Posted too rapidly. No plain chicken broth for ailing HG. Resourceful BSK garnered some marmite (very strong consomme). Beat two eggs into the boiling marmite. Added some mini elbow macaroni. Comfort food that was truly comforting. HG is fortunate to have BSK.
A nasty bug has attacked HG and BSK. Sneezes, coughs, discomfort, etc. On the menu today is chicken broth, mint tea, Sudafed and cough syrup. Not gourmand dining. Oh, woe. Taxi to Gare du Nord tomorrow morning for Eurostar to London. Hope we feel better.
HG and BSK are spending their last days in Paris in a blizzard of Kleenex and a cacaphony of coughs. This didn’t prevent HG from visiting Welper the venerable, independently owned brasserie on busy Place de Clichy. There was a rumor that Wepler had gone downhill. Couldn’t prove it by HG’s lunch of oysters and bulots. Splendid. Very dignified waiter, HG pointed out that some of the bulot shells were empty. Obviously, the sea snails had left their shells and were out looking for romance. The ambassadorial waiter took care of the situation by bringing HG a virtual deluge of bulots and a big pot of fresh mayonnaise. Typical of Paris–a classy and generous gesture. BSK felt well enough to see True Grit. Fun. But the film didn’t have the usual Coen Brothers edge of irony. Walking back to the loft HG was struck by the cold bug. HG and BSK hope they shake off the nastiness before chunneling to London Saturday.
Serious rain today. That meant the perfect time for a long visit to HG and BSK’s favorite Paris museum, Les Arts Decoratifs. It is a beautiful museum, occupying a lyrical wing of the Louvre. Very well organized. Starting on the ninth floor you descend the history of design and decor. All of the eras–from the Renaissance through the 20’s’ 30′, 40’s’ 50’s into the present. Great art deco and art nouveau sections. The museum is encyclopedic without being dull. Always an interesting special exhibition. This time the show was of 100 posters by the extraordinary Polish graphic artist Michal Batory. He is in the great tradition of Polish poster art, a tradition he combines with French surrealism. The result is gripping.
A sardonic sidelight for any of us with long experience in public relations and advertising. One of Batory’s poster clients is a major theatrical group. New management came in. They fired Batory and turned poster design over to their ad agency. So, even one of the world’s greatest poster artists can get tossed when there is a change in bosses. HG and BSK pondered this truism over a rump steak and wine at the museum’s cafe (a showcase of modern design). Dinner tonight Chez HG and BSK. Irish smoked salmon and a wide variety of salads (cucumber, carrot, mesclun, etc). BSK has been sniffling all day so True Grit is postponed until tomorrow.
Perfect. Sun. Cloudless sky. A walk around the Assemblee Nationale to Musee Rodin. Then an amble through the beautiful garden dotted with Rodin masterpieces. HG and BSK were blown away by the temporary Henry Moore show. It focuses on his drawings, maquettes and the bits of bones and shells that inspired this extraordinary artist. The show brings you into his studio and lets you participate in the artistic process. The plaster works are breathtaking. The interplay of interior and exterior and concave to convex is riveting. In many ways, the best pieces are an homage to women.
HG and BSk dined at Rech in the 17th. This is a traditional brasserie, founded in 1925, that had gone downhill. It has been reinvigorated by the brilliant Alain Ducasse (he has also revamped Benoit and Aux Lyonnais). Cut to the chase: HG and BSK had the best seafood meal of their lives. It started with a few bits of salmon mousse (a freebie to whet appetites) and continued with brandade. HG loves brandade, that lush combination of salt cod, garlic, sweet cream and potatoes. This was a brandade that broke new ground. Not a puree (the cod retained its integrity). Not a garlic explosion (a restrained amount). The key word was: Balance. The result: Delight. This was followed by raie grenobloise: A thick juicy tranche of skate swimming in a (once more) perfectly balanced sauce of butter, capers, parsley and lemon juice. Accompanied by a silken potato puree (enhanced by generous thin slices of black truffle) and caramelized endive. Wow!! The wine was our favorite Muscadet. Then the famous Rech camembert ( with glasses of Pomerol). Dessert: Vanilla ice cream enclosed by crisp pastry. The grace note: Warm bittersweet chocolate poured by the maitre d’.
Morning sunshine. Very brief. Disappeared by 11 ayem. Usual gray. HG and BSK off on long walk through the very diverse 9th arrondissement. Many boutiques. Appetizing food vendors. Notre Dame de Lorette, St. Georges, Trinite –three interesting churches. The Grande Synagogue of Paris also known as “La Victoire Synagogue” is one of largest synagogues in Europe. An imposing chandelier donated by the Rothschilds. Guards and barricades. A grim reminder that it is always dangerous to be a Jew in Europe.
Stopped at Au Petit Riche, an elegant old restaurant for lunch. Fines de Claire oysters. Lentil salad with some thick slices of bacon. Quenelles with sauce nantua. Sea bass in butter sauce with fresh spinach. Muscadet. Ile Fottante (what else?) shared for dessert. Lovely meal and lovely room. Then to consumerist heaven — Galeries Lafayette. The store is centered around a five story (?) rotunda of dramatic proportions. Some of the world’s most elegant women rummage around hundreds (thousands?) of beautiful shoes, bags, dresses, coats, etc. It is a delightful sight though totally politically and morally incorrect. Fun to watch.
HG and BSK focused on the food department. With full tummies, HG and BSK had to ignore the oyster bar and the Spanish ham bar (both recommended by the well informed journalist/author Peter Hellman). But, HG and BSK managed to garner some excellent Italian charcuterie, Bufala mozzarella and fresh pasta for dinner tonight at Chez HG and BSK. They lived up to their promise. Viva Italia!!
