Mid-week into the April 2012 Paris trip with the Ridgelea girlfriends ("les filles") was the long-awaited dinner reservation at Verjus. I made the reservation weeks before, after reading much hype and enjoying the story of this adorable chef couple's journey, and much in awe of their calm yet fun attitude in opening a new restaurant in a charming nook of Paris near the iconic Palais Royal. The power culinary couple are the heart and soul of what was Hidden Kitchen, one of Paris's bestest secret supper clubs, where I never was able to score a seat but enjoyed just reading about the experience of everyone else who had and then wrote about it.
The dinner would top off a great day: a morning run along the Right Bank, under the surprise of clear blue skies in Paris that day, running down along the Seine, up stairs and down, listening to Morrocan lounge music on the iPhone. I had never run in Paris before - I had never been mid-triathlon training for a Paris trip before - but train I had to during that trip. It was exhilarating. And maybe I even started to like running.
The good run was followed by a lunch in Montparnasse with a Paris-based consultant, about some Austin-related matters, and I learned that Sancerre came in a red, and that this one went really well with really well-prepared duck.
By the time I finally got around to looking for Verjus in the late afternoon, early evening - said to be at 52, rue de Richelieu, Passage Beaujolais, I was starving. Brain function started to fail. I meandered. I took Hipstamatic pics galore of many angles and shadows and lovely corners I had never explored around the galleries in and around the Palais Royal. I tried not to get too annoyed that I was just not getting where this place was.
Victory, finally. I walk in early to modify the reservation. We would be two, not four. But now, where to kill time before the (still early) 8:00 pm reservation? Where to have the now ritual aperitif for my Paris days?
I was not clued in to the fact that the Verjus wine bar so acclaimed was just downstairs, but just as well. My failed navigational skills meant I walked into another wine bar, one across the street. It was Juveniles. And, as blind luck would have it, it was one of the earliest wine bars in Paris. A Spanish tapas theme. And a Scottish owner.
What to eat, what to drink: I was just so happy to be seated there with my back up against a wall packed tight with wine bottles. I settle in my chair at the cheery red table and ponder the aperitif options. Nothing hits me just right. I ask the very, very young man who takes my order what he thinks about this: I would like an aperitif, but what might work here for me of these options? He smiles, says to wait a minute: he may have just the thing. He thinks I'll like it.
It is a crisp, cold white wine, but not quite. It is Tio Pepe. Back home Melissa laughs out loud when I tell her about this fantastic new drink, a great new aperitif. She says this is classic, old-school Spanish sherry. For me it was new and exotic, and right then, at that place, it was perfect.
Perfection also came in the snack that seemed about right if you're in a Paris wine bar, Spanish-themed tapas bar, owned by a Scot, about to have an exquisite dinner by an American couple focused market-fresh food prepared delicately with exquisite wine pairings.....A plate of sliced, grilled chorizo. And a side of crispy crusted rustic bread to sop up the residual juices, ok, grease, from the chorizo.
Tio Pepe will definitely now be a fixture in my house: a new, important player in the aperitif line-up. Just may not be able to include grilled chorizo as part of the everyday line-up.
And, yes, after that I did manage to enjoy, no, relish and thoroughly enjoy, including an additional cheese course, a lovely tasting menu and meal experience at Verjus. Yet I wonder why despite the walking, walking, climbing and running, I gain about 5 pounds every Paris trip.