What a trip – good to the last drop. Couldn’t have had a better time, and it ended as it began, with a full tummy and a happy heart.
Blogging has kind of shot the hell out of my mornings (trying to make these crappy indoor, night time photos look remotely appetizing is a challenge), so yesterday I didn’t surface until lunch. Loved Le Comptoir so much the first time that we hit it again, meeting a friend there at noon. I had, well, I had a lot of food, no other way to say it. My companions were engaged in a long discussion of political methodology and not being a methodologist myself, all I could do was eat. Croque Monsieur with smoked salmon for starters (and make no mistake, it was a grilled cheese sandwich by any other name – about the amount I would normally have eaten for lunch, all by itself.)
Then a Salade Nicoise – as good a one as I can remember: lettuce, green beans, hard cooked eggs, potatoes, tuna, capers and a few anchovies, all dressed in a tangy vinaigrette. And then dessert. Sigh. Ice cream – chocolate with piment d’espelette, that smoky paprika from the Basque country (rich creamy chocolate with a warm mouth burn), and caramel fleur de sel (real burnt sugar caramel taste with a good dash of salt.) Wow. It was worth having to listen to a long discussion of about whatever it was about.
The methodologists had a tranche de pot au feu, along with the same salad I had, and the brandade de morue I’d loved a few days before. For dessert one was wise and had nothing and the other ordered what amounted to pineapple carpaccio, with pineapple sorbet. It looked amazing – pale yellow against the white plate, luscious and luminous. I made him wait while I took a picture, but I am afraid I couldn’t capture the incredible color. Drat.
After lunch J and I decided to be total tourists and we walked around the Jardin de Luxembourg again, and then hiked over to Montparnasse and took the elevator up 56 floors in the Tour. After being a big grouch about it (heights are not, repeat, not my thing) I have to say it was fabulous. You could see all of Paris, and there were all kinds of aids (maps, photos with labels, etc.) to help you identify what you were seeing. What absolute fun.
Then we hiked our way back to the hotel, and had a rest before dinner.
Now…dinner. I owe Chowhound for this one. Something about the way someone over there described La Maison du Jardin caught my fancy and I had the hotel make us a reservation soon after we arrived. What an incredible treat. It’s a small, intimate, quiet neighborhood place on the rue de Vaugirard, not far from the Luxembourg Gardens where ours were the only English-speaking voices, even though the place was packed. Superb service – just slow enough to let us relax between courses, but attentive and friendly and, well, sweet is really the only word for it. They were total sweethearts.
And the food. Well, it was the best we had on the whole trip by a long shot and we’ve eaten well. We started with a pumpkin soup in the style of cappuccino (i.e., frothy) with slivered bacon. It was smooth and smoky and just incredible.
J ordered rilletes of haddock – smoked haddock with a bit of a pepper bite, with beautifully dressed greens and toast. The deal was that we would each eat half and then switch, but I had a hard time giving the soup up. Honestly, it was one of the best things I have ever eaten. But the rilletes was nearly as good, and that’s a wickedly high threshold.
Then the main courses. I ordered risotto with scallops and wild mushrooms. It was perfect, in a brothy cream sauce, lightly gratinéed. The scallops were seared on one side but barely cooked – just fresh and sweet as they could be. The risotto was so fragrant and creamy that I wanted to climb right into the dish with it.
Unfortunately, I had to give it up half way through to J, in exchange for his crispy wild sea bass on melted fennel, with tapenade. Again, perfectly cooked and delicious.
Finally, for dessert I had a crepe stuffed with apples, in an apricot caramel sauce, with a tiny scoop of ice cream. Oh. My. God. J had coffee crème brulée (strong, strong coffee with a good, crunch caramel topping) topped with a small scoop of rich chocolate ice cream.
Well, there is just no way
we could improve on that. We’ve had
trips where we’ve eaten fancier: Taillevent, Arpege, places like that. But we decided to keep it reasonable this time, given that the dollar is
not, and we have still eaten like royalty. So well, in fact, that one of my stepdaughters emailed me halfway
through the trip to say, “I thought you wrote that you guys were going to start
eating like healthy people and then I read that you had that extravaganza at
Tallent and now you are eating your way through Paris."
She has a point. But we’ll be home and on the straight and narrow soon enough. Going to go indulge in one last croissant before we have to leave for the airport.
Au revoir, Paris. It’s been grand. See you next year.