Toward the end of last week, I got very busy with schoolwork and did not have any time to write. This weekend, however, I had both days off to do whatever I wanted. Most of my classmates fled to London or Brussels, but since Seth’s friend Evan was visiting from Seattle, we decided to stay and tour the city.
On Friday night, we took the subway to Montmarte for a nice walk and a leisurely dinner. Sanket met us at the station, and off we went in search of a fondue place Evan had his heart set on. The restaurant was swarming with American sorority girls, so we decided to try another. (Unfortunately, in Paris if you do not have reservations or if you are not at the restaurant—any restaurant—before eight o’clock, you will not get a table until ten thirty, when the next round of dinner is served. Some restaurants only serve one round of dinner.) We walked until we found the promising Chéri Bibi, a trendy French restaurant located just beneath the Sacre Coeur. While we waited for our 10:30 seating, we stopped in a café for a glass of wine. (3-4 Euro. I will never, ever take the wine-by-the-glass prices in this city for granted.) By the time our table was ready, we were all very hungry. We sat down, fully prepared to speak broken French, when our waiter approached us. He immediately asked whether we preferred him to speak in French or English. Despite our insistence that he talk to us in French, he spoke English most of the time. We interpreted the prix-fixe chalkboard menu without any problems and placed our orders with ease. Seth ordered a spicy grilled shrimp appetizer with a veal main course; Sanket chose a fresh mozzarella and green pepper appetizer with a gorgonzola and walnut pasta; Evan opted for a salmon pâte appetizer with a duck breast main course; and I chose the pork pâte with the duck. All of the dishes were good, but none of them were spectacular. I will say though, if there ever was a myth about the French serving small portions, consider that false. Seth, Evan, and I received unusually large chunks of meat. I had to pawn off at least half of my duck (which was cooked a delicious, juicy rare) to the boys. By the time we finished dinner, it was already one in the morning. (We were not even the last group to finish our meal; several other tables were still occupied.) We decided to head home so we could wake up at a reasonable hour and enjoy our Saturday.
The next day, Seth and I met Evan at the Pompidou. We walked around the plaza a bit before making our way to L’île de la Cité (the island of the city). Evan had never been to Paris, so he was dying to see the Notre Dame Cathedral. We spent about three hours touring the church, photographing tourists in the plaza, and examining the old city. After all that walking, we began to crave some ice cream from the world famous Berthillon. Evan ordered a simple chocolate, and Seth scarfed down a cherry and caramel. I savored my fig and caramel scoops as long as I possibly could. They were just so… heavenly. For dinner, we journeyed to the sixth arrondissement. Evan picked out a small, somewhat hidden place called La Ferrandaise. Because we arrived around seven thirty, we secured a table without any problem. As we scanned the menu and sipped a Bordeaux, our waitress brought us a “welcome soup,” which I think was made of creamy butternut squash and cauliflower. It was warm, comforting, and, most importantly, very tasty. Like Chéri Bibi, this restaurant’s menu was also prix-fixe. I chose the feuilleté d’escargots et tétragones, beurre de ciboulette (a puff pastry of snails, butter, and chives) for my entrée. Then, Seth and I shared a large pot of bouille de rascasse et daurade, sauce rouille et croûtons (a stew of boiled scorpion fish, served with rouille sauce and crispy bread) for our plat principal. I had never eaten snails before, so I was surprised to find that they were not so slimy. They were actually quite chewy, like mussels. The rubbery texture of the escargots and the flaky texture of the pastry contrasted strangely, but I still enjoyed the dish. As for the soup, it was not as broth-based as I expected. It was thick, creamy, and spicy, much like an étouffée. All of the food was very filling and comforting, almost as if it was home cooked. For dessert, I ordered a cheese plate. I wrongly assumed that the waitress would bring a plate of four, modestly sized pieces of cheese to the table for me to enjoy. No. She brought a huge cutting board with four amazingly large chunks of cheese from the Puy de Dôme region and two knives. “Vous vous servez,” she said. I was mortified! Everyone at the restaurant stared at me, wondering how (and how much) I was supposed to serve myself. I carefully sliced one sliver from each bleu cheese and one from each cream and pushed the cutting board to the edge of the table. As I bit into a mild bleu cheese, my heart melted. The taste was totally worth the initial embarrassment.
After dinner, Evan, Seth, and I wandered around the sixth to the Senate and to Saint Sulpice. Once we began to feel less full, we met Sanket and slipped into a bar. Evan and I had one round of beer (Heineken, blah!) and we were ready to go home. Seth and Sanket stayed out a bit longer.
This afternoon, Seth and I met Evan at the Bastille for some shopping at the market. Afterward, we walked along the Promenade to the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Since few stores are open and few people seem to leave their homes, Sundays in Paris are quite dreary. Seth and I began to feel drowsy and draggy, so after one last stop to the Montparnasse cemetery, we took the subway home. Luckily, we managed to find an open bakery, and we are now enjoying a baguette and some cheese.
I have posted some photos from this weekend. Enjoy!