Skylines and Steak

7 Feb

Okay, one last Paris post in which I will relay two stories before we head to Berlin.

First story: Lunch at the Musee D’Orsay. When I was in Paris in 1987 with my mother, we ate lunch on the Isle de la Cite at a tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant. I don’t remember what Mom ate, but I ordered the only thing that I recognized on the tiny menu: steak. Steak Carpaccio, to be exact. No, I didn’t know what the “carpaccio” part meant, but Mom assured me that it would be tasty. I think she was trying to broaden my horizons.

Okay, so here's the start of my "Paris skyline" portfolio. LOVE some of these shots.


Well, the plate came. This clear glass plate, with 4 thinly sliced pieces of raw steak, swimming in some sort of sauce. Marinade, as it turned out. I’m a brave eater. So I took a bite. It was vinegary. It was savory. It was strong. It was, actually, not that bad. I ate one piece, two, three…and I struggled through the 4th. Yes, it was good, but oy, it was EXTREME.

Love the angles. Love the buildings.


As a reward my mother allowed me to order dessert – a rare treat. I ordered chocolate mousse in an orange sauce. It was beyond belief good. The presentation left a little to be desired, however…it looked like, well, something that certain cities order you to pick up behind your doggy.

Typical Paris.


Flash forward to one year ago. I had told the carpaccio story several times over the years, and in so doing, I had forgotten one key element: the word, “Carpaccio”. Somehow, over time, it became Steak Tartare.

Now for those of you who know what Steak Tartare is, you may go ahead and laugh. But for the rest, read on.

We went to lunch at the Musee D’Orsay, in this beautiful room full of chandeliers and frescoes on the ceiling. We looked at the menu and there, in black print for the world to see, was “Steak Tartare”…and I said, “That’s what I want”. The waiter said, “Are you aware that Steak Tartare is raw meat?” I replied, with a smile, “Yes, I’m good with that.” Images of carpaccio danced in my head while we waited for our food.

More wonderful skylines.


And then came the meal. The waiter set my plate down in front of me and I blanched. My husband looked at my plate, looked at me, and grinned.

What lay before me was a perfectly shaped circle of raw ground beef, topped with a raw egg yolk.

I looked at my husband. I looked at the meat. I took a bite. I took a few more bites between wheedling bites away from my husband and his fully cooked meal. My husband, bless his heart, helped me out. When we walked away from the table, we left behind a small mountain of meat…and a good story to tell to anyone willing to listen.

Wouldn't you love to have such a window in your bedroom? Or to starve in such a garret?

Second story: If you can’t tell, I love the skylines of Paris. My husband asked me, while we were packing to leave Paris and head to Berlin, how Germany would differ from France. I wasn’t able to answer him – it had been too long.

"Our" street - for a few days.

After we got to Berlin, the answer was obvious – two answers, really. 1) The people weren’t all wearing black and smoking. And 2) The skylines can’t compare. Poor old Berlin has all new buildings – well, a LOT of new buildings – that’s what happens when your city is bombed to smithereens in a world war. Paris, on the other hand, has THE PARIS LOOK. It has these triangular buildings at the end of each block. It has round dormer windows and buildings smack up against each other and chimney pots that rise above the roof lines like Legos.

Ahhhh, Paris.

P.S. – In Berlin I ordered Steak Carpaccio. It was delicious.

Our hotel - sadly, without the dormers.

Quintessential Paris.

The Chinese building across the street from our hotel Sure wish I knew more about the building - it was so neat.

Just down the road from our hotel. You see these all over the city...

One shot of the Louvre. Because that's what a tourist must do. BUT...if you go, give yourself LOTS of time...maybe even more than one day...in order to do it justice. Amazing.

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18 Responses to “Skylines and Steak”

  1. gardenfreshtomatoes February 7, 2012 at 7:48 am #

    Hubby loves to walk through the big carriageway arch at the Louve and say,”It’s GOOD to be the king!”
    Never fails to get a laugh from nearby tourists…and he does this twice a year.
    Sorry you didn’t like your Steak Tartare…you could have given it to me! 🙂

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 7, 2012 at 8:38 am #

      OH, shoot! Did I spell it wrong? Bother. I’ll have to fix that! My husband liked the Tartare…to a degree…but yeah, I was just proud of myself for having about a quarter of it! That’s impressive that your husband gets there twice a year – are you able to go with him?!

      • gardenfreshtomatoes February 7, 2012 at 11:53 am #

        Yes, we have a small apartment in the 7th. My youngest stepson did his first year of college at American University Paris – the Euro was low at the time, and Paris real estate was down. Hubby bought a tiny place in an old-lady building so the boy couldn’t be up all night partying. Now, it’s our escape.
        If you ever get the time, there are LOTS of France posts in my archives….

