Eugene’s birthday in Paris …

We have eaten in 2-star, 1-star, no-star brasseries, bistros and cafes. But at the end of the day, there is nothing like eating at home –given the cook. So for E’s birthday we stayed home and invited Bernard, Martine and Tristan to dinner.

We shopped at the local outdoor market at Maubert-Mutualité just down Blvd. St. Germain in the 5th.  On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings one gets the best of everything, just off the farm.

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First, flowers for the house and table:

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Then olives and tapinade of every variety to nibble with aperitifs …

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Which salad?

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Buying the salad:buying-salad5.jpg

Bread

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Then the decision: fish…

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 or meat?  And then which meat?  Cuts one rarely if ever seen in the U.S.

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 The right spices …spices.jpg

Most important, the cheeses …cheese.jpg

 

On the way home we passed an art gallery that had the most amusing “Brut” paintings and papier mache sculptures, run by a red-headed, spunky woman in her 80’s, who owns the gallery on rue Mazarine. When Valerie was 16, she and a group of friends were in the Resistance and after the war she was decorated with the Croix de guerre. The artist, Jaber, is from Tunisia. We fell for a couple of green donkeys brandishing flowers, undoubtedly an unconscious connection to the U.S. Presidential race.gallery2.jpg 

Valerie who only admitted to being older than E (we told her it was E’s 73rd birthday - looking for a break on the price) has owned the gallery for 47 years.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. We left the gallery stopping at one of a half-dozen café’s along rue de Buci for a couple beers to watch the passing scene. It was the usual packed week-end street.  

Home to clean up, cook and re-imagine the table. Our centerpiece was a small Virgin Mary sent by Jane and Jerry to protect their new pressing of homegrown olive oil, which they sent us. We added some santons bought at the brocante in Cannes. These were the old ones included in the gallettes at the proper season in January. Those included now are not quite as well articulated. We created our own homage to Piero della Francesca’s “Misericordia” in Sansepolcre.

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Our guests arrived: Bernard cradling a bottle of Suze, Renee’s favorite aperitif. The bottle was from 1995 but its label was a 1912 cubist painting by Picasso prominently displaying the word, “SUZE,” which we now know to be a collector’s item.

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Tristan carried a huge bouquet of white calla lilies.

Martine was all smiles and her cheerful disposition. 

 

We started with olives, coriander tapinade and paté with 2004 Pierre-Yves Colin Meursault Les Perrieres.

Then roasted lamb shoulder, potatoes, stuffed with bay leaves, baked covered with broth and loaded with cloves of fresh garlic. Oven crisped broccoli rabe, with a side dish of rhubarb and ginger. We drank a magnum of 2002 Pommard Les Charmots by Fernand & Laurent Pillot.

Then a small salad of “rocket” known in the U.S. as arugula, with four different cheeses and bread from Kayser, our favorite baker.

Dessert was first-of-the-season-from-the-South, succulent strawberries, which we dipped in crème fraiche which R infused with “Crème de Marrons de Collobrieres” (chestnut sauce), eaten with slices of Alsatian kuglehoff. The meal ended with a variety of chocolates.  We started at 8:00 PM and finished a little after 11:00 PM.

 

We still haven’t gotten over the fact that we’re actually here in Paris and this is life as it is everyday … or almost everyday.   Why does food taste different here?  Why do we not feel stuffed after every meal? 

On the first subject we concluded that every bite of food has a long finish.  As the French say; il reste dans la bouche.  This is true for a glass of wine, meat, fish or poultry (nothing like the chickens we are used to and far more variety) or a potato or a cheese. Perhaps you eat less because the food is more satisfying, which answers the second question. The result, which is really all that matters, is a different kind of experience either at the table or munching the tip of the baguette while on your way home from the boulangerie.  

Variety is another issue for the French. We are trying to work our way through the displayed meat and poultry at our local Boucherie. The butcher prepares all of these in a number of ways: rolled, mixed with vegetables and spices, layered with fat for moisture then tied elegantly for roasting.  Butchers here are artisans. No less artisans than the bakers or potters.   

When you ask the butcher for a lamb shoulder, he asks how many people you will be serving and he makes the choice of which shoulder you should have. You then ask how long to cook it and at what temperature. He is very specific and in our experience, has always been right on. 

When you choose a chicken, complete with head and feet but absent feathers, he asks if you would like it prepared. At that point he completes the preparation for cooking and you are assured of its freshness. The variety of chicken is great as is the price spread. There is the famous Bresse chicken, which can be 30 euros, or the Fermier chicken at ½ the price. And yes, there is a difference, but the Fermier is fabulous is both taste and texture.  There is a difference in the texture of all meat and chicken here. One of the things one notices first.

To end the evening we planned a trip to Drout, the Paris auction house, dinner at a restaurant where wines are the focus (food is ordered to match the wine chosen) and to arrange an extended weekend drive to the Loire and a brief sejour at Tristan’s chateau.  

For Eugene, Quelle anniversaire!

 

4 Responses to “Eugene’s birthday in Paris …”

  1. Wow!! What an amazing adventure! It is so wonderful that you have opened your experience to share with the rest of us, and the set up of the blog is beautiful! Love it! And miss you guys and our chats, too!!

  2. Thanks for the tour of the market and the details of the menu! I’m not sure if it’s such a good thing to have soooooo much fun:) What will you do next year for your birthday?

  3. Amelia wonders if they have any just-plain-hot-dogs there in France? And what about ribs?

    She’s currently learning to say “bon appetite” before our meals together, and knows that that’s what you two are saying to each other in France.

    Miss you.

  4. Dear Renee,
    Tristan (my cousin) told me about your blog, I read it all and enjoyed every sentence. I too share your love of France (my mother was from France) I have taken French almost all my life and more recently here on Bainbridge with Sylvaine my French teacher, a bit discouraging since it seems like I still don’t understand the language at times! I look forward to future blogs - I am green with envy! Nancy

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