Paris, je t’aime et je suis mal….

Posted On March 7th, 2016 Author Lia Rinaldo  Comments: 3

In my dream world, I am holed up in thick pajamas, sipping broth and sweating it out in a little wet nest of bed sheets… but the reality was only 36 hours in Paris and I’m getting ready for a reservation that was months in the making. Eating for work. It sounds deluxe and it is, no worries, it still is. I’m not jaded at all, in fact, I find myself quite chuffed at most every turn. But when you can’t taste, smell or breathe, it’s altogether another story.

I ask my cohort if he thinks they’d let me NOT order but instead try a bite of his course each round. He shrugs; coughs. We’re both sick.

I ask if he thinks they’d make me soup, let me sip juice, I for sure shouldn’t order the wine pairings? Or what if I did order and then just take a mouthful of each dish myself? Would chef be offended? We order an über.

Paris has fancy übers. Fanciest I’ve ever seen. Slick cars pull up–audis, bimmers, you name it–and out jumps a well-coiffed Frenchman in a tailored suit. Holding the door, all the pleasantries, bottled water, newspapers, mints... in this case the driver asks if we are alright with the musical selection for our short ride. Oui, monsieur, bien sur!

All the twists and turns of busy Paris streets. We arrive. Tonight’s tasting menu is posted near the door. We’re ushered in, front row seats as the young kitchen staff preps in their whites and long navy aprons. I peer over my cohort’s shoulder happily for a full kitchen view; he has a mirror without having to turn around. We cough in unison. We are mustering energy for the meal ahead and chat excitedly. An elderly French couple ask to be moved away from us–I’d like to think it was the sickness, but it’s likely our English, offensive to a sensitive French palate.

Two glasses of sparkling make their way to the table. I end up opting for the full tasting menu but will skip the pairings. The amuse arrives. A foaming urchin. You’re supposed to love urchins with all of their complex umami and I have to admit, I never have. This one is probably the most palatable as a lobster bisque has displaced the urchin, there are just a few tiny pieces now tempered by le foam. Maybe I just like faint essence of urchin. My sparkling is already gone.

Next up, a stacked little sculptural salad with roasted beet, black truffle, a bitter little radicchio castelfranco, an acidic yet creamy vinaigrette served with a Riesling for my partner. I manage to score half a glass from the waiter. Each dish is going back with a little bit left on the plate, I must emphasize, only through the sickness. Je suis mal, monsieur. Je m’excuse! Then truffles on toast with all the butter. I do finish that one.

Sole swimming with the cutest little button mushrooms in a sauce normande–rich fish stock, cream, butter, egg yolk. Hit me. The sole is so very delicate. Each time a new waiter or the host looks royally confused with food being returned. Tres, tres mal. Pas d’appetite! Insert exaggerated cough for effect. All the while the young chefs alternate between quick little fits of activity and plating to mild boredom with their phones in the kitchen, THE Chef is not in the house tonight, he’s in fact opening a new restaurant in New York. Pigeon en deux services. Pigeon two ways–grilled with fresh citrus and nasturtium root then little deep-fried legs perched atop a rich foie gras mash. The legs are so greasy and crunchy… I can’t help but eat some of the bone too. The waiter has selected a nice red to last me, when we all know by now I could have handled the pairings–Domaine des Hauts Châssis Crozes Hermitage. He leaves the bottle on the table and I find myself sneaking another pour when he is not looking. Surely this was the point?

My companion has been almost gleeful in his eating; what a sport. He brought his A-game, fighting through sickness to prevail an insatiable champ. Dessert arrives and I make one last stealth move to skip all that French pastry–mangue, citron, coriandre, feuilleté croustillant praliné–and go for the cheese plate option. A perfect plate of three French cheeses including an-all time pungent fave hits the table… Époisses de Bourgogne, in quite possibly the best presentation I’ve ever laid eyes on. One big stinky dollop melted at room temperature on a spoon on my plate. I can’t even fathom why I’ve never thought of this before. So perfect. A perfect pungent ending, and one that I can actually smell through the cold. Bien fait!

What people are saying

  • on March 08th, 2016, shelley said...

    All I can think of while reading this is the Howard Jones song,  No One is to Blame!...“you can look at the menu but you just can’t eat”.  What a conundrum.  So sorry to hear you were sick while traveling, but it made for an excellent piece of writing Lia.  Thanks for the mouth watering description!

  • on March 08th, 2016, Jessica-festival doctor at heart said...

    whoa, Lia! you guys needed your festival doctor or, at least my bag of holistic tricks! Sounds like you guy powered through. The pigeon I will need more detail and I’ve always wanted to try Époisses de Bourgogne. Great read!

  • on March 08th, 2016, Lia said...

    Thanks Shelley & Jessica- nice to hear from you both! Love the Howard Jones reference… and Jessica- we totally needed the festival doctor!

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