Paris: Day 8, Meal 8, and tourism

April 18, 2023 • 12:00 pm

This will be a quickie, as I must scribble this post and then pack, for I’m leaving early tomorrow for home.

Our lunch destination was the Café des Ministères in the spiffy Seventh Arrondissement, where there are lots of fancy apartments and government buildings (ergo the name of the café). One of Winnie’s friends recommended it for its large portions of good food (always a draw), and it also has famous chou farci (stuffed cabbage), for which it won the “best of” prize in France last year. How could I not try that dish?

It’s a short walk from the Invalides Métro stop to the restaurant, and you pass the National Assembly (France’s legislative body) on the way. Note the “Woman, Life, Freedom” slogan in several languages on the left. That’s the cry of the new Iranian revolutionaries, and I wonder if this was to deliberately show solidarity with Iran. On the right it says “Freedom for everyone, everywhere,” with the figure of Marianne, the woman who symbolizes the French Republic and the freedom of its citizens.

A statue of Marianne:

The café, which isn’t very large. Although there were a few open tables at lunch, the proprietress (who was not very friendly) turned people away if they didn’t have reservations. But there may be a reason for that, like not having enough chou farci on hand for those without reservations.

Nicole, Winnie’s friend, was to join us again as she greatly enjoyed our meal of lamb at Sébillon. While waiting for them, I luxuriated in a park across the street, surrounded by bits of old Paris like this streetlight:

The inside of the restaurant (there’s a smaller back room) with a display of digestifs:

The menu, front and back:

Nicole’s entrée:  Leeks vinaigrette with a sauce that included minced egg and sausage. I tried some; very nice!

Winnie had the octopus starter with Spanish sausage (chorizo-like) and chickpeas. She liked it, but to save room she ate only the mollusc.

My starter: the house terrine with pork, chicken liver, and pickled veggies on the side. It was at least twice as thick as the terrine you usually get in a restaurant, and I knew if I ate it all, I wouldn’t be able to handle my cabbage. Sadly, I left about a third of it. That’s sad, because it was excellent.

The pickled vegetables below replaced the usual small pickles (cornichons) served with paté.  These were lovely. I hate cauliflower, but crunched greedily on this version and on the carrots. I’ve never had pickled vegetables so tasty. Of course I downed my terrine with plenty of the local bread.

Winnie’s plat: the classic coquilles St. Jacques (scallops, nine total) served in scallop shells and resting on a bed of garlicky mushroom duxelles. ringed with baked mashed potatoes that were crunchy on top and soft inside. She pronounced it excellent. (The French say “miam miam” instead of “yum yum”, but they sound the same.)

Scallop season in France goes from October 1 to May 15, and catching them smaller than 11 cm is not allowed.

Nicole and I had the famous stuffed cabbage. Here’s the award for Best Stuffed Cabbage in France that they display proudly:

IT WAS A WHOLE DAMN CABBAGE, not just a few stuffed leaves. I’m not sure what was in the stuffing, but certainly pork, and then, in the middle, a hunk of salted ham. It was terrific!

Partly dissected:

Partly dissected showing the coeur de jambon.  Many people ordered this but none finished it. I ate about 60%, and they even offered to let us take the rest home (if I lived here I would have!)

Desserts. Last night Winnie said that she and Nicole had decided to have three desserts between the two of them (I was going to pass on dessert and have a Mont Blanc pastry at Angelinas across the Seine.) I didn’t think they could do it, but they did!

First, profiteroles (creampuffs) with ice cream and warm chocolate sauce:

Second, rhubarb Pavlova with strawberries and frozen yogurt:

And a delicious Parisian flan with vanilla. It had the consistency of cheesecake rather than flan, and was redolent with vanilla bean (you can see the seeds in the cake). I had some and it was incroyable.

Nicole (photographing me) and Winnie during dessert. Afterwards, Nicole pronounced that she’d eaten way too much. But she has the makings of a foodie in her!

We strolled across the river to the famous Place de la Concorde, which was hardly harmonious during the French Revolution, for this is where the guillotine was set up to lop off the heads of royalty and commoners alike. In its center is one of the two Egyptian Luxor Obelisks, constructed around 1250 BC and given to France by Egypt in 1830. Moving it must have been quite a job! It was towed on its own ship by another sailing ship.

The gold-leaf cover was added in 1998, and the height of the obelisk and newer pedestal is about 33 m (109 feet).

