Paris: Day 4

November 10, 2023 • 9:30 am

Once again there is only food to report, this time because I drank too much wine at lunch and was incapable of doing much beyond getting home on the Métro.

The restaurant for today was an old friend, the Auberge Pyrénées Cévennes, again in the 11th near Republique. I heard it had new ownership, and was anxious to see whether it had gone downhill. The answer is “a bit,” but it’s still a worthy bistro. Unfortunately, lunch was somewhat disturbed by the arrival of what seemed to be a tour busload (around 40) of young Americans, who were LOUD (fulfilling the French stereotype), making it hard to talk. The food, however, is still good, though the famous cassoulet no longer appears on the 39€ lunch menu.

En suite, the restaurant and its food:

The APC, as we call it, is on a dreary street about a five-minute walk from the Place de la République, the site of many demonstrations (some happening these days). If you didn’t know the restaurant was there, you’d overlook it:

Somehow it’s connected with the wonderful liqueur Chartreuse, and there’s a big display of bottles from various eras and of various types:

The restaurant, but full of noisy tourists. That sounds snobbish, as I’m a tourist too, but these young Americans didn’t know the custom of keeping your voice low so that others could enjoy the meal (the French stereotype is that Americans are loud, and having observed many in restaurants, stores, and on the Métro, there’s a lot of truth in it.) The main rules for getting along with Parisians are 1) don’t be loud, 2) when you enter a store or restaurant, greet the owners, and say goodbye when you leave 3) don’t assume that every Parisian speaks fluent English; ask in French first 4) if a Parisian (or French person in general) doesn’t understand you, they won’t understand you better if you keep raising your voice. Loudness doesn’t equal increased comprehension.

This group insisted on drinking for well over an hour before ordering food, and the alcohol consumption raised the volume. Most of the French diners sat in the other room:

But onto the food, I had the 39-Euro lunch menu, a bargain (but without cassoulet, which I didn’t want anyway), while Winnie order à la carte

My course was a delicious “Frisée salad with bacon, croutons and organic poached egg.” This, at least, hasn’t changed, and there’s a LOT of bacon. Plenty of freshly sliced baguette is on the side to help with the bacon:

Winnie had the pan-fried porcini mushrooms (Boletus edulis) with “sparkling juice and ham shavings”:

Winnie didn’t drink, so when I ordered a pot (60 cl bottle) of the house Brouilly, I knew I had to drink it by myself. That was my downfall. The sparkling water behind it is Chateldon, also known as “the king’s water” as it was favored at the court of Louix XIV. It emerges from the earth naturally carbonated, and the supply is limited. As Wikipedia notes:

Châteldon is known for its naturally carbonated mineral water. It was the first mineral water exploited in France and transported by bottles to the Court of Louis XIV in Versailles. This water is used for its diuretic and digestive properties. It is also rich in potassium, sodium and fluorine. In France, one finds the water of Châteldon in the large hotels and restaurants, and in delicatessens. In 1650, the first doctor of the king, Guy-Crescent Fagon, praised the virtues of Châteldon to Louis XIV.

Les plats:  I had an old French bistro classic, which comes from French home cooking: blanquette de veau, or veal stew with cream sauce, served with grilled basmati rice. It was rich and delicious, with large hunks of veal, mushrooms, and vegetables.

Winnie, who eats three meals a day, went lighter, choosing the “roasted scallops, venerated black rice, sparkling juice” (the latter means “foam”, a sign that this restaurant has gained some modern food.

I wasn’t familiar with black rice, also known as “purple rice” as some varieties turn purple when cooked. The flavor isn’t supposed to differ from that of regular rice, but it sure is attractive:

Winnie decided to have as dessert the same salad I had as an entréee (see above), but I chose a real dessert, the Paris-Brest, a traditional dessert best described as “a big pastry donut filled with cream.” Or, as Wikipedia describes it,

. . . a French dessert made of choux pastry and a praline flavoured cream, covered with flaked almonds.

And it has a sporty origin:

The round pastry, in the form of a wheel, was created in 1910 by Louis Durand, pâtissier of Maisons-Laffitte, at the request of Pierre Giffard, to commemorate the Paris–Brest–Paris bicycle race he had initiated in 1891.  Its circular shape is representative of a wheel. It became popular with riders on the Paris–Brest–Paris cycle race, partly because of its energizing, high-calorie value and its intriguing name, and is now found in pâtisseries all over France.

Well, it was quite tasty.

As soon as I got up to leave the restaurant, I realized that I was tipsy, having consumed more than half a bottle of wine. That usually wouldn’t faze me over the course of a 2¼-hour lunch, but I reacted strongly (half a regular bottle is 37.5 ml, but I had 60 ml). There was nothing to do then but go back to the hotel and have a nap, but since I had to make several Métro connections, which involved long walks, it wasn’t easy. I even fell asleep on one subway ride!

Fortunately, I made it home, and avoided the dangers experienced by Sérge the Métro rabbit in this sign that I was sober enough to photograph:

The proper English translation is “Do not enter after the signal sounds, as you risk by that act something very bad.” (Serge doesn’t pull any punches.) The English translation below is lame, I’ve been bodily pinced this way before, and it is not pleasant!

And so home for a nap under the duvet, which lasted longer than I thought, and it was too late to do anything afterwards. Still, I slept like a baby, and am ready for my next lunch: a the place where they’d previously lost our reservation, the Restaurant Au Moulin à Vent (“At the Windmil”). This was voted the best bistro in Paris in 2013, so I’m looking forward to a good tuck-in.

