Elise Eats Europe 5: Paris
Saturday we split a quick baguette with cheese at the local bakery. I told the lady at the counter, "Fromage". She just stared at me, confused. I summoned, "Bob." He said, "Fromage." She said, "Ohhhh. Fromage!"
We walked over to the Notre Dame and took some pictures. There was a big white tent in the center of the square with DJs chattering away. It looked like a promotion, so I ignored it until I noticed a giant mixer. I dragged Bob inside, and the tent was full of confused tourists wondering what was going on. Bob asked, "What is it?"
I saw rows of baguettes, and totally panicked chefs feeding puff pastry dough into a giant machine. "It's like the French Pillsbury bake-off!" What a great thing to stumble upon! We watched the competition for about a half-hour before heading over to the Centre Pompidou, the modern art museum.
Outside of the museum, there was a really gnarly 3-way bum fight. I whispered to Bob, "Do you think that this museum is modern enough to have performance art?" He said, "No, I think that's a genuine bum fight." The Pompidou building was once very controversial, as it looks like the builders forgot the walls. It is a series of exposed pipes and beams. The escalator looks like a giant habitrail, and as a child I always dreamed of living in a giant habitrail, so I rather liked it. They were having a film exhibit, called Le Mouvement de Images, so in addition to the anticipated Warhol and Braque paintings, there were Man Ray and Legari films running.
Bob had specifically wanted to see their exhibit of German artist Hans Bellmer, which didn't really interest me. The warning at the door read:
PLEASE BE AWARE THAT SOME OF THE DISPLAY COULD HURT THE SENSIBILITY OF SOME VISITORS
Maybe this won't be boring after all.
I can say this, Bellmer definitely had vision. Sometimes this vision is as grand as defying the nazis by opposing their concept of the perfect form with cool distorted doll-puppets. Sometimes this vision is as prurient as an obsession with women's bodies. Sometimes the vision is vaguely Dalinian with repetitive shapes and people made out of bricks or with the art-school figure-drawing lines still showing. The level of detail in his drawings, smaller and smaller and smaller, hints at madness. If nothing else, he was prolific.
We had 10pm reservations at La Bouquinistes, one of Guy Savoy's restaurants. I had brought a long gown, so even though it wasn't his "fancy" place, I decided I wasn't going to cart that dress around for 2 weeks without wearing it. There was a wait, and other Americans were loudly complaining. I was just happy to have gotten reservations on a Saturday night. A large party had just left, and the exasperated maitre d' just turned to the crowd, and called out, "Please seat yourselves." While the others were grumbling at the indignity, I happily zipped over to grab my favorite table in a restaurant ...near a window, and in the corner. I was definitely not overdressed in my long gown and diamond earrings. I wonder what I would have had to wear to Guy Savoy's "nice" restaurant? My wedding dress?
They brought an amuse-bouche, which is always a nice touch. We got a tapenade, while some of the other tables got "mushroom cream" in a shot glass. We both started with crab ravioi. Wow. I was disappointed to find that the "froth" craze is still going strong, but nonetheless it was a lovely, buttery froth. Plus, there were langostine tails mixed in. Bonus. Bob had rosemary-scented lamb. I normally don't like lamb as it is too gamey. This was the first time I had ever eaten non-gamey lamb.
I had the foie gras. It was gigantic and delicious in a delicate sweet sauce with tropical fruit. Alongside was a surprising slice of french toast. Gourmet chicken and waffles. The french toast was stuffed with a cream-cheese type cheese, only better. It was perfection. And my doctor would have slapped me in the face if he had seen that plate. I couldn’t get a picture in focus, and Bob said, "That's because the picture just slides off of the grease."
The young French couple at the next table was celebrating the girl's birthday. Bob mumbled, "Serious jewelry." I looked over as she opened the ornate box to find a diamond necklace. She was clearly upset, and he was desperately trying to fix the problem. He pulled out a small catalog, showing her other necklaces she could trade it in for. Bob asked, "Why is she so upset at such an expensive gift?" I peeked over and noticed that her left ring finger was bare.
Les Bouquinistes 53 Quai des Grands Augustins 75006 Paris 01 43 25 45 94