On the Lamb: Paris 2012 (Part Deux)
The Bloggist Is Away

With apologies to ‘Hot Shots!’.

We’ll always have Paris. And Paris will always have our €61. Despite that earlier incident, the girl-beard and I refused to let the rest of the day go to waste. We couldn’t afford to. For cheap travelers like us, Paris was simply too expensive for sulking (or for anything, really).

Nevertheless, the con would color the rest of our stay, if only for the hyper-vigilance he brought about. I was on edge so often that it felt as if I was constantly buzzed from single-handedly man-fighting a sex trafficking syndicate in Paris – but that was just the plot of ‘Taken’.


If you plagiarize my movie again, I will find you, and I will kill you. [thanks, Taken]

After picking up our Paris Passes, Joanne and I trekked to nearby Le Bouillon Chartier. This century-old Parisian fixture came highly recommended – it served excellent traditional French fare and, most importantly, it served this (relatively) cheap.


Did someone say ‘cheap’?

We found a table easily, as it was already past 2PM. We were a bit wary, however, because we were told to expect ‘rudimentary’ service.


Luckily, it would go well with our ‘rudimentary’ French.

I suppose the service was a bit rudimentary – the server took a while to find us, for one, even though she was generally nice. Other than that, there was hardly anything ‘rudimentary’ about Le Bouillon Chartier. The historic dining hall itself had the charm of an old train station café – it was very functional yet far from unadorned. The place was warmly lit with what seemed like quaint antique lamps. It was also furnished with similar fittings, including heavy-looking tables and classic wood mouldings. On top of everything, a glass ceiling ensured a generous supply of natural light.


All this exposition is boring me. Where’s my food?

Playing it safe, the girl-beard and I ordered the greatest hits off their menu. Joanne had Pâté de Foie Gras and Beef Bourguignon, while I had a half-dozen Escargots and Duck Confit.


‘Ow the French say ‘‘eart attack’.

The escargots were done with classic garlic-butter and parsley. They were also served with special tongs and a tiny fork. Extracting the snails from their helical dwellings felt like removing the lens from an eyeball using gynecological implements – which meant to say that it was fun. The mollusks were so flavorful, drenched as they were in butter, that I lamented not going for the full dozen. How could something that looked like chewed gum taste so good? Please don’t answer that.

On the other hand, Joanne’s block of Pâté de Foie Gras came with a side of figs and a small basket of melba toast. Pâté, of course, was a spread made from the fatty livers of force-fed geese – a controversial ingredient in the same breath as shark fin, to say the least. I reminded Joanne of this…

“Foie gras is cruel.”

“I know. It’s cruelly delicious.”

“It tastes like fatty liver.”

“IT IS fatty liver. Mmm…”

“They force-feed geese to make their livers abnormally fat. It’s inhumane.”

“I know. I’m being sympathetic with them, that’s why I’m force-feeding myself.”

“What? By eating their livers?”

“They regenerate.”

“Not when they’ve been harvested.”

“Organ harvest is an urban legend.”

“You’re talking about human kidneys.”

“I don’t like kidneys. Unless it’s pie. Mmm… I like pie.”

“Here, let me try some of that.”

“I thought you said it was cruel?”

“Yeah, it is. I just don’t want you ending up with all the karma. Is it really good?”

“It’s as good as Catholic guilt…”

The girl-beard was right. It was so good it’s cruel. The pâté was so rich that when I wiped my mouth, the napkin immediately qualified as relief goods. It spread like velvet on the melba slices, deceivingly light despite its buttery goodness. It also tasted like fatty liver. Because it was made from fatty liver. We humans put geese through several weeks of enforced gluttony to indulge ourselves with their tasty organs. It’s decadence in two deliberate stages of sinfulness. It’s comparable to giving cows botox to make extra-smooth leather jeans. It’s like teaching a donkey English just to have a companion to admire ‘Caligula’ with. Ingesting foie gras felt like restoring original sin through the stomach lining.


“Totally worth going to bird purgatory for.”

Fresh from our heinous violation of the avian species, our main dishes arrived. Joanne’s Beef Bourguignon (i.e. Boeuf à la Bourguignonne or Beef Burgundy) came served with macaroni noodles that were a bit on the soupy side. Being a traditional slow-cooked beef stew for peasants, it looked and felt like comfort food.


Which meant that it looked good in the dark.

In the early days, slow cooking was the only means to render the tough, sinewy beef parts soft enough for human consumption. The ideal result, of course, would be a flavorful pot of fork-tender cuts, daubed with gelatinous tendon, and steeped in a kind of treacly gravy. Such was the alchemy of soft cooking – it was a workaround that could elevate a humble peasant dish into haute cuisine.

My main course, Duck Confit (i.e. Confit de Canard), continued on the theme of bird terrorism. The menu entry had it translated as ‘Preserved Duck Leg’ – I never saw confit that way. It sounded as if it came out of a pickle jar. Was it mummified?

In the days before refrigeration, apparently, one cured fatty cuts of meat in spices and salt (itself a preservative), and poached them slowly until the fat was rendered. Bacteria couldn’t naturally thrive in dense fat, and thus was the magic of confit: it was meat preserved in its own tasty fat.


I may have also just described Meat Loaf’s latest album. [you’re awesome, Mr. Loaf!]

My duck-leg confit was served with small potatoes that were themselves roasted in golden duck fat – because why not?


Who wouldn’t want an extra infusion of that awesome molten lard?

Our meal amounted to €34.80 – it’s hardly cheap by our standards, but it was pretty reasonable for a satisfying Parisian meal. Having only the €5.20 change available after paying, I told Joanne that we should just leave the five euro note as a tip. She turned hostile.

“It’s too big,” said the beard, hostilely.

“But it’s the smallest bill we have. I’m not going to leave twenty cents.”

“Then let’s not leave anything. Five euros is two-fifty pesos… that’s already a meal.”

“Or let’s have this thing broken into smaller denominations… wait, isn’t five the smallest note for euros?”

“Yeah.”

“Then €5 is the minimum. We can’t leave coins for tips… that’s like reward candy.”

“It says on Google that the only French tip is a manicure.”

“You don’t know even what that means. Do you even do manicures?”

“It also says here that there’s a mandatory 15% service charge. We’re good.”

“We should tip. They’ll think we’re cheap Asians.”

“What you talking about? We ARE cheap Asians!”

“No, we’re not.”

“Yes, we are. We’ve been cheap Asians since that con took our money this morning.”

“Oh, yeah. You’re right. I’ll just change my accent. They shouldn’t know where we’re from.”

“Let’s just go. They won’t think we’re THAT cheap… it’s not like we celebrate our anniversary by going to – I don’t know – a cemetery or something, anyway, do we?”


“Of course not! Hmm… is today our anniversary?”

 

If you want the funerary CONTINUATION, please click here.

If you missed what happened immediately before, please click this.

If you want to view the Amsterdam write-ups, please click this instead.

If you want to go through past TRAVEL pieces, please go here.

If you want to visit stuff about FOOD, please go here.

Categories: [food], [travel]

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