Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sunday, June 4th: Ellsworth, Louis Vuitton, Breizh, Pas de Loup

I'd heard the restaurant Verjus was very good but it wasn't open on Sunday. It did however have a sister restaurant called Ellsworth, which also received great reviews and was rather difficult to get into. Ellsworth was supposed to send me a code to my cell phone, which I would then read and email it back to them confirming my reservation. No code appeared. I emailed them asking if my reservation was still good. I was assured that it was, even code-less. I gave myself a long time to walk to the restaurant, though it looked close on the map. I'd paid a small fortune for a travel package for my phone that was supposed to let me roam at will. Didn't work. I had to ask many people for directions. Finally found Ellsworth, which was right across from a statue of Moliere. His house was near by. Pleasant bit of synchronicity, we can thank Moliere for the founding of the Firesign Theatre. It was a Moliere play Phil Proctor was performing in New York that traveled to LA, bringing Proc along in 1966. Once in LA, he discovered his Yale playwright friend Peter Bergman was the town's great radio star. Getting together on Pete's radio show, the Firesign Theatre was born. Now did all this mean I'd get good food? My server was delightful and unintentionally hilarious. On the list of mocktails, there was one called Clovis. I asked if it was a mocktail made from cloves and she assured me it was. I ordered a dish of peas (again), asparagus, fava beans, spinach and Parmesan cheese as an appy, 


and smoked trout (From Banta!) with scrambled eggs as a main. My server than came back and apologized, saying Clovis was a person, not actual cloves. I went with a grenadine soda, which was a bit sweet but went fine with the food.. Ellsworth buzzed with young female energy. Maybe the “Elle” in Ellsworth is related to that. The collection of green vegies is very refreshing and balanced, no single veg dominates. I can make this. The grenadine soda pleases the eye as well as the palate. Combined with the vegies, it nudges the overall flavour into a kind of savoury pastry, something yesterday's sorry quiche should at least have aspired to. The scrambled eggs, smoked trout (From Banta!), creme fraiche and herbs appears. The herb turns out to be dill. Dill is a kind of Ukrainian lemon; it improves whatever it touches. I think this would have worked better with a harder egg product; an omelet perhaps or a frittata. Its sogginess works against the other ingredients, excellent as they are by themselves. Thanks, Banta. Mushiness is not their friend, particularly after the delightful crispiness of the previous dish. After the meal, I tell my server to ask her bar tender to come up with a real clove mocktail and depart, forgetting my copy of the New Yorker I was reading while awaiting my food. I would miss it in adventures to come.
The main thing I wanted to see in Paris was Frank Gehry's Fondation Louis Vuitton Building. It was out of town, in the Bois de Boulogne, in a large park called the Jardin d'Acclimation. When, after a long metro ride and another long walk, the Fondation comes into view, I tear up, as I always do in the presence of great beauty. Just looking at it from the outside is enough. It looks like a giant UFO has landed in Paris, bringing harmony to the planet. 

Though nowhere near as overpowering as the outside, inside the building is somewhat interesting as well. On exhibition is Art/Afrique, Le nouvel atelier, a collection or works by various African artists. Some of the paintings are quite subversive, reminding me of some of the profoundly political and sarcastic First Nations works I've seen in Vancouver; cartoony in a good way. There are some futuristic toy cities that my 5-year-old grandson would enjoy.

 And speaking of young children, all around the Jardin are multitudes of them, with their attendant adults. It is after all, Sunday. Young children chirping their not-quite French phonemes reminds me of young birds still learning the songs of their species. It is very affecting. Maybe I notice the kids so intensely because I first came to Paris with my then 22-month-old daughter 37 years ago.
I have wanted to eat a crepe and drink a cidre at Breizh (the Breton word for what we call Brittany) Cafe since I heard of the place a few months ago, when I began researching what to eat in Paris. Time calls it one of the 10 things every visitor to Paris must do. And the crepes come with assorted Japanese-inflected ingredients. Yuzu perhaps? Shiso certainly. The reviews cite sea weed, which I can do without. Still, my attempts at phoning the place from Vancouver and Charles De Gaul being unsuccessful, I decide to go the place in mid-afternoon and try and get in. There is of course, a line-up. Half an hour I stand in the hot sun. That New Yorker would have come in handy. Then I am in. Will the crepes be worth the hype? I order the ham and cheese crepe. There is a long list of cidres from Brittany. Unfortunately, the list is in French. There are 2 Japanese waitresses, one young and perky, the other older and sullen. The sullen one approaches and brusquely asks which cidre I want, as if I could read the menu. You want sweet or dry, she sneers. I choose dry. The perky one then shows up with a bottle of Cidre Bouche, Jean-Pierre Semery Artisan Cidrier. Les Courtils de Montchevron Brut 5%. It pairs wondrously with the immense buckwheat crepe, or galette as the they call them in Brittany. It's 3:30 and Pas de Loup, the bar I want to go to later, doesn't open til 6. I eat my crepe and savour my cidre very slowly.

Having luxuriated in some of the best cocktails in both Vancouver and Vegas (among other cities), I wanted to do the same thing in Paris. Pas de Loup's bartender, a woman from Minnesota named Amanda Boucher, was described as the city's most creative mixologist. My cousin won the award as the World's Most Imaginative Bartender a few years ago so they may have something in common. My palate craves imagination. I get to PDL and ask for Amanda. Alas, she is no longer at the bar. When it is discovered that I'm from Vancouver, my friendly chef Lori from Austin tells me that Amanda's partner was from Vancouver, but both women have moved on. Still, the Amanda-less bar makes fine cocktails. I have one called New Moon aka Free Melania (yes, that Melania) made with Mezan Jamaica XO, velvet falernum, Dame de Piques and Vielli en Fut. The mixologist shows me what those ingredients are. It is a tasty concoction indeed. Later, I have the appropriate The Boy Who Cried Wolf : Sirop de pomme, houblonne, jus de citron and jaune tonic. Also excellent. I also have a mocktail resembling lemonade and when I ask the mixologist to make up something original and I tell her I love fruity Tiki drinks, she comes up with something whose ingredients she won't reveal but one of them is mint, in copious quantities. The Tiki Gods would approve.

 I'm too full from my massive galette to try any of PDL's food. The critics rave about it's pyrogies made from cauliflower. Now that I'd like to eat. My Ukrainian grandma would probably approve, and she's been dead for 35 years. Lori tells me it isn't cauliflower season and she's making them now with green onions, not one of my 10,000 or so favourite foods. I am not tempted. PDL, whatever the quality of its food, is a profoundly friendly space. It fills up quickly as I sit there. Finally it's time for me to leave. Lori tells me Overkampf metro station is near by. It appears so on my phone's map. But I can't find it. I see the Bataclan. I see other stations. I ask and ask and ask, but get no nearer. My expensive travel package is useless. Finally, 3 young ladies tell me it doesn't matter which subway I take, they're all connected and I'll get back to my destination St. Michel on Line 4 from anywhere. Great advice. I return to my picturesque garret. Tomorrow, the achievement of my long quest.

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