mardi, novembre 28, 2006

CarlaVisit Day 7: Au Bon Marché and l'Ourcine

To begin with: HAPPY 100 POSTS! This post is the 101st post on this blog, which is great proof of my commitment to post every day (or nearly every day, and occasionally with delays). I've put a surprising amount of work into keeping this blog, but I've found it endlessly rewarding (from a semi-field-notes, shorthand analysis sort of way).

While at work, I managed to get through to l'Ourcine and make a reservation. L'Ourcine was this lovely (and very affordable) restaurant in the 13th that I had visited at the beginning of my stay with Val.

Meanwhile, Carla had gone off to Musée D'Orsay to see lovely pretty impressionist/art nouveau things. As I headed out of work, I text-messaged her and then headed over to the museum. By the time I got there, she was near the inside front entrance. The security line was insanely long, so I texted her again and she came outside and we headed off with the plan of getting a coffee at Les Deux Magots. I couldn't remember the precise address for Les Deux Magots, so we got off at the métro stop near Le Bon Marché and headed towards the southern base of rue Bonaparte. From there, we stumbled across the chocolate shop of Pierre Hermé, who apparently worked for such venerable institutions as Fauchon and La Durée (see yesterday's post) before striking out on his own. Although he is apparently known for his other chocolate desserts as well, we were particularly interested in his macarons (again, see yesterday's post and/or La Durée), which are reputedly more adventurous than those at La Durée. We bought a box of 7 varieties for tasting, and then stood in the alleyway nearby (it was rainy) and split each of them in half and ate them all. The surprise hit was the passionfruit and dark chocolate one, although I had a real passion for their caramel+sea salt one as well. They had a white truffle macaron as well, which the salesperson warned us emphatically "is to be tasted last." Quite right; while creamy and rich as you might expect from a truffle, the flavor was overpowering. There was a substantial chunk of whole white truffle in the middle, which sat rather heavily in the stomach and coated my mouth in a way that wasn't entirely pleasant. Nice idea, clumsy execution. But everything else in that box was flawless.

We continued up rue Bonaparte and eventually found Les Deux Magots, although not before stumbling on place du Québec, which, of course, had a Québécois bar right at the corner. It was amusing timing, since Québec had just been officially designated a "nation within Canada" (to the endless irritation of indigenous Canadians, no doubt).

We got a table at Les Deux Magots, got a salad and two glasses of champagne (we were avoiding coffee that day after a week of overcaffeination) and drank in the (slightly over-lit)(smoky)(alarmingly expensive) ambiance. I'll try this place again when it's nice outside and the terrasse is open, but otherwise I think I'd better leave this place to the tour-bus crowd. Nonetheless, I still need to find a good café in Paris where I can sit down with a book (or laptop) and not be bothered for hours. I miss that from my days in Le Mans (at Le Globe, place République).

We still had a bit of time to kill before dinner, so we headed over to Le Bon Marché and did a bit of shopping. We were hoping to find some nice scarves for various folks back home, but the price range was a bit high and the selection not quite as broad as the other grands magasins. On the other hand, the place was decidedly less crowded and touristy. In the end, Carla bought one of those special odor-control cheese containers (very important for French cheese!). And the off we went to L'Ourcine!

L'Ourcine has the "intimate" thing nailed right down. The place doesn't seem to hold more than 30 diners (with little space left over for walking), the kitchen is visible through a hole ingeniously cut through the back of a vanity dresser to create a sort of service window, and the bar is essentially a cubicle with low walls. I was seated facing the kitchen, so I had had endless entertainment watching the fun in the kitchen. The chef (and owner) was this tall, rotund guy with a shaved head and alarming teeth that looked like he might break you in two at a soccer riot. Under his command, he had two cringing but efficient assistants who seemed to do a lot of the cold preparation and plating. Since the service window opened onto the general dining room and thus a bell was out of the question, the assistants had mastered the fine art of clapping three times in a way that was audible to the servers, but not noticeable to the diners.

Anyway, onto the food. It should be noted that this restaurant is a menu-only place. That is, you have a prix-fixe 3-course menu of 30€ which you must order from, but you often have 5-8 options for each course. For entrées, Carla had a bouillion sauvageon (mixed wild game), with croutons and cubes of foie gras, while I had pan-seared baby squid with sprouted onions. For main dishes, I had a noix d'entrecôte (cube roll or rib-eye roll) with a shallot and green peppercorn preparation, while Carla had some complicated lamb dish (sorry, my memory is getting hazy). For dessert, Carla had some sort of cake thingy that most importantly involved their milk-and-mint sorbet (I don't know if they invented this, but it blows my mind, it's so good), and I've managed to forget what I had for dessert, although I remember raving about it at the time. Carla? Any help? (UPDATE: Now I remember! I had a banana + "exotic fruits" mousse that was delicious and had the most odd-in-a-good-way texture. And Carla's cake thingy was a praline & chocolate cake, with that amazing sorbet.)

We started heading back from there and, on the way, realized that we had been eating too much foie gras that week (don't ask how we knew). The return trip was also marred by a pile of dog poop that found itself under my foot. After having spent nearly 3 months without ever stepping on the dog leavings that are !@#$ing everywhere in Paris, I was disappointed to finally fall prey to them. I spent the rest of my walk home trying to find pointy things to scrape my shoe on. Of course, I was wearing shoes with deep treads. Go figure.

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