13.08.2010 - 15.08.2010 17 °C
Good morning everyone! It is a sunny but chilly morning here in the city of love. I've got my coffee in hand, ready to start my day and my roommate is...still snoring. This is not unusual though... After making it through half of the trip, I decided I needed to kick my tourist activities into high gear and get stuff done before the nex two weeks fly by. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans and she's been serving up day after day of cold, rainy weather that makes you just want to put on your sweatpants, stick in Season 3 of Sex and the City, and cuddle on the couch with your Chihuahua. But, if you don't have those things with you in Paris...you stay inside and work on your paper (no it's not done...stop asking me!).
I did get out and about a little bit. On Friday, I hoped to repeat the wonderful experience I had had the day before at Musee d'Orsay by hitting up the Louvre's late night opening. I took a nice long stroll down to the Rue de Rivoli (which only takes about 45 minutes from my apartment and is a scenic walk) to do some shopping for my loved ones back home before the museum reduced its price at 6:00pm. Souvenir shopping this trip has been the biggest monkey on my back. Everyone in my family has received presents from Paris: from the fun cool stuff that no one else will ever get them (shirts from Roland Garros, purses from Longchamp) to the kitchy stuff found on most gift shop shelves (I heart Paris mugs, berets). This trip, I really wanted to outdo myself. "I know Paris; I know where to shop; this is my town! I'm going to find the best presents they've ever seen!"...I thought to myself. And....nothing, nada, goose egg. I have set such a high expectation for gifts this trip that nothing I find is living up to it in reality. Yesterday I was actually considering buying my dad a shot glass with a poodle on it winking. (I didn't, don't worry. Just a moment of weakness.) The only gift I've gotten, besides ones for myself, is for Joe, and I would be really proud of finding it except he told me exactly where to go and what to buy DOWN TO THE COLOR. Sigh... 14 more days of shopping left until Christmas...
Needless to say, after several hours of disgruntled shopping, fighting my way through the mass of stollers, Segways, and rental bikes, I called it quits for the day. I couldn't even garner the strength to walk around the Louvre. There is always next week, right? So instead of going home and going to bed, since it was Friday night, I decided to go out and find this restaurant I'd heard pretty good things about in the area. When life gets you down, go out to eat I guess. The restaurant is called Bistrot Victoires (6 rue de Vrillieres) and is in the 1st arrondissement not far from the Louvre, behind the Palais Royal. I read that this place is low-key, with lots of locals, and cheap.
So, I passed by a few times, checked out the menu, checked out the other diners and bravely entered for date night Friday by myself. "Combien?" ("How many?") the waitress asked me. "Une personne," ("One person"). "Une?"...oui, une. She sat me at a very nice little table by the bar where I was able to witness all the comings and goings of the restaurant and the first thing I noticed was the lack of locals. Everyone in there was an Asian, German, or...no wait, just more Asian, tourist. The staff working on the floor was all women, which was funny to listen because in between customers, they gossiped at the bar about their common aquaintances. I started off with a little pichet of red wine. Normally a pichet is about the size of a small teapot, enough for about 2.5 glasses or so (ok, I pour big glasses). But this one...
...was MASSIVE. Maybe they felt bad for me because I was the only one in there that spoke French besides them. The only thing wrong with this red wine was that is was COLD...I don't get it. I tasted good (Bourgogne Pinot Noir) but it tasted better once it reached room temperature. They must keep the bottles somewhere cold.
As I was enjoying my first glass, I noticed the poor German couple having trouble with their steaks (Entrecote, or Rib-eye to most of you, which I heard was their specialty). They ordered them à point (medium), but I don't think they were aware that medium in France is not like medium everywhere else; so they sent them back for a little more fire. I think the chef was a little taken aback, because he actually came out of the kitchen to see what in the world was going on. He walked up to their table, said something I didn't catch, threw his hands up and walked back into the kitchen (presumably when he realised they didn't speak any French). Oh good, here comes my salad!
I started with a Salade Chevre Chaud which is one of my favorite things in the world. I love goat cheese, but warm it up on little garlic toasts and stick it on a salad...genius! This one did not disappoint; granted, I think it's really difficult to mess up a simple, traditional salad like this, but I've seen it done. One thing they added that I'd never seen before is Pine Nuts which added a nice little crunch in there. It was so big that I could've just eaten that - a good idea for lunch if you're in the area. I also liked that it wasn't soaked in vinaigrette so you could actually taste the salad and the cheese.
It was now about 8:00pm and low and behold, here came the regulars. Like clock work this place filled up. I'm acutally pretty lucky I got there when I did because I wouldn't have gotten a table right away. There was a variety of local Frenchies: people dressed up for parties, people in jeans just hanging out, parents with their children...but I was happy to see them all arrive. Ooooh my steak! Wait, is it on fire?
Yes, they set the oregano on fire. I inhaled some flaming herb smoke, coughed a little, and cut into it. I too ordered my Entrecote à point and I now see what the Germans were complaining about. It was rare...very very rare. I would've posted a picture of it, but I don't want to gross out my mom. It was good, don't get me wrong, but it was the rarest piece of meat I have ever eaten. It was also a bit too fatty for my taste, so I say it was worth a try, but if I ever go back I think I'll try something else on the menu. The restaurant boasts of their hand-cut french fries which were fantastic, but I think they need help in selecting their cuts of meat. All in all, this was worth the stop and was definitely a great price (28 euros for all that), so I would go back. Just a word of warning, if you're not happy with your Entrecote and you don't speak French, expect to infuriate the chef.
On Saturday, the weather was gross...again. So I went in search of this Vintage shop that I'd heard great things about hoping to find some amazing gifts and...it was closed. It was also closed on Monday. Maybe they are on vacation, but there is no sign posted. So, I went back to the apartment, made a vegetable tart and read one of the books I needed to read.
I guess this is going to be the "food-photo" edition of my blog. But it was tastey and it only took 45 minutes in the combo-oven to bake. (On the back of the dough package it says bake for 20 minutes.)
The highlight of the weekend was dinner at Swann et Vincent (7 rue Saint Nicolas, in the 11th arrondissement), a restaurant I've been walking by and smelling for two weeks. Diana and I finally decided to go to dinner there and it was the best food I've had since I arrived. It has the vibe of a French bistro, smells like a Italian restaurant, and the food is a fusion of the two . We started with the fresh mozerella and tomatos which was served with these little herbed, toasted, bread chunks. I then had the Seafood pasta special:
Life-changing! Fresh mussels, calamari, white fish all in a white wine sauce over pasta and the plate was never-ending. I've never seen a portion like this is France. Diana got the rigatoni with duck and mushrooms which was also very good. It was served in a cream sauce and the duck was well cooked. It was the flavors of France with an Italian twist and it all worked well.
Well, the rain continued through the rest of the weekend, all day Monday and most of Tuesday, but I'll detail those days in the next blog post. Thank you all for continuing to follow me through all my adventures!