18 thoughts on “Paris: Day 4

  1. Only (?) food….FOOD to report! Beautiful. Donut as bicycle wheel. Why did I never think of that – particularly having viewed so many tours with animated bicycle wheels turning. I will bet that your Paris Brest was better than a U.S. Dunkin’.

  2. I’ve got to try that veal stew. Jetting to France this weekend is unlikely, to say the least, so I’ve searched the internet for recipes and will make it at home.

    Thanks for keeping the travelogue posts coming Jerry, I really enjoy them. They’ve inspired me on more than one occasion to hunt down nice bottles of booze (The best a very nice bottle of calvados, very hard to get, from your previous trip, which you were offered but declined.) and to find recipes to try some of the dishes.

    1. Wanted to pop in to say I made a Negroni “your way.” Found a very nice Italian gin and the Sherry you recommended + the Campari. Now that’s a cocktail! I’m going to a B-day party tonight and I whipped up about 16oz. worth so I can share it. I also found blood oranges which should be a nice visual in the glass.

      Like you, I get a lot of inspiration from Jerry and other readers for food and drink. Thanks for the Negroni recipe! Did you ever try the gin/grapefruit/lemon cocktail?

      1. Oh yes, I did indeed make the cocktail you recommended. Both my wife and I really like it. The St. Germaine pairs beautifully with the grapefruit juice and gin while the lemon does its lemony thing, which is not a pairing I would have thought of myself. Appreciate you providing the recipe. (Full disclosure, I upped the ratio of gin & St. Germaine by about 50%. I’m such a barbarian)

        Glad you liked the negroni. It seems to be a love it or hate it kind of thing. I think USians in general aren’t used to bitterness being celebrated, and the 3 elements of a negroni all have strong bitter components, though the Campari and the sweet vermouth do mellow the bitterness with some sweetness. That’s why I really like the big slab of orange. Besides tasting good it helps mellow or balance all the bitter.

        Have fun tonight!

        1. Glad to hear you and your wife liked the cocktail…btw, its named “Indian Summer.” I think upping the liquor is a good move, I did the same from time to time; the citrus can stand up to the gin and St. Germaine.

          It will be interesting to see if the party people will appreciate the negroni. I’m sure some will be familiar with it. Yes, that big slab of orange is a must and I love eating the flesh after it’s soaked up the booze.

          Now I’m off, thanks for the well-wishes! It’s Friday, so you have fun too. 😉

    2. Yes! I’ve already made a note to find the French rum that was served with his cake. Is there a way to search old columns for wines? I found the Tanat PCC mentioned — it was great — and I want to find the Albariño but can’t find the mention.

  3. The food sounded better than yesterday, maybe the wine quantity also helped.
    A shame about the noisy bus group, I always thought it was uniquely British bad behaviour to shout loudly when not understood.
    To be fair though one of the worst “tour bus” incursions I personally experienced was back in 2006 at a return visit to the Roman Fort at Housesteads on Hadrians wall when overwhelmed by two 49 seat coaches each full of French teenage children, I say children advisedly as badly behaved did not even to begin to describe how they abused the site and fellow history fans to the extent that some physical altercation took place. Much Worse than noisy Americans.
    Continue to enjoy your Paris visit. I always enjoyed my times there when working with Aerospatiale (pre Airbus) at Le Bourget. The ride into the city on the Metro was always enjoyable. A once interesting “ experience “ of the Bois de Boulongne at night with a humorous French colleague left a lasting impression.

  4. OMG. What food! And it’s good to know that the Châteldon is good for your teeth. A bottle of that along for the ride and you’re eating healthy!

  5. Is the black rice similar to the Thai dessert rice? Sticky black rice (coconut milk, mango, lots of salt) at a Seattle hole in the wall at the end of my first date with the woman who generously agreed to marry me is a very fond memory.

      1. Ah ok! The dessert is sticky bc of the coconut milk (and sugar?) not a trait of the rice. The individual rice grains are huge and purple when cooked, but IDK if they are sweet on their own. Looked similar in the photo. Thanks for triggering a lovely memory.

  6. Thanks for another travelogue.

    I’ve had that frisée salad before, and a better salad is hard to find. I’m jealous of the amount of lardons on yours, sheesh, I didn’t know the French loved bacon so.

  7. I’ve enjoyed your last two restaurant reviews! In the 80s I stayed in a hotel in the 11e for several weeks, 2-3 blocks away from both these restaurants in Rue Auguste Barbier. I think it’s an understated neighborhood but actually a great place to stay as it feels like a normal Parisian neighborhood. Far from the tourist crowds, large restaurant groups excepted perhaps. Good for transport and the places alongside the canal are interesting.
    I was back there again last year, and sought out some of the lunch places I’d been too. Forty years later around half were gone, others changed ownership. Of course the fixed-price lunch that cost 50-90F back then is now 25-30€ which doesn’t feel like quite the same bargain.
    I’ll be there in two weeks and I’ll add this restaurant to my list.
    Enjoy your travels!

  8. I believe the salad with frisee and lardon is a standard in Lyon, which of course
    means Burgundy and arguably the best cuisine in France. I had it in Paris years ago at a bistro named Au Lyonnais. It was our favorite place. What you paid for lunch in Paris today was a luxury restaurant meal when we lived there in the sixties. I know you love wine but have you ever had pear cider???mmmmmmm

  9. (half a regular bottle is 37.5 ml, but I had 60 ml)

    Yep, still tipsy. A half bottle of wine is 375ml.

    Meantime I’ve had brandy for breakfast, so no criticism here.

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