakfast sausage — the frozen, concocted links of smoky pork, only actually smoky, and actually pork. It was confusing, it was heaven. It was so worth the two hour wait.

Cherry clafoutis with lemon sorbet and peanut butter-chocolate mousse at Spring

I couldn't feel my arms by the end of this meal due to a 101 degree fever mistakenly self-diagnosed as "dehydration and the sleepies", but i still managed to drink a half bottle of wine and lift every spoonful of this dessert into my mouth and swollen throat. A baked cherry pancake, lemonade in ice cream form and a perfect lil' cuppa pudding — delicious desserts aren't usually followed by two hours of cold compresses and a dose of Tylenol, but sticking this meal out was a must.

Chocolate L'Africain at Angelina

What you see here is a full chocolate bar, melted in a cup with a sidecar of whipped cream. If alcoholism could be converted into a treat for overweight chocoholics who adore fine dining and gold-plated ceilings, this would be it.

White Dish That Tasted Like Butter That I Never Wrote Down The Name Of at Le Chateaubriand

White on White on White, Ben reminded me. That's what Eric Ripert wet himself over in that No Reservations episode where they go to Le Chateaubriand and eat some white asparagus brown butter thingamabob that is "high level execution for misleadingly simple-seeming courses" or whatever term the professionals use to describe food. And when we anxiously peered at the tables being served before us to see a plate full of white, we knew we were in luck.
Flowers, turnips, fish, butter. That's it. I still don't understand it, but if there was a transcript of the conversation we had during this dish, it would be:

Ben: "Wow."
Me: "Wow?"
Ben: "wwwwwoooowwww"
Me: "Oh my god this tastes like a butter fish soup."

Butter soup, people. Ya think I can sell the above script to someone who's making foodie porn? Untapped market, let's get on it.

Lamb, lamb, so much lamb.

Prix fixe menus = seasonal ingredients = these chefs love their lamb and their peas. Like I said before, we had a parade of sweetbreads and lamb parts and such, but the best two were at Spring and Le Chateaubriand (top/bottom), with the latter pulling into gold medal territory. Let's just say there's a reason that place is #15 on the best restaurants on the fucking planet list.

When head chef Inaki Aizpitarte himself brought out our entrees and said two strings of uninterpretable phrases thinking we were French (that trip to Aritzia for silk dresses was clearly worth it) it was terrifying and intimidating, like being in the presence of an angry Michael Jordan who you so very much do not want to offend. Taking a page from the Milford Academy where Children Are Neither Seen Nor Heard and freezing like a statue and nodding = the only safe way out.

Cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese.

Saving my heartfelt best for last, just like the way they course out fromage. Cheese, cheese, the beautiful fruit, the more you eat the more you toot, the more Lactaid, the better you feel, so eat up that brie, and have a good meal. I ate cheese everywhere; I'm disappointed by how little I ate. I could have had a near-death experience drowning in a well of cheese on the way to the airport and still wouldn't have left the country without getting my fill. Someday I'll book a one way ticket, take a cab directly to Fromagerie Quatrehomme, ask for enough cheese for an 8-person dinner party and sit in the Jardin du Luxembourg eating all of it until I vomit in a public trash can. That would be true happiness.

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