In the fall of 2018 and then in the summer of 2019 I had the opportunity to participate in two different French guided trips – a culinary tour of Provence and one in the waterways of the Bordeaux region.
Sitting in my house staring at the same walls every day in this time of sheltering in place and quarantine, I’m so happy that I took the opportunity to go on both of these very different experiences. RIght at this moment, I’m looking forward to revisiting both adventures in my mind.
My Provence trip was organized by Charlie Vollmar’s Epicurean Exchange. I flew into Paris and stayed a couple of days there before flying to Nice. I stayed in an Airbnb in the Ménilmontant neighborhood in the 20ème arrondissement on the right bank. While I’m not a big Airbnb fan in general, this particular listing was quite obviously someone’s regular home who travels a lot. It was very bohemian and tiny and funky, and it was hidden deep within a courtyard complex that was tucked away from the chaos of the city.
One thing that I love about Paris is the cafe culture. I love kicking back at almost any time of the day or night with wine, coffee, some sort of food. That first night I found a cafe with a huge amount of outdoor seating right off of Place Gambetta and ordered the cheese and charcuterie plate and a couple of carafes of white wine. It had been a long day of traveling and while it’s always humbling to try to order en Francais and have the server respond immediately in English, I luxuriated in the night air eating and drinking on the streets of Paris. Ah, a quintessential Paris moment.
The following day I went to lunch at La Table d’Eugène, a Michelin-starred restaurant with a steal of a lunch menu. Of course I upgraded on everything so I paid about 3 times what I thought I would, but it was well worth it. I didn’t photograph anything inside because it was a tiny restaurant and I was already the focus of Parisian scrutiny because I was a solo American diner. I remember it being a multi-course meal with wine pairings and the dishes were unusual and playful but beautifully executed. I wish I could remember more of it, but that’s what makes special occasion meals ephemeral and special. According to my only Instagram post regarding that lunch (of the exterior), the dessert involved morels, which tracks with my overall recollection of the food there.
The other outstanding meal I had in Paris was when I was passing through on the way home from my trip, at La Fine Mousse, a beer-focused restaurant with a separate beer bar across the way. I had a 7-course meal with beer pairings, which included a cheese course and two dessert courses. I love the way this country eats.
Stay tuned for my next entry: Paris (the terrible.) It covers my experience after my (awesome) barge trip last summer.