Exactly one year ago yesterday, my husband and I kissed the kids goodbye, got into his car, plowed through 2-foot powdery snow drifts, and ended up many hours later in Paris, France for 6 days of fun and adventure! It had been 21 years since I’d been in Paris, and it was amazing to be back.
We stayed a couple blocks from the Champs d’Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe, and we walked or took the metro everywhere we went. Yes, I’ve heard all the pick-pocket stories, but little Gypsy gangs of girls were in school in February, presumably, so we were safe. We actually really enjoyed the metro rides – it’s a fun way (and a cheap way) to pretend you actually belong.
Two of our days were spent on business in the northeast of France, not far from D’Jon, where we were treated to an AMAZING meal at the small, family-run hotel we stayed in. I have never, in my life, had such a meal. Sadly, I wasn’t blogging then, so I didn’t think to bring my camera to dinner. So I shall attempt to describe it for you.
We began with canapés and wine while perusing the menu on cozy chairs in the side lobby. I was faced, immediately, with a quandary which sent me into an internal panic, when our hostess, Nora, asked me, “What wine would you like?” I don’t like wine at all! What do I do? What do I say? When in Rome? Or pretend to be a recovering alcoholic? I pictured accepting the glass and grimacing as I drank it, ruining my meal with politeness. I pictured a full glass sitting there throughout the entire meal and the awkward questions. I went with the truth. “I don’t care for wine, I’m so sorry.”
She looked at me in utter surprise for a second. I imagined that she was thinking, “What a silly American.” But what she said was, “Do you drink champagne?” “Yes,” I replied. “I drink champagne.” At least the bubbles make it tolerable. And so while Nora and my husband got a (to them) lovely red, dry something, I was brought a full champagne flute and managed to drink most of it over the course of the evening…and I mean COURSE.
Course after course, after course.
After the canapés, it was baguettes (CRUSTY and warm) and escargot (garlicky and amazingly wonderful). Then came a green salad (honestly don’t remember much about that but it had a lovely dressing). Then a palate cleanser of some sort of mild lemony sherbet (delish and, well, cleansing). More rolls and a de-crumbing by the hotel owner – she took care of us the entire evening (her husband was the chef). I think next was the main dish – chicken – tender, herby, tasty, and, in my opinion, NOT the main attraction – wonderful, yes, but it almost took a back seat to all the rest of the meal. I think there was potatoes and spinach, too…but by then I was in a glutonous fog and I can’t remember too much. (At least my fog wasn’t caused by the wine!)
Then another palate cleanser. Then the cheese cart.
Ooh, la la, the cheese cart! It was gigantic and barely fit through the ten or so tables, and held probably 25 different kinds of cheese.
Nora asked me what cheese I’d care for. (She’s an optimist, isn’t she?) I had no clue. I said, tentatively (because I can’t pronounce it very well anyway), “Gruyere?” “Ahh,” Nora and the owner said, “Compte. It’s much better.” She cut me a ridiculously large triangle of cheese and then asked me what other kind I’d like? More? I thought. How can I even fit this into my tummy? “Camembert?” I asked. “Ah, oui. And one last choice?” I hadn’t a clue. They gave me something creamy and lovely and rich to which I did not do justice. Let me just say that Compte IS better than Gruyere…but I’ll just be content that I can finally get Gruyere in my small mid-western town and not get bent out of shape over no local Compte around here.
And then it was dessert time. Berry tart, golden crust, sauce. Beyond measure. (The next day, at lunch at the same place, I had a chocolate apple terrine for dessert. It was slightly odd, but as exposure to French culture and food, marvelously perfect.)
I think that at the end my husband had coffee, but I wasn’t daring enough to brave the looks I’d get if I asked for decaf. You know, really, people say that the French are not fond of American tourists and that they’re snotty, arrogant, etc. Well, I suppose perhaps some are, but if you go there expecting to have a good time and not forcing your code of behavior onto them, then it really doesn’t matter how they treat you – just shrug it off, have fun and ENJOY!!!! It’s an amazing country.
I’m sorry I don’t have photos of the meal to share with you, it was so fantastic, but I wanted to share with you the meal anyway. In the next few days I’ll tell you more about our trip…and then our jaunt over to Berlin, equally fantastic!