I have been stalking Frenchie, one of the most sought-after reservations in Paris, for some time. And then, after months of attempting, a friend in Paris gets me a reservation weeks before my trip. I am agog. I look forward to this - for all those weeks - to Thursday night, January 24, at 19h. Yea, I made it there. Barely. But because of something like a stomach flu that morning, I was not in prime form. Indeed, I could not eat the main course at all, and barely held it to gether to take a stab at the beautiful entree. Yes, after all that anticipation and longing and yearning. The best laid plans...just sometimes are not the best thing at all.
Instead, I prefer to look at the Frenchie bust amidst some amazingly unexpected and wonderful food events here.
First: the invitation of faculty at the University of Angers to sit in on the high-end intense wine-tasting class - and, even better, lunch with the gastronomy faculty, including Olivier Etcheverria and Jean-Rene Morice, and the well-known sommelier/wine professor/professional, Jean-Michel Monnier, also on the faculty, Although the chemistry of wine, aromas - and the physiology of taste through the nose and mouth were heady stuff, especially in French - I may have grasped, for the first time, just how one can actually start to discern the many layers of nuance in a wine. Once you learn to taste and experience, all of that starts to come to light. Lunch with this group, discussing gastronomy, agriculture, tourism/economic development - and how it works with Austin's food scene - totally unexpected. Totally fortuitous. Much good work and dialogue to come in the realm of Austin-Angers connections.
Second, the surprise of such an unassuming facade, for such a tiny footprint of a storefront that is Chez Remi in Angers, could be such an utter delight inside: in terms of setting, the welcome, and the food. Chef Remi will be in Austin for SxSW. I hope he plans to make some of the creamy bright orange squash soup with chorizo that I had there as an entree (starter). Pretty sure I am going to like anything he makes.
Third, later that night, before the expectedly very classy meal at Une Ile, there was a quick stop for a pre-meal drink (sometimes my favorite part of a meal actually) with some Angers music professionals/agents at a wine bar: all organic wine. Great place to prepare the palate for the fine wines at Une Ile. This is Le Cercle Rouge. It is just the kind of ambiance I like: stone walls, rough and tumble mismatched furniture for seating, sort of loud music/surroundings for an old person such as myself, but not too hipster that I feel totally awkward. I was with cool (and much younger) people so that helped.
Fourth, the generosity of the complete strangers I have been connected with to get insights into how France is handling its food system issues with technology and/or plain ole innovation. As part of that effort, I am introduced via email to web developer/entrepreneur/food addict extraordinaire Cedric Giorgi, founder of Cookening.com. (Cedric will be in Austin this March for SxSW.) Cookening connects people wanting to have the in-home dining experience - like a dinner party in someone else's home, when you get to meet other people, from other countries ideally, just as interested in eating and meeting new people as you are.
Cedric not only says sure, let's talk when you're in Paris, but organizes a lunch for me, for Friday January 25. After blowing me away with the menu for his dinner party the night before - crazy - he introduces me to folks from La Ruche qui dit oui, including Marc-David Choukron, joining us for my "Paris Food Startups 101" class of sorts. (Marc-David was in Austin last year for SxSW.) I meet them at a really nifty wine bar in Paris, Chez Pierre, in an area I've been having to be in quite a bit these days. Delightful place. Cute staff, informal, good food, fast, inexpensive. Cool furnishings: wood, stone, 1960s-ish simple furniture. I learn there is a genuinely gorgeous cave down below, for private parties, with a huge long impressive table. Maybe for my birthday some year.... And it was very gratifying that Cedric felt sorry for me and my failed foodie dream at Frenchie. He was amazed I could even get a reservation - impossible - he says, is the rule there for reservations. Yea, I know. Sigh.
Fifth, I unexpectedly run into an event that allows certain myths to live on: the French beret. On a bitter cold day, a very gregarious and generous man is bellowing out in the street, outside a restaurant, where he is standing with a hot cauldron of the classic winter libation in Paris, vin chaud. He is just giving it away. He is wearing a beret.