10 July 2009

Independence Day Eve-eve-eve-eve

The 4th of July came and went without so much as a notice on our part this year. Well, except for the Fillipino independence day parade that marched down our street Sunday morning, complete with little cars blaring "Anchors Away" fore and aft, and moved from the official observance day of June 12 to July 5 due to a scheduling conflict with the stadium in the Bois de Boulogne, where they have their picnic and festival. One of the things we love about Paris is the random stuff one encounters almost every day (a bunch of naked people at Trocadero protesting omnivorism, a giant karaoke gathering last week, a chamber orchestra concert outside the Louvre one evening, the michael jackson moonwalk, etc...).

Beauty queens on parade.

But Tuesday is Bastille Day, and that won't pass without significant observation, most notably a big parade on the Champs and fireworks Tuesday evening to be watched from our balcony. Karen has Mon and Tues off next week, and to get maximum bang for her holiday euro, she took today off, as well.

So we went for a bike ride in the briskly cool morning, me testing a new set of insoles to see if that helps reduce the pain in my knee when I ride (jury's still out). It's been almost early autumn-like here the last week after a week-long heat-wave, which I seem to be the only person in town enjoying.

Le Bélisaire, in a residential section of the 15e, has been on my list of restaurants for awhile and seemed well-suited to lunch. Today turned out to be a great day, since the exodus from the city started in earnest yesterday, already, and aside from just 4 other tables of 2, we were the only people in the place. Although the woman who took my reservation over the phone couldn't have been more put out to answer the phone, our waiter was charming and amiable. We had a really nice meal: an avacado tartare topped with mussels, and seared iberian pork belly on lentils as starters; steamed filet of dorade on a risotto of baby vegetables, and a pan-roasted scorpion fish on "tagine" vegetables in a saffron broth for mains; and a molten chocolate cake with raspberry sorbet, and a sablé breton with fresh berries and just enough pastry cream to hold everything together for dessert. Washed down with a chilled rosé from Languedoc, it was both a great lunch and a very good value at 20 euros apiece for all 3 courses. For the 2nd time this week (dinner Wed night with friends at Le Gorille Blanc in the 7e: mushroom terrine with garlic cream, marinated raw salmon for starters; veal stew with mushrooms and fricaseed rabbit with onions and raisins for mains; and a hazelnut créme brûlée for dessert), we'd visited someplace I'd eat again.

Around the corner from Le Bélisaire, cool frieze.

We knew we wouldn't want much dinner after that lunch, and so we took the opportunity to explore the neighborhood and check out some on-the-list food places. We bought bread (a decent baguette and an excellent walnut mini-loaf) and then stopped at Gilles Vérot, a stunning charcuterie near the 15e-7e border.

A pig-eater's paradise: the window of Gilles Vérot.

We wanted some of everything: terrines of rabbit, duck, pork, pintade, and other delectables, cured sausages of all sizes, and excellent hams free of all preservatives. But we settled for a slice of terrine of smoked chicken and asparagus in aspic, a gorgeously geometrical terrine of hure (pork tongue) with pistachios, some sliced home-made chorizo, and some slices of air-dried beef with paprika. No question we'll be back-- the fellow who helped us was really nice, and everything was stunningly beautiful.

Next stop was a cheese shop I've been wanting to visit since we got here, but have never been in the neighborhood when we needed cheese. In a city that takes cheese very seriously, Quatrehomme has a reputation for exquisite cheeses, aging every cheese themselves in their own caves and selling only what's perfectly ripe. Again, no shortage of things to try, but today we came home with all goat cheeses, including a hard cheese very much in the style of a basque sheep cheese, a soft but pungent cheese coated in herbs, and a gentle but flavorful luxurious soft cheese with the vague hint of thyme. I have no idea what any of them were called-- hopefully I'll recognize them when confronted again.

Put them all together with a beautiful Sancerre, taughtly dry but still somehow lush, and some cornichons and good green olives, and it made an exquisite no-cook meal. You can keep your Picard Surgelés: this is convenience food in France.

Dinner. Just add water.

A great start to the independence day weekend.


  1. I rather like Picard. Not everyone has daily access to a meilleur ouvrier de France and while Picard doesn't quite bring bourgeois cuisine to the proletariat you can sort of see it from there.

  2. Picard fills a need, for sure. For us, though, charcuterie is a once-a-month treat, rather than a staple of our diet. So I prefer to spend my 10 eurobucks at a meilleur ouvrier de France level shop, since it'll be hard to replicate that experience once we leave.