It still has the original hieroglyphics, whose translation is here:

Two famous structures in the same frame, built more than a millennium apart:

We made a quick stop in the fancy shop of the Japanese designer Issey Miyake, as Winnie likes his clothes (he died not long ago). Her “anemone pants” are by Miyake. Here’s one outfit on display.

I looked at some price tags of the clothes, and very small blouses were over 1000€. I have to admit that a lot of his stuff is nice, though I’m not keen on the outfit below.

Then a stiff walk down the Rue Rivoli to Angelina’s. Instead of going inside, I decided to buy one of their famous Mont Blancs and take it back to my hotel. In fact, I just polished it off before I wrote this paragraph: it’s pure cream filling covered with ribbons of rich, chestnut-purée frosting, all resting on a thin cookie. It is outstanding.

Angelina’s. We skipped the line to sit down with pastries and hot chocolate, as I didn’t think my stomach could handle both.

Of course, to get at the goods, you have to open the fiendishly devised pastry box that they put the Mont Blanc in, and that’s after after you remove the box from the requisite fancy bag:

Et voila! A Mont Blanc in all its glory!:

Partly eaten. Oy, was it good!

And that was my last meal in Paris, the world’s most beautiful and romantic city (I haven’t seen them all, but this is still on top). My next meal will be whatever glop Air France decides to give me on the way home tomorrow. I will miss this town. All told, I’ve probably spent about a year in Paris (I did six months hear during my first sabbatical in 1989, when I met Matthew in the fly lab at the CNRS an hour out of town. (I decided to live in Paris, and had a garret apartment in the Sixth.)

A la prochaine!

21 thoughts on “Paris: Day 8, Meal 8, and tourism

  1. I am so very glad you have had a wonderful week and a terrific dining companion to share your meals with. Your meal pictures and descriptions have been enjoyed by a number of my friends. While I lack a cosmopolitan background and am not interested in American nouvelle cuisine or much away from normal, I would be excited about trying anything from these very traditional establishments you have brought to us. Fly safe!

  2. I have to admit that a lot of his stuff is nice, though I’m not keen on the outfit below.

    A handsome man looks good in anything! Safe travels, Jerry. Glad the trip was a success.

      1. Gustatory temptation? You can’t avoid gustatory temptation nowhere in France. The only difference from the past is that you have to make reservations. During the 1970s and 1980s we used to tour with our Deux-chevaux all over France without any long-term planned routes. You could just land anywhere, and sometimes be surprised.

  3. Aw- so soon!?

    Last minute, on the way out should just check the “real estate” (whatever that is in French) offerings.

  4. At least I dont have to suffer more food torture reading your daily imbibing….but where was the meringue in the Mont Blanc? It is standard along with the chestnut puree and whipped cream. In 1965 for my birthday my husband custom ordered a large Mont Blanc for the two of us. Glorious dessert/gift! until I tasted it and discovered it contained some kind of liquor, which I DETEST in desserts. Oh well, he meant well.
    (You could have refrigerated the leftovers and flown home with them the next day).
    Prices so high….like the US, but that’s Paris. Great food. So civilized. Even if some
    of the French are still unfriendly…it’s still friendlier than it was in the 1960s. (No
    seafood? No cheese? You didnt pack up some raw milk Camembert to take home? )
    Paris streets look really spotlessly clean! In the 1960s the Parisians NEVER curbed their dogs even though it was the law. And somehow some of their excretions ended up in the metro…..I guess the Parisiens have toilet trained their dogs now. What a relief.

    1. Thanks,but do not keep telling me to eat here what you like to eat. I am not fond of seafood and won’t bring raw milk Camembert home. This is the third time you have importuned me about what to eat and to do. In fact I’m not that fond of the overpriced seafood tower and would not seek it out. And they wouldn’t let me into the U.S. with refrigerated leftovers.

  5. Damn. Now I’m REALLY tempted to make that call to Air France!
    I’m looking forward to your regular sci/politics postings though.
    All the best,

  6. [ reads carefully ]

    I’ve never seen cabbage … like that… quite an idea..

    Served in cast iron is quite a touch.

    I love cast iron.

  7. I’m looking forward to The Case of the Lost Leg of Lamb, when you have time.
    It sounds nicer than The Giant Rat of Sumatra, for which the world is not yet ready.

  8. Your trip to France looks like an outstanding success! Such fortitude! I don’t think I could have kept up with your culinary adventures. Have a safe trip home.

  9. Do let me know if you ever plan to retire and become a foodie tour guide in Paris. I’ll be sure to book you ahead of my trip!
    Looks like you had a fantastic time and enjoyed the food to its fullest (pun intended).

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