07 June 2011

An initial thought on food in Paris

The last time I was in Paris (ten years ago), I didn't really enjoy the food. Sometimes, the food was too unusual for me (blood sausage), sometimes the restaurant was trying too hard (a Belgian place on the Champs Elysees with terrific mussels but a circus-like environment), and sometimes the food was too lame (stale pastries in the morning). I ate well in the rest of France (a 'light' chicken lunch near Le Mans was particularly memorable), but in Paris, not so much.

Over the last few years, as I've been losing weight and watching what I ate, I've gotten more particular about my food. Not picky (that's S's job), but more cognizant, more aware. I pay more attention to what I go into my body, trying to ensure that it's healthy, fresh, and tasty. Combining my new dining cognizance with a return to what many to be the gastronomic capital of the world, I was anxious to see how I'd respond to the food.

We've only been in Paris less than 24 hours, and we've only had two meals, but here are some thoughts:

Yesterday, for lunch with J, we went to a restaurant and all had Croque Madame sandwiches. The Croque Madame is a ham sandwich, served open face, topped with cheese. The whole thing is stuck in a broiler to melt the cheese and give it a nice crispness. Then, the whole sandwich is topped with a fried egg. S, J, and I all ordered these, as J said they were quite good and S and I thought it sounded yummy. Both of us were, ultimately, a little disappointed in the sandwich. The bread was tough, the cheese had been allowed to cool slightly, and though I enjoyed the egg (I ALWAYS enjoy the egg), I couldn't help thinking that the egg was the only thing special about an otherwise boring sandwich. Still, it fortified us for the rest of the day, and we had a lovely conversation with J (about cultural imperialism, immigration ethics, and Michelle Bachman).

For dinner, S and I intended to find a bakery, a fromagerie, and a fruit stand to buy some food for a meal in the apartment. The fromageries were closed (holiday?), so we had to punt. We bought brown bread at a bakery and then fruit, packaged cheese, cookies, and wine at a fruit stand/corner shop. Dinner was the brown bread, the mild Edam cheese, and sliced apples and nectarines (with wine and fig cookies also for me). This meal, more peasant-like than our lunch, was delicious. The bread had great flavor (even S remarked on how the bold flavor of the bread worked so well with the mild cheese), the apple was terrific (sweet and slightly foamy), and the nectarine was so sweet I thought it might have been candied! Even the fig cookies, which were crisp (unlike the soft Newtons, which I do enjoy), were a tasty surprise. All in all, I think our dinner trumped our lunch.

It's almost 8am here on Tuesday, and it's raining in Paris. We've got a few hours to kill before J comes over with our loaner phone, and I think that our plans to wander in the morning have been thwarted by the rain. Ah, alas.

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