Tuesday, June 30, 2009

paris day four: murder by foie gras

How long will it take me to finish this vacation roundup? Day four dawned far sunnier and warmer than the previous three, a great day to climb some more stairs and see the city from the loveliest vantage point. Well, that photo looks ominously cloudy, but that actually passed quickly. After our obligatory baguette/butter/jam/tiny coffee breakfast at a nearby cafe, we hopped on the metro up to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur.

For once we were met with no line for a tourist attraction, and I realized why that might be so when we were about halfway up the steep, narrow, claustrophobic, slippery stone steps of the basilica. This was the opposite experience of climbing the Eiffel Tower. We had no idea when it would end. The climbing isn't tough, it was really just so narrow in those winding stairwells. Thankfully, portions of the climb went outdoors because I am claustrophobic. There's J-Cat, he was actually filming the whole climb with his little camera. I'd post it, but this is a blog about food and the video makes me want to vomit.

Montmartre itself is a lovely neighborhood to stroll around. The highest point in Paris, the steep streets and numerous stairways felt particularly Parisian to me, probably because this neighborhood is used in so many films to evoke that super Parisian Paris. We sat on the Sacre Coeur steps featured in Amelie and munched on baguette sandwiches (rosetto salami & butter for him, chevre & tomato for me), probably the cheapest thing we ate on the whole trip, but really quite satisfying after being trapped in a tiny stone stairwell for 20 minutes.

This is a sculpture dedicated to the writer Marcel Ayme. Apparently, this is a character from one of Ayme's stories about a man in Montmartre who could walk through walls.

After Montmartre, we made our way down to the Marais, one of the areas known for shopping. Because wtf, we hadn't done any shopping at all. But by this point, the sun was really shining and hot, and I was painfully aware of how much money we had already spent, and it was tough to spend more on clothes that I wasn't really loving. There seemed to be a bit of a hippy bohemian thing going on in most of the shops we came across. Kind of a disappointment. But what wasn't a disappointment was Breizh Cafe, where we had lunch. Second lunch. Ahem. Breizh Cafe, as the name implies, focuses on the food of Brittany, specifically crepes and galettes. This little cafe takes the crepes far above the simple street food to fine, thoughtful, impressive cuisine. We started with some fantastically fresh oysters, listed as huitres rares, special special. We followed this with a galette - a savory buckwheat crepe - filled with chevre and fresh greens. Super thin and delicate with edges that were almost invisibly thin, yet undeniably crispy. And of course we had to have something sweet, so we went with the super simple and classic crepe citron, with sugar and lemon juice. Perfection.

After some more shopping, we walked all the way from the Marais back to St. Germain. J-Cat pooped out at this point and decided to head back for a quick cat nap before dinner, but I still had a little shop in me and made my way around the neighborhood. (I may have possibly returned to Bread & Roses in the process and gotten a bit of an apricot pastry snack. It was a really long day.) Finally, despite eating all day, we were off to our final dinner in Paris, at the highly acclaimed "Josephine" Chez Dumonet.

Of all of the bistros we visited in Paris, Chez Dumonet feels the most classically old-school Paris, bright and cheery, with 1930's fixtures, leather banquettes, white linen tablecloths, and very jovial waiters. So it was only fitting that everything we ate that evening was classic French all the way. In fact, the chef made certain that I got even more than I bargained for. This dinner ended up being both excellent and overwhelming. It started normal enough, with an amuse consisting of a rich seafood soup and a glass of white wine. Then J-cat had a simple endive salad with roquefort, but the hunk of cheese was as big as my head. So much for small French portions. I started with a country terrine - a half portion, that was even bigger than the hunk of cheese. Then it got crazy. After clearing away our starters, the waiter sets down a plate of foie gras - a hunk just as big as the terrine if not bigger. I expressed my confusion and all he would say is that the chef sent it over to me. Was the chef trying to kill me?! I mean, it was really really nice foie gras, but I had just eaten a rich terrine, and my main course was a freakin' duck confit! My heart was going to explode. I managed a small portion of the foie gras, thinking the whole time of the rich duck that was to come. As much as I enjoyed the foie, I'm glad I saved room, though, because the duck was amazing. I'm talking best duck confit ever, anywhere. And to top that off, potatoes fried in duck fat. Oh yeah. J-Cat had an unbelievable boeuf bourguignon, also a half portion that was still too big, served with buttered noodles.

Dessert was totally out of control. I went with their most talked about dessert, the Grand Marnier Souffle, which was the size of a fat baby. J-Cat had a millefeuille, basically a cream napoleon. This thing was epic. So epic, in fact, that a lady two tables away from us spotted it and stated loud enough for half the dining room to hear that she wishes she had gotten it instead of the souffle because it looked amazing. Which it was, but we're talking a two-baby millefeuille here. So after J-Cat and I got through maybe 1/4 of this monster (delicious monster) dessert, it only made sense to pass it down. Why not? And it made it four tables away before it was devoured. At least it didn't go to waste.

So I guess it was fitting that on our last night in Paris, we truly had a dinner to remember, for so many reasons. We were perhaps so full we wanted to die, but boy was it all excellent. And because Chef Dumonet really did appear to want to kill me, he came out at the end of our meal and basically shamed me into downing the shot of Grand Marnier that came with my souffle.


Leah said...

Fay, your finest moment ever was describing the Grand Marnier souffle as being the size of a "fat baby." I am giggling so much I can hardly type.

These posts are wonderful.

faycat said...

I put that souffle baby in mah belly.

Kim - Easy French Food said...

Oh goodess, my heart is pounding just reading about that meal. Srange that they gave you such large portions. I defintely want to go just from your descrption - I'm noting that name. Thanks for sharing.