        • Gretchen O'Donnell February 7, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

          How fantastic for you!! Wow! (And I’ll check your posts, for sure!) I can’t imagine having a place to stay there – a place of your own! If I spoke French, I’d think about wanting to go more often. As it is, I’m just so bad at foreign languages. Ugh.

          That’s hilarious that you got one in an old-lady building! Ha! Still, I bet your son had a fantastic time!

  2. Gian Banchero February 7, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    Tuesday Morning…
    Oh Gretchen, what a wonderful way to start the day –On a walk through Paris!!! These 19th century buildings were built to be looked at and enchant which they do, they captivate the soul. To see the aesthetic shock of most modern architecture one needs only scroll up to your photo with the new Hilton hotel, it’s like a brick of stale rough bread in a field fine delicate pastry. I’m so happy that for three years I was a culinary student of the French kitchen, though long retired whenever I start a Parisian meal I’m brought back to late 19th century which in my mind is a particularly wonderful time in France’s history, a recipe realized from that epoch no longer makes the period an illusion, it really does become the reality. Thank you for this morning’s stroll, I could smell the bread baking!!! …Oh, a few years back before my nephew married he and several of his male friends visited Paris, when I asked him what he thought of the city he stated he didn’t really have that good of a time, when asked why he said Paris was a city for young lovers, that virtually everything about the city made one a romantic, the city had to be shared with a loved one… “Uncle, the lights of Paris at night, unbelievable!!”

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 7, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

      Yes, the shock of the ugly Hilton – which was, of course, quite nice inside, but modern just isn’t what one is looking for in France!

      That’s so cool that you were able to be there for 3 years – and cooking! Wonderful. I’m sure that you are able to wow your family with those skills.

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed your “stroll” this morning. I think I could stare at – and photograph – and stroll past those sorts of buildings all day…as long as my feet don’t hurt too much! I just wish I could someday see inside one!!!

      And yes, it was great to be there with my husband!

  3. Minnesota Prairie Roots February 7, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    You are a braver woman than me. I would NEVER be able to eat raw meat. Never.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 13, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

      It was…interesting. I wasn’t worried about illness, as I trusted that they knew what they were doing. But…let’s just say I’m not going to try it again!!!

  4. philosophermouseofthehedge February 7, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    Excellent shots – what wonderful architecture – and you framed it so well. The Hilton was quite a contrast! amusing, right? Thanks for the tour

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

      Thank you! And thanks for coming over to check things out. Yes, the Hilton, while perfectly fine, was a little less than “perfect” when what I wanted was history…but I got…normal!

  5. marimann February 8, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    Your pictures are beautiful and make me long to return to Paris! So classic, those mansard rooftops and the blue-grey color, so Parisian one could identify the place without the photo captions. And your steak story is great too, I can just see your reaction as the raw meat and egg was placed before your face. Probably the waiter was thinking, “well, I warned her!” Thank you for posting these pictures and your story, I enjoyed them both.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

      Thank you so much! Yes, I think that once is not enough of Paris, is it?!

      Yes, I bet that waiter thought I was just plain silly! I’m so glad that you stopped by – please come again!

  6. hotlyspiced February 9, 2012 at 4:10 am #

    Hi Gretchen, I’ve been waiting for your next post. I don’t think Berlin could ever compare with Paris. Paris is so beautiful it is a romantic city and Berlin is so much more austere. Thanks for posting all those images. I loved viewing them – all of them! It looks beautiful but cold. Some blue skies would be good but I guess it’s the time of year. Enjoy the rest of your travels.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 9, 2012 at 8:18 am #

      Yes, it was chilly – though I hear that this year is much colder in Europe. Yes, Berlin is not the same, that’s for sure…but I actually find it to be more comfortable, more relaxed. I think I’ll post about it tomorrow.

  7. Malou February 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    You made me laugh because I know this from my husband who introduced me to these strange raw meat…from beef carpaccio to fillet americain. No, I draw the line on steak tartare because that is just too raw for me but my husband always have that when we are in Belgium or France. I have learned to love the beef carpaccio and fillet americain is seasoned raw beef that goes nicely on toast or bread.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 13, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

      I’ll have to try that! I really, really, liked the carpaccio. I’ve never tried making it myself…I think I’d be a little worried that I wouldn’t get it right or safe. But it’s definitely on my list for restaurants!!!

  8. Kiran @ KiranTarun.com February 17, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    I can never bring myself to eat raw meat. Even carpaccio’s or tuna tartare. Just cannot 😀

    Thanks for the lovely tour, albeit the shocking Hilton 😉

    Lovely photos!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 18, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

      Well, raw meat delinitely is not something that is on my daily or even yearly menu! I guess it was on my ever-two-decades menu!

      The Hilton was lovely inside, and even the outside was fine – just boring, compared to the real historic buildings all around. Rather disappointing.

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