Yesterday I had my next-to-last meal; today we go to a very upscale bistro to finish off our eight days of feeding. To eat, we returned to my old home area: the sixth arrondissement on the Left Bank, the part known as the “Latin Quarter.” When I first came to Paris in 1989 to work in the national (CNRS) evolutionary genetics lab (an hour’s commute by train), I wanted to live in this part of the city, and we found a garret on the famous Rue Jacob, where, over the years, many notables had lived. I was early to the restaurant, and so explored my old stomping grounds;
We lived in the garret (arrow) in this building at 20 Rue Jacob. Each day I had a one-hour commute each way to Gif-sur-Yvette outside the city, the CNRS lab where they did fly genetics. The commute was tolerable because I could come home to Paris, and, like a Frenchman, I’d get a crusty baguette for dinner at a nearby boulangerie. I think the very top bit has been built since I lived there
The Rue Jacob, two views. The first is a panorama. The green door to the left is the entry to my crib. There was elevator; it was a climb up five flights.
The street doesn’t look like much, but look at the Wikipedia article (it’s in French but Google will translate it for you). There’s a lot of history connected with this street. And now it’s very tony, with expensive shops and small hotels.
Nearby, the famous “Procope“. Supposedly Paris’s oldest café/restaurant, it was opened in 1686. But it’s not known for its food.
I wandered down to the nearby Seine and took a few photos. This is one of the most photogenic parts of Paris:
La Samaritaine Department store, an Art Deco wonder that started with a small store opened in 1868 and was extensively remodeled between 1910 and 1928 to the present form (it’s a French “historical monument”). The store was closed from 2005 to 2021 for violating building codes, but reopened, again as a department store, two years ago. I’m told it’s very expensive, but if you’re in Paris go over to the Right Bank and have a look. It’s near the Louvre, and is a very impressive building (more so from the other side):
A salamander entwined around a pole on a nearby bridge:
. . . and the spot where a Frenchman died for his country during WW2. Matthew, who wrote a book on the French resistance and another on the liberation of Paris, told me this when I asked about René Revel:
I never heard of him. He was one of the policemen who went on strike and played an important role, but I don’t think he as an individual was significant. Hundreds and hundreds of people died, some were commemorated by plaques, virtually all are now forgotten.
You can read about René Revel here.
Here’s a photo of Revel:
Here’s Notre Dame, nearly completely restored (at least on the outside) after the devastating fire of 2019. They haven’t yet put the spire on:
Rings for sale in a nearby jewelry store:
And so to the restaurant: Chez Fernand Christine on the Rue Christine (the “Christine” is added because there’s another Chez Fernand in Paris). It’s well known for its food, especially boeuf bourguignon, beef stewed in red wine with vegetables. Like blanquette de veau, it’s a classic of both bistro fare and French home cooking.
I forgot to take a photo of the interior, but here’s what it looks like. I put an arrow pointing to the table where we sat:
The menu in the window (click to enlarge). This is one of the pricier bistros:
My starter: soup à la oignon, gratinée à l’emmental, or French onion soup, topped with bread and melted Emmenthal cheese. It was absolutely terrific, crammed with bread, cheese, and onions all the way to the bottom. It could serve some people as a main dish. I used fresh baguette, served on the side, to sop up the juices and spread the cheese on. It was by far the best French onion soup I’ve ever had. With it I had a glass of côte rôtie.
Winnie’s had two entrées. One, sauteed fresh mushrooms (boletes) wasn’t on the menu. I had a taste and it was spectacular. The problem with Chez Fernand is that you want to order everything!
Winnie’s second entrée (the girl can eat!) was scallops with leeks, and it was also pronounced excellent, judging from the happy noises she made while eating it:
We both decided to have the same plat, which you can see at the bottom of the first menu above: “le legendaire boeuf Bourguignon aux joues de boeuf Black Angus, pommes vapeur“, or “the legendary beef Burgundy with Black Angus beef cheeks and steamed potatoes,” How can you resist a dish that’s legendary, with the restaurant famous for it?
As presented; note the thick gravy:
My second helping (I forgot to photograph the first), with gravy all sopped up with baguette slices, served repeatedly (I eat a lot of bread). My god it was good!
Look at the dessert menu above, a textbook of French classic bistro favorites. It included several of my favorites, including rice pudding, Paris-Brest, and baba au rhum. I wanted them all, and even asked for advice. I eventually settled on the Tarte tatin Simon Murray (whoever he is) with crème fraîche d’Isigny. Tarte tatin is a luscious tarte made with apples caramelized with butter and sugar before they are put in the pastry shell and baked. It can be served with whipped cream or ice cream, but this version, served warm with crème fraîche, a topping that’s tangy, like a cross between sour cream and whipped cream.
This dessert was fantastic. I’ve had a lot of Tatins, but this one, baked separately (they’re usually slices from a large tarte) was the best ever:
Winnie had a dessert of the day that was not on the menu: pear crumble with vanilla ice cream. She liked it but couldn’t finish it: this is the first time, in years of dining with Winnie, that I haven’t seen her finish a dessert, or even a meal. I attribute this to her having had two appetizers. But I got to eat the remainder!
This bistro, though frequented by tourists due to its location and reputation (there was again a table of loud Americans next to us), is well worth seeking out. It’ll cost you about $100 for a big lunch, but what is a vacation for but to splurge? I can’t eat like this in America!
After lunch we hustled off to the antisemitism demonstration, but that will be the subject of a separate post, probably after I return (tomorrow). I walked nearly 18,000 steps yesterday (your iPhone tells you), and that was a gross underestimate because I was holding the phone in my hand a lot to get directions (the step counter works only when your phone is near your hips, as in your pocket).