We were meeting Nancy and David, a wonderful couple we had met at dinner at Spring last fall (Nancy and I have "known" each other on various websites over the years but last year was our first face to face meeting.) We took the 69 bus on rue Rivoli since we had the time to spare and the bus lets you see Paris, as opposed to the stairs and corridors of the metro (but the metro is much faster, so it's a trade off). The 69 is a great route ~ it starts up near Pere Lachaise cemetery and winds its way through the 11th, around the Bastille, down rue Rivoli, through the Louvre courtyard, across to the left bank, passing in front of the D'Orsay Museum, along St Germain de Pres and through the little streets of the 7th (including rue Cler, for Rick Steves fans) before dropping you off on Champ de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower. It's a tour of some of Paris' main sites for the price of a bus token!
We got to Chez l'Ami Jean (CLJ from now on, since I'm lazy) a few minutes before our 1:30 reservation and Nancy and David met us a few minutes later. The restaurant is owned and run by chef Stephane Jego who has gained acclaim as a no holds barred chef who turns out French classics with a modern twist and whose way with meat, fish and game is legendary. The place is tiny with very tight tables, but that just adds to the fun atmosphere where joking with your neighbours is commonplace. Nancy went to say hi to the chef as she has been there several times and the next thing we know, we have a welcome glass of crisp white wine before us. As we peruse the many paged menu, one of the waiters suggest we put ourselves in the chef's hands with a menu de degustation. We all happily agree to let Stephane decide our culinary faith that day. David orders a wonderful bottle of red wine from the Basque region and the party begins!
What ensues is an orgasmic feast of 8 courses designed by the master himself ~ we start with a soup flavoured with several types of fish and seafood (this is what happens when I don't blog right away, I forget the small but important details, damn it!). We are served beautiful glass bowls and at the bottom are little crunchy bits and the broth is then poured by the waiter from a communal tureen. The soup is warm and earthy, just right for a drizzly, windy fall day. (you'll have to excuse some of the following pictures ~ I was trying to take them quickly without being noticed and some are sadly out of focus)
Next comes a barely seared scallop served in its shell, almost translucent and served with more wonderful ingredients that I can't remember (yup, I'll never make it as a food critic. Serves me right for not writing this post sooner, but I was desparate to enjoy every minute of our last 2 days in Paris and could not sacrifice the time needed to blog.) Anyways, it was REALLY good and here's a picture:
After Nancy and I finished our moans of pleasure, the waiters came by with more sex on a plate ~ oops, I meant our third course ~ mackerel served over sweetbreads (yeah, I remember something!). The fish was perfectly cooked and flaky and the sweetbreads underneath were as meltingly tender as we have come to expect. (sorry, another crappy picture)
Course #4 was another revelation for us ~ razor clams served simply in their shells. Meaty, fresh and utterly delicious. By now, we are telling the waiters how many orgasms we have experienced (well, Nancy and I are, the men are more restrained, lol).
Our final main course is more sweetbreads (yeah!) served over a giant, thin slice of pickled beet and topped by what we guess is a pea puree ~ all attempts at restraint are now gone (like we had any so far, lol) and we lustily devour the whole dish, mopping up any remains with the fantastic bread on the table.
(and yes, another really bad picture ~ just use your imagination!)
After a small break so that we can regain our senses, dessert arrives. But not just any dessert ~ Jego's justly famous riz de lait (rice pudding). It is served in 3 stages ~ the rice pudding itself, a small jar of salted caramel creme and a larger jar of nuts and dried fruit. You put it all together and presto ~ more orgasms, lol
The waiter then brings us 2 more little desserts and tells us to eat those first, because that is what the chef wants us to do ~ one is a ginger granita that must be eaten before it starts to melt. The other one is ~ well delicious, but I can't remember for the life of me what it was. Here's a really bad picture of both, see if you can figure it out, lol
Jego comes over to see how we have enjoyed our meal. Nancy and I both tell him that he is responsible for many orgasms today and there is much discussion (not suitable for this blog, lol) between Jego and my husband on how Den has to fulfill his husbandly duties. The meal was the blowout we had been expecting and hoping for and we are beautifully, wonderfully full and happy. The price for this dining extravaganza was a very reasonable 55 euros per person. I have no idea how the chef manages to create such an original meal in addition to all the regular menu items other diners are being served all around us. The man is a true culinary genius, with a fiery personality and occasional temper that serves to keep the waiters on their toes and the diners entertained and satisfied.
Nancy and David are meeting a fellow Chowhounder at the Bercy Village where there are not 1, but 2 food expositions going on ~ an oyster festival and the Marche des Pays de l'Aveyron. They invite us to come along and since this is exactly what we had planned to do with our afternoon, we happily agree. We metro over to Bercy Village and meet Delucacheesemonger, a regular poster on Chowhound, the website of choice for foodies all over the world. Stefan is a passionate connaisseur of the many fine Paris restaurants, coming to Paris twice a year and staying months on end (I kind of hate him, but he's really very nice, lol). We spend the afternoon watching an oyster shucking contest, strolling the aisles of the marche and ogling the beautiful products of the Aveyron region of France and slurping free oysters to end the afternoon (the only thing better than oysters are free oysters!).
|note those bandaged hands!|
|Now that is street food!|
|pure lard ~ memories of my French Canadian childhood|
|DCM and the French Cheese Master he borrowed the beret from|
|Nancy and I strolling along the streets of the Marche|
|Makers of the world famous Laguiole Knives|
|Happily slurping away|
After thanking David and Nancy for a wonderful lunch and afternoon and telling Stefan again that I hate him for being able to come and stay in Paris for so long, Den and I say our goodbyes and make the somewhat foolish decision to walk back to the Marais from Bercy Village in the 12th. It's a drizzly day but we are bundled up and have our trusty umbrellas and have never visited this arrondissement, so away we go, walking down rue de Pommard, which turns into rue de Bercy and leads us right to the Bastille Marina and into the Marais. The walk takes us almost 90 minutes and sure does help walk off our huge lunch and oysters, but our little toes sure are hurting when we get home.
|houses along rue de Pommard|
|cool little street off rue de Bercy|
|Clock Tower at Gare de Lyon|
|little street leading to rue St Antoine|
This post is way too long, so I'll wrap it up by saying that after a couple of hours of resting our aching feet, we went for a walk in our neighbourhood and ended up at a little cafe on rue Vielle du Temple for onion soup, crepes and wine ~ after 7 trips to Paris, this was my first French onion soup and it was a nice homemade broth, sweet onions and stretchy cheese over broiled croutons. I've heard horror stories about some of the onion soup served in some Paris restaurants so we were pleasantly surprised with ours. We were back in the apartment before midnight and had a great nights sleep. Tomorrow is our last full day in Paris and I promise more walking and more eating!