JUST KIDDING, sort of.
Last night, Seth took me out for my belated birthday celebration at Le Verre Volé. We arrived around eight, just as most of the other diners were trickling in. (The restaurant typically opens at 7:30, serves one round of dinner, and closes at 10:30.) The space was cramped and brightly lit, and the walls were lined with wine bottles and chalkboard menus. As we searched for a modestly-priced, medium-to-heavy red, a couple walked in and asked, in English, if their table was ready. Shortly after, our waiter asked us if we preferred him to speak French or English. Looking around the restaurant and eavesdropping on conversations, we quickly realized that at least half of the customers were British. No matter. We told our waiter we would try to speak French.
Luckily, Seth and my French vocabulary is strongest in the food department. We knew what most of the entrées and plats entailed, and our waiter kindly helped us with the words we had not yet learned in class. He suggested we order four to five entrées to start and, depending on how hungry we were, one or two plats to finish. For our first round, we settled on les coquilles Saint-Jacques (scallops cooked in their shells), tartare de cheval (horse tartare, or raw horse meat, served with a raw quail yolk and greens), foie gras (duck liver served with fig jam, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper), and une assiette de fromages (a cheese plate which included one triple cream, one cow’s milk cheese similar to Camembert, and one harder, saltier cheese). Of the four dishes, the horse tartare was definitely my favorite. It looked very similar to steak tartare, like a raw ground beef patty, but it tasted completely different. According to Seth (I have to trust his evaluation, as I have never eaten steak tartare), horse is much tougher and leaner than beef. However, because the meat was chopped and then loosely reassembled rather than simply ground, it did not feel so tough on the teeth. Also, because it was served with citrus juices and fresh herbs, it did not taste much like meat; it tasted more like ceviche. The textures and flavors of the dish were light and absolutely heavenly. Of course, I very much enjoyed the subsequent foie gras and cheese, as they were very rich in flavor. The scallops, on the other hand, were very delicate in taste, as they were seasoned with only a dash of salt and pepper. I was thankful that we chose to eat them first, before our palettes became accustomed to the more highly seasoned, fatty foods.
After a few glasses of heavy red wine, four small plates, and some fresh bread, we were feeling pretty stuffed. But we saw a plat of boudin noir (dark pig’s blood sausage) on the menu, and we could not pass it up. When the dish arrived on our table, Seth and I were somewhat surprised. Its color and texture met our expectations, but it was not encased! Instead, it was served in a trapezoidal slice alongside homemade mashed potatoes and fresh greens. It tasted very similar to a British black pudding, only it was very moist, almost like a tres leches cake. I had never eaten a meat so simultaneously soft and grainy. I really enjoyed it, and I would definitely order it again. Maybe next time I will try a boudin blanc!
Overall, the meal was completely satisfying. I savored a night of wonderful company, delightful conversation, and interesting, delicious food. I have actually found trying new things to be somewhat addictive.
Speaking of new foods, today our class avoided work (again) by attending a food exposition at the Château de Vincennes. We sampled about fifteen different meats (a mixture of cured meats and pâtés), ten different cheeses, and a few chocolates. Best of all, everything was free! Well, except for that one thing I bought at the truffle stand: a jar of fresh goat cheese soaked in truffle oil. Oh, and that other thing Seth bought: rillettes de canard et foie gras (a pate of duck skin and liver). Whatever, they were totally worth it.