It had been a great food day already. I did not need much else. I considered a simple goat cheese tartine, on Poilane bread, at Le Pick Clops, a favorite from long, long time ago trips to Paris. I settled in at the bar at Le Pick Clops for an aperitif and some of the popcorn they were serving therewith. With the Michael Jackson tunes going (Pretty Young Thing, Beat It...), and the place bubbling over with activity when outside was bitter cold, it seemed right to stay all night. But the unwelcome conversation from someone next to me, about trash pick-up services in Nantes, Paris, Lille and Toulouse, finally got the best of me.
In what I thought could be a flash of inspiration (after two small glasses of red wine), I decided to brave the hot dog stand there on the rue Vieille du Temple. There was a line after all. How bad could it be? ....
I see they have a Tex-Mex version. Chile con carne. I order it, saying I'd like to check that out as there is a fair amount of Tex-Mex in my part of Tex. I started to be a little afraid though, so asked the proprietor what the most popular hot dog is. He said people mostly go for the "onion confit." Well, I'll take that instead then. And when he showed me the "chile con carne" I was glad I made that call. The "chile" was just black beans and corn. I ask him how popular the place is, who the clientele is. He was a little evasive. I get the hot dog.
Now, I am not a big fan of hot dogs. But the last one I had was awesome. Grilled outside on an open fire on a beach, with a toasty bun likewise grilled outside over the open fire. I walk back toward the Hotel de Ville with the dog. At least it is warm. One bite. Oh. Not quite the crispy grilled beach-side dog of recent memory. One more bite to confirm maybe I'm missing something. No. Not missing anything. It can be disposed of. Too soft; too bland; too - just not right at all. At least lunch was spectacular.
Lunch was at Les Papilles. It had been on my list for a couple of years. It is close to home base. It is a Saturday. I figure a nearby & casual wine shop/spice shop, whose menu says you can tailor your meal to as large or small as you like, would be a great option for a wintry snowy day.
The lunch did not get off to a great start. I walk in; hardly anyone is there. Great! But it is a little more formal than I envisioned. I ask whether I can sit just anywhere - hilarious - and the proprietor asks me : Vous connaissez le restaurant? I pause for a very long period of time pondering this question. I think to myself: Well, I'm here aren't I? So yes, I know the restaurant. Not sure what he means, so he repeats in English. Ugh. Dude. I KNOW what you're saying : I don't get what you're getting at. What he was getting at was this: reservations only, one set meal for the day, no choices. Ah, sure, I'm cool with that. He guides me to a table for 2 right in front of the front door with the 20 degree wind whistling through. I question (nicely) whether there is something else maybe not right next to the door where it is Siberia? No- only thing left that is not reserved. Well, I will be delighted to take it then, I say. And when he turned down a couple that came in right after me, because there were no more places and they had not reserved, I smugly settled in, wrapping all my scarves around me.
As I settle in, he tells me I can pick whatever bottle of wine I want in the place to accompany my lunch. One entire wall of the restaurant is nothing but rows and rows of wine bottles. Well, I only need like 2.5 glasses I mention to him. He offers up why don't I start with a glass of white, then red (they will choose) and handle it that way. Perfect!
The first course was a cauliflower soup, with swirls of lovely olive oil through it, poured over creme fraiche, lardons, thick buttery garlicy croutons. Posted on that yesterday. I noticed, later, that every table got a tureen of soup. But as I was just one person with no one with whom to share, I alas on this set menu got the same amount. In short, I should not have had those extra ladles of soup. Oh, but it was so, so very good. I could have stopped there and been very happy.
Next, some very slow cooked pork - terrine - almost but not really - simmering in some tiny white beans, snow peas, roasted carrots. Served in a copper vessel. Again, I think this was for 2-3 people. But I was one.
I know there is a cheese course coming, and a dessert - a banana panna cotta (!) - so I just cannot do this lovely dish justice. I do take my time with it though because of the group of people next to me. Obviously very wealthy - (American) parents and their adult son - with exquisite taste in wine, and frequent visitors to this place. They were planning their trips around the world for the rest of the year. But I would soon get to hear all about, without really even trying, the son's upcoming marriage, the parents' concern about how to handle his fortune and inheritance - the pros and cons of a pre-nup, etc. Fascinating. All discussed in an extremely nice way, with the son against the idea, as it did not seem like a nice way to welcome someone into the family. Even more hilarious : They were definitely from Texas, and maybe even Austin.
When the proprietator checks on me and my status with the lovely porc, I know he is dismayed at my not finishing it. I know this is such bad form in France. But I just cannot. I look up at him. I tell him, imploring him: "I can't, I just can't - I know the cheese and the dessert are still to come." Oh, but the cheese....it is very small, he says, smiling.
Sigh. I go in for just a few more bites. They were good ones. Glad I did.
Finally, his helper clears that all away. And then, yes, the really lovely bleu cheese.
I had been reading a French newspaper from 2 days ago to make sure the American aristocrats next to me did not censor their conversation because it really was so intriguing. Not the subject matter necessarily. I was just really impressed at how well all of them handled the touchy subject. No drama. Just logical arguments, a conflict in their points of view.
The food finale finally came. The banana panna cotta. And then I had to order coffee. Just seems incomplete to have that kind of lunch and no shot of espresso after. And the bill came. It was not bad at all for this experience. I will definitely go again - with a larger group of persons besides one (1) - and I will reserve.
And I will not be trying a hot dog again in Paris.