I just want to start by saying that I like how Paris brasseries, bistros, restaurants – whatever – do business. Almost all of them have the idea of a special plat or formule. It usually amounts to a list of 5 or 6 entrées (appetizers, not the main course…), 5 or 6 plats (the main course), and 3 or 4 (or more!) desserts. And to top it off, the usual formule says do 1 entrée + 1 plat or 1 plat + 1 dessert. Nice. Simple. Drinks are of course additional. And then there is often a formule for entrée + plat + dessert. Basically, the formule is a fixed price with all the items varying. And they still have more items that can be done à la carte.
Second, as I mentioned on facebook, the Kir needs to be added to our American repertoire. Most good establishments know what one is in the US. But they don’t keep the necessary ingredient(s) on stock, or can’t find them at a reasonable price if they could. And so you are often out of luck. In France, it is a staple. Often, it is a free “starter”, a Kir Bienvenue, added to the beginning of the aforementioned formule.
I spent almost the entire day at Le Louvre, with only an hour(?) for lunch and another hour(?) window shopping nearby. And of course when I wasn’t at Le Louvre, that’s when it started to rain. I started with sculptures and the pre-Classic areas that were open. I then moved onto some of the Egyptian collection. After that, and before lunch, I covered the French painters. Coming back from lunch, I finished the stuff from the Netherlands, Flanders and Holland. That left me back at an area of sculptures I had missed, so I walked through that before heading to the entire opposite side where the Italian painters are. But before getting there, ran into the Classical and Roman zones, and then more Egyptian art. So a full day. And my feet are very sore.
You might be interested, as my wife will be, in what I ate today. I of course started the day with a simple café. And at €1 (and right across the street from my hotel), I’ll be going back tomorrow. For lunch I had Beouf Borguignon, and it was excellent. I’ve always been the one cooking it – I’ve never had someone else cook it. I of course did the formule with dessert (and a free Kir) and the dessert I chose was the coupe de glace. Turned out to be fraise, pistache, and pumpkin (I think). Still water I ordered not knowing it was still actually turned out great. After walking Le Louvre I hadn’t realized how parched I was. 75cl of Evian disappeared quickly. Only thing bad I can say is that service was terrible. Had I been intending to give a tip (which some suggest means “to insure promptness”), it wasn’t happening.
Dinner was equally good. I started with a Kir and 50cl of San Pelligrino. The meal was a confit of pork (excellent) with fried potatoes (delightful) and a rather plain salad (not my cup of tea normally, but good). I then followed with an apple tart and a coffee (espresso). I thought I was done, and the owner asked over the bar if I’d like to follow with some Armagnac. I said no, and he looked at me puzzled. But the waitress brought me my addition (I learned a word today! Yay!*) and I paid. Once I realized how little my meal had cost – much less than I thought it was going to be and no mistakes in the calculation so far as I could see – I thought, sure, I can cap the meal with a small glass of Armagnac. Um, the smell was heavenly, to be honest – as was the flavor. And then, I found out that it was free! Not sure why. I don’t think it was part of the formule. But I’m glad I didn’t pass up on that opportunity.
The waitress at dinner was oh, so helpful. She didn’t really speak much English, and my French wasn’t cutting it with her most of the time. But we worked through it. One thing that complicated matters was body position. Every time she came over to me, she got within 6 inches of my face. She would quickly ask a question in French and wait for my response. At this point, with her right in my face, all my words drained from my brain. Not just the French ones – the English ones too. That’s just the kind of thing you begin to notice, cultural differences; differences of habit, comfortability or expectation.
Anyway, I got to see a lot of great art. I was bummed when my camera died (batteries, including and two set of spares!) during the Italian painters. Luckily, that was only about twenty minutes before things were shutting down, and I was nearing my limit anyway. The last picture I got was of the Mona Lisa, and the auto-focus was beginning to fail because of the lack of power 😦 C’est la vie. In any case, her is a sampling of what I did get:
I would have liked to have a shot of Napoleon sur le Champ de Bastille d’Eylau (Gros), or La Grande Odalisque (Jad Ingres). Pierre Narcisse Guérin had two paintings that stuck out to me (Le Retour de Marcus Sextus au VII and L’Aurore et Céphale) because they had such stark differences in outlook and feel. And I’d love to have a shot of Luca Signorelli’s Saint Jerome Pénitent en Extase – just to find out what in the world is going on with the horizontal, mid air cross with Jesus attached to it. “It’s a bird, it’s a plain…no it’s Jesus on the cross,” sounds iffy to me.
* I also learned the word for scarf: écharpe. I think I knew that one deep down somewhere, but had forgotten.