Europe 2016 – Part 4 – Paris

September 30:

We got an early start from Annecy, drove to Lyon where we said our tearful farewells to “Jean,” our devoted GPS lady, and dropped off the rental car, and after buying some splendid sandwiches and apricot tarts at Patisserie Paul in the station, we boarded the TGV to Paris. Arriving at Ana and Bertrand’s in La Varenne in mid-afternoon, we got settled and walked into town to see if the lady who runs the Spanish store had been able to get more Pedro Ximenez sherry.  Sadly not, so we stopped at the local Nicolas and bought a bottle of port.  In the evening, we drove into Paris, enduring a terrible traffic jam and arriving half an hour late for dinner at L’Os a Moelle.

L’Os a Moelle

The last time we were at L’Os a Moelle was five years ago, not long after it opened. Since then, there was a change of chefs, but in the last couple of years the original chef returned. We enjoyed our meal this time as much as the first. The five course menu for 42 euros is still a bargain. These are the dishes we had:

Amuse bouche

Soupe de poisson

Boudin noir terrine

Quail topped with a quail egg

Saddle of veal with potatoes, vegetables and mushrooms

Duck breast with mushrooms and potatoes

Bass with carrots, eggplant and parsnips

Duck hamburger with foie gras

Saint-Nectaire cheese with endive salad

Banana crumble

Gratin of fruits

Chocolate quenelle

Wines are very reasonably priced too. They sell them to go, and add only 8 euros if you are having it in the restaurant.  Our server was lovely. I am so glad we decided to return here, and would highly recommend it.

October 1:

Ana and Bertrand prepared a capital picnic lunch, and we set out on a day trip to the Abbaye de Royaumont and Chateau d’Ecouen. The abbey is set in a beautiful park, and though the cloister is pretty much intact, the abbey church which was once attached to it is gone, with just a bit of its foundation and one tower remaining.  There are computer generated reconstructions of what the church looked like.  It was a special devotion of Louis IX, a/k/a Saint Louis, and is now owned by a private foundation.

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As we were not permitted to have our picnic on the grounds, we asked in the gift shop for another suggestion, and drove off to find the recommended place, which turned out to be very nice. After lunch, we went to the Chateau d’Ecouen, established by (Mr.) Anne de Montmorency, Constable of France, which houses a museum of renaissance art and artifacts.

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For dinner Saturday night, Stanley and I took the train to Le Baratin. This bistro gets rave reviews, but my main reason for wanting to try it was that they serve a lot of organ meats. It turns out they do it very well. I have mixed feelings, though. We spent more here than at any other place we went to in Paris. The wine I chose, a Bourgogne rouge 2014, was their lowest priced one, at 42 euros. It was drinkable but not at all special. The typical retail price would probably be 6 to 8 euros.

Everything is a la carte, there are no set menus. The appetizers and desserts are reasonably priced, but the main courses are quite high for a bistro, at 24 to 34 euros. All this being said, the food was great. I started with cervelle (calf brain) in a butter and lemon sauce, a generous portion, delicious and light as a feather. Stanley had an intensely flavored veloute de poisson. My main was barbue (brill), a tasty piece of fish, while Stanley’s coeur de ris de veau was a large block of sweetbreads, perfectly done and much less heavy than this dish can often be. For dessert, he had roasted figs and I had a sable biscuit with raspberries and whipped cream, both excellent. The bill came to 142 euros.

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October 2:

We spent Sunday in La Varenne. Bertrand made an early dinner of stewed rabbit with prunes, served on noodles. Stanley and I went to the farmers’ market to get some additional items and for a light evening supper, which we would be cooking. We bought a piece of fromage de tete (head cheese), filets of daurade, and some cherry tomatoes for a side dish, and picked up some more Cotes du Rhone and another bottle of port at Nicolas.

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Alex, Ana and Bertrand’s son, joined us for dinner, which began with kirs and canapes of mussels on bread. Next came the appetizer of head cheese, followed by the main course of rabbit, ending with an assortment of cheeses including epoisse and the robiola with black truffles we brought from Alba.

After dinner, we went out for a stroll. Ana had discovered that there was a tour of artists’ studios in the town of St. Maur, which includes La Varenne. There were far too many for us to see more than a handful, but we went to the closest ones. These are serious artists: painters, sculptors, ceramists and photographers. Some worked in more than one of these media. The artworks were quite good for the most part, and it was an interesting experience for us to see the works in their homes or studios and to experience the passion of the artists.

In the evening, Stanley and I prepared a supper of daurade, sauteed cherry tomatoes, and potatoes sauteed in duck fat with truffle cream and truffle salt. We dined dans la cuisine, and it was all quite delicious.

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October 3:

This was our last day, and since we did not have to leave until evening, we had another chance to enjoy Paris. Being a Monday, almost all museums were closed, but the Louvre was open, so we went there. I hadn’t been in many years, and it looked quite different from what I remember. There is now a shopping mall on the lower level. The whole building was mobbed, with idiots walking around staring at their phones and taking selfies. What has happened to our society? We didn’t have a lot of time, so decided, out of perverse curiosity, to check out the British and American paintings (there were about a dozen British and one Thomas Cole; this is primarily a European museum) and the apartment of Louis XIV. The rooms had been recently restored and were quite splendid.

We had lunch at Le Radis Beurre in the 15th arrondissement. The design of the restaurant and spacing of tables feels more upscale than the typical bistro, similar to Mensae and Pirouette.  The 3-course menu at 34 euros (2 courses are 25) includes a good choice of dishes.

Le Radis Beurre

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I had the pig’s feet and the Guinea hen, while Stanley had chicken liver terrine and veal kidneys. The pig’s feet were particularly impressive, but it was all excellent. My ris au lait reminded me of the one I had at Pirouette several years ago, just perfect. Stanley had a poached pear in chocolate sauce with speculos ice cream. With a bottle of Brouilly, the bill was 98 euros.

After lunch we hurried back to La Varenne, finished packing and were ready for our taxi at 4:45. Our evening return flight was just as pleasant as the one going. We again arrived ahead of schedule and were home before midnight, having had another memorable European trip.

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