Lots and lots of walking today. Started in the Montparnasse neighborhood where HG and BSK walked to the Musee and Atelier Zadkine. Ossip Zadkine was a cubist sculptor and painter whose works mark many Paris public areas (adjacent to Cafe Deux Magots and in the Luxembourg Gardens). HG met Zadkine during one of his U.S. visits in the 1950’s. A lovely man. The museum, studio and sculpture garden are small but beautifully organized. Zadkine’s work holds up — it is strong Cubism, rhythmic and powerful.
HG was sorry to ever see only one work–a painting– by Zadkine’s wife, Valentine Prax. HG was gifted with a beautiful drawing by Prax in 1952. As fresh today as it was almost 60 years ago. Zadkine and Prax are very celebrated in Paris but virtually unknown in the United States. A pity.
After viewing the Zadkines (and the Prax), HG and BSK strolled around the Luxembourg Gardens where forsythia was in bloom. Watched the boules players, the kids on ponies and the other sights of this most exquisite and civilized park. HG and BSK retraced their first visit to Paris footsteps of 46 years ago along the Boulevard St. Germain to Rue Du Bac. Lots of street music along the way. An exuberant, young (not very good) brass ensemble outside the Luxembourg gate and a very good Dixieland group of oldsters outside the St. Germain church. A cliche: Where did the years go? Back to the loft and a chilled bottle of very good Sancerre. Much red wine, pate de campagne, fresh baguettes await at dinner Chez HG and BSK. Hemingway called Paris “a moveable feast.” Surely it is a feast for all of the senses.
The Yiddish word is “haimish.” It means homey, down home, warm, friendly, relax-you’re- with- family. “Haimish” is the apt description of La Boule Rouge, the Tunisian-Jewish couscous restaurant where HG and BSK dined last night. “Dined” is wrong. “Gorged” is more like it. Even Miss Moderation BSK overate. The meal started with the table covered with salads and an unsweetened cake of cheese and hard boiled eggs. Then came a platter of perfect couscous; a caldron of robust broth with carrots, zucchini, turnips, sweet potatoes; a super-big portion of lamb shoulder with chickpeas; black beans in an an unusual, addictive Middle Eastern sauce; pinto beans in another tasty sauce. Bowls of pungent, but not too blazing harissa. The wine was Tavel. The meal ended with mint tea and honeyed, pistachio pastries. BSK staggered and moaned. “I ate the whole thing. I’m going to die.” BSK survived and had some croissants, English marmalade and Greek yogurt for breakfast. The stomach (as Woody Allen commented about the heart), is a very resilient organ.
Friday (Day Seven) started with heavy rain which continued on and off. Not to worry. Hats and raincoats. Unfurled umbrellas. HG and BSK were off to the far reaches of the posh 16th to see the great Monet show at the Musee Marmottan. (A wonderful walk through elegant little parks and squares surrounded by the opulent apartment dwellings of the very rich). All of the museum’s 137 Monets were on display plus works of his pals and mentors—Renoir, Morisot, etc. A startling show. Yes, there were water lilies. But, there were wonderful portraits, caricatures and the full range of his paintings of the pond and garden at Giverny. Flowers. Weeping willows. The Japanese bridge.
Back to Montmartre to Cave des Abbesses for oysters and wine. On the carte tonight at Chez HG and BSK is Italian bufala mozzarellla. Piquillo peppers. Jambon Persille. Jambon blanc. Salad of poached eggs, lardons, lettuce and white anchovies. Palmiers. Creme brulee. Camembert. Pinot Noir. Oh, well. C’est la vie.
February 18th, 2011 § Comments Off on Paree Day Six (Part Two) § permalink
A stroll in the sun. Brief. Weather instantly reversed to pleasant violet-tinged gray. HG and BSK attended to late morning business and then off to late lunch at Chez Grenouille. Fabulous food. A gratin of escargots. Usually, ordering escargots is an excuse to convey a lot of butter and garlic to the mouth. Not at Grenouille. A score of escargots (no shells) in a reduced and fragrant wine sauce, covered with a chiffonade of herbs. Eggs with butter and cream baked briefly in a red cocotte. Slices of wild duck (rare) on a bed of tiny green lentils. The specialty of the house (possibly the best in Paris); Tete de Veau. Not an American favorite (but much loved by HG), this dish is a composite of all the tasty bits in a cow’s head –tongue, brains, cheeks, etc. At Grenouille, these perfectly cooked elements are combined with morels and enhanced by sauce gribiche. There was a big bowl of roast potatoes (flavored with flakes of Maldon sea salt) on the table. For dessert: A gently baked round of camembert with shavings of black truffle. The wine: St. Amour from the Beaujolais region. Perfect.
Movie night at the comfiest cinema in Paris—Pathe Wepler. Saw Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter.” Flawed but remarkable movie making. Very memorable tsunami scenes. Bedtime snack of Irish smoked salmon, creme fraiche and Sancerre. Just another day at the office, Paris style.
Can it be? Oui!! Mon Dieu!! (end of extremely limited French). Sunshine. A Parisian rarity. A sunny February day. Lunch scheduled at Chez Grenouille (so good… had to go back…a report later). Shall HG and BSK stroll in the Luxembourg Gardens and admire the Zadkine sculptures? Or Place des Vosges? Or Canal St. Martin? Wine authority and journalist/author par excellence Peter Hellman suggests visit to food court at Galeries Lafayette department store for Spanish ham and other outstanding items. His word is HG’s command so a visit is scheduled for Saturday. Tonight is movie night: True Grit. Coen brothers are HG and BSK faves. Delights abound.