Winnie and I both were quite intoxicated after yesterday’s lunch, and she fell asleep on the bus home and dropped her Victor Hugo book three times during a five minute walk. I tried to stay awake but fell into a restive sleep interrupted with weird dreams. Today we were both off wine: no more two-bottle lunches! But I did have one glass of Rhone for lunch. From now on, one bottle equals two servings.
Here are some photos of Paris before today’s lunch at Chez Monsieur, and then of the meal itself.
I snuck a picture of this guy on the Metro because he seemed to be the archetypal Frenchman with that huge beret and Sartre glasses. He’s missing only a Gauloises ciggie, but il est interdit de fumer dans le Metró.
I love these old brass door knockers:
Shadows and light from a railing:
The roof of the Hôtel de la Marine on the Place de la Concorde. The building was built between 1757 and 1774. As Wikipedia notes, it was:
originally the home of the royal Garde-Meuble, the office managing the furnishing of all royal properties. Following the French Revolution it became the Ministry of the French Navy, which occupied it until 2015. It was entirely renovated between 2015 and 2021. It now displays the restored 18th century apartments of Marc-Antoine Thierry de Ville-d’Avray, the King’s Intendant of the Garde-Meuble, as well the salons and chambers later used by the French Navy.
The renovation was finished under Macron, and here’s the new open-air roof. It was too early for us to visit the museum, but, more important, we had to attend to matters gustatory.
The nearby Smith & Son bookstore has long been a home for Anglophones, with a great selection of books in English. In one corner they have food for homesick Brits and Americans. You can see that these people from the diaspora long for Bird’s Custard and Betty Crocker cake mixes!
Pour your own hot chocolate nearby. But it is not good to drink hot chocolate before a big French lunch, so we didn’t even try. Winnie ate a free Edwart chocolate that they gave her, and found it so-so.
Right next store to Edwart on the Rue de Rivoli is Angelina’s, a very famous and beautiful parlor to drink thick hot chocolate and eat homemade pastries. I’ve been there once and loved it: the hot chocolate is to die for, and their Mont Blanc pastries are made from one of my favorite treats: candied chestnuts:
A Mont Blanc (or Mont-Blanc aux marrons) is a dessert of sweetened chestnut purée in the form of vermicelli, topped with whipped cream. It was created in nineteenth-century Paris. The name comes from Mont Blanc, as the dish resembles a snow-capped mountain.
There is always–ALWAYS–a long line of tourists in front of Angelina’s, but if you crave the best sweet snack in Paris, don’t be put off. The line moves fast and the Belle Epoque interior is the perfect place to sip and munch:
We passed on the chocolate and pastries as we were having a long walk before lunch, but went inside the store to see what was on offer(we rarely pass a food shop without a peek). Here are several pictures of the pastries, one showing the regular and a new mango Mont Blanc (skip the mango!).
And the two types of Mont Blancs. You want the one on the left, along with a big pot of pudding-like hot chocolate. I’ve posted photos of the restaurant’s inside and the chocolate in previous years (try Feb. 2021).
With an hour to kill before our noon lunch reservations, we window-shopped around the Place Vendôme. Here’s a weirdly-named place:
Reflection portrait of Winnie and me:
Reflections on three mirrors affixed to the exterior wall of the Louis Vuitton store:
Les flics were everywhere today, with all their guns and riot gear. It was a general strike day today, but we didn’t see any trouble. (But there was trouble; see at bottom). Still, cops everywhere, some with machine guns:
Les gendarmes, including a woman.
Lunch was at Chez Monsieur, a place recommended by one of Winnie’s friends. It’s famous for its onion soup, blanquette de veau (veal stew), and steak tartare. We had two of the three.
Interior: we sat on the banquettes to the right. It has an old zinc bar and lots of atmosphere. The food was terrific. (The menu is here.) It also has a classic old zinc bar, which you can see at left.
This was the only place we’ve eaten together in Paris where we were the only tourists; it was totally French. But just as we left an American came in who had lived in Paris for three decades; he said this was one of his favorite restaurants. If you come to Paris, put it on your list. (But remember, restaurants can go downhill!)
Neither of us having recovered fully from yesterday, we split an entrée: steak tartare, or “tartare de boeuf au couteau” (hand cut). It was fantastic, as Winnie said, “the hand cutting made all the difference”. It was served with greens and fries:
If you had told me when I was twenty that some day I would love a dish like this, I would have laughed at you. But it was fabulous! This is a half portion; it’s listed as a main course but we split it for the appetizer
The plat: the restaurant’s famous blanquette de veau, or veal stew, listed like this on the menu:
Blanquette de veau “Chez Monsieur” servie en cocotte
A “cocotte” is a covered pan (see below) but can also mean a high-class prostitute. Our double portion (we each wanted it) was cooked in a luscious creamy sauce, just right for sopping up with bread, along with carrots, pearl onions, and potatoes:
What was left in the cocotte after we had two heaping plates. We finished the entire cocotte but it was hard going as we were getting full. But, as I said, Winnie is a trencherman (trencherwoman?) and she not only finished this, but had dessert as well.
This was a splendid dish, and a classic of French cuisine. If you go there, get it, as portions of the other main courses aren’t all that large.
Winnie’s dessert: profiteroles stuffed with ice cream and served with a warm, thick chocolate syrup poured over the top.
We bought a bottle of water, which is against both of our principles, but the carafe d’eau (tap water) they brought us tasted bad. This is what we had: Chateldon, the oldest bottled water made, and pronounced as excellent by Louis XIV. It was very good, with a mineral tang and a slight sparkle. It’s bottled in the Auvergne.
Other stuff going on nearby: making crêpes suzettes, a laborious enterprise:
Slicing ham to make the entrée “Chiffonnade de jambon affiné de Parme de chez Franco Gulli, beurre demi-sel Au Bon Beurre”. These are thin strips of ham made from very thin slices.
I wanted to get an eclair for dessert, and not too far away was a fancy shop that sold what is reputed to be Paris’s best chocolate eclair, made in a shop at the spiffy Hotel Bristol. It had better be good for 15 euros! But I sprang for it, and it was excellent, loaded with Peruvian chocolate with a hint of cinnamon and other flavors. It came in a fancy bag and a fancy box. The letters atop the eclair are made of hard chocolate.
One eclair in a box in a fancy bag:
A box with a fancy green tab that, when pulled, opened a drawer containing the eclair!
See above for the contents. Mine was half eaten before I thought to take a photo.
The eclair shop also had a pirate’s ship made ENTIRELY of chocolate except for the marble heads of the pirates at the bow. Even the cannons are chocolate. I wonder if anybody will eat this.
On the way back, cats: a bedroom shop with a kitty-embroidered pillow, and a cat poster:
And a shop that sold Chagall paintings—real ones. I can’t imagine the price!
We later found out that there was rioting in the streets today, which explains all the police. There were supposedly 400,000 people gathered near the Rue de Rivoli, and they set fire to the headquarters of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesey (LVMH) in the eighth. There was also supposed to be a big gathering around the Bastille, where I’m staying, but we saw none of the riots—just the cops.
Tomorrow, one of my favorite bistros, famous for its ENORMOUS portions of cassoulet: L’Auberge Pyrénées Cévennes.