Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Paris Dispatches: New Year's Eve

Maybe I am a pessimist, but New Year's Eve is always a let down. In fact, I may have given you very clear instructions a few months ago about why you should avoid restaurants at all costs on December 31st. Obviously, I should listen to myself.

To start, it was New Year's Eve in Paris, which we were incredibly fortunate to experience. That day Lindsay and I wondered throughout the Left Bank. We purchased a few books from Shakespeare & Co. We ate ice cold oysters that tasted as if you got saltwater in your nose at the beach when a wave crashed over you. Those oysters were simply fantastic, especially with a bottle of Muscadet, salted butter, and mignonette sauce.  We stopped at Le Baron Rouge for more oysters and white wine before stocking up on supplies to make beef bourguignon on New Year's Day.

It was a day that makes you want to move to Paris immediately.

Then we went to dinner. La Ferme Saint-Simon was recommended to Lindsay's mother by the apartment rental agency as a "charming bistro where one can eat some wonderful French food and sip wine within a stone's throw of the Eiffel Tour."

Let's start with the amuse. What arrived was a cocktail glass with a beige colored mousse of chicken liver the texture and temperature of which resembled a cold pudding served to inmates. On top of this sat a piece of chocolate, which when you bit into it gushed forth more of the chicken liver. At this point the champagne had just started to re-kick in so we all figured, "Let's just keep quiet for now."

Then came an insult to heavy eating ducks and truffle hunters everywhere. This terrine of foie gras with a truffled center caused an audible gasp at the table. The foie had not been emulsified properly and was chewy. The large sphere of foie had the effect of dominating some bites, while being absent in the majority of them. The small scoop of apricot jelly did not go nearly far enough to soothe the fattiness and richness of the foie gras. This was overkill.

What came out next was even more baffling. It looked like a prawn had transformed into a spaceship and was hurtling Klingons towards a gate in the Fifth Element. Don't believe me? Look for yourself.

That is allegedly a prawn stuffed with seafood and scallops on top of a carpaccio of scallops with a cinnamon tuile. Trying to use a knife and fork to dissect this creature proved useless. "OK, how do you eat this thing?" asked Lindsay's brother. We all took different tacts. Lindsay upended the Prawnlenuim Falcon and focused on the scallop carpaccio. I tried to remove the stuffing, which smelled like old socks, and focus on the sweet meat of the prawn. Lindsay's brother just ate the tuile. Her dad mostly attacked it like it was a mess of unruly weeds. Lindsay's mom had the best approach and just ignored it and drank more Champagne.

At this point, I was reminded of reading Virgil in Latin III and his epic line, "Someday you will look back and laugh at all of this."

Then came a dessert so heinous and offensive, it is amazing the French haven't striked over it. A green dome surrounded by pastel colored macaroons, a spun sugar crown fit for an alien princess, a globe of olive colored ice cream and a smear baby shit green. But trust me on this, it tasted much worse than it looked. If the flavor inspiration for the dish was rotting seaweed on the beach at low tide, the chef hit it out of the park.

After dinner we wandered over to the Eiffel Tour expecting at least fireworks. We found instead crowds, cheap bottles of sugary sparkling wine, and a father-son team of bagpipers. All in all it was a New Year's Eve none of us could ever forget. And isn't that the point?

1 comment:

Awren said...

Well christ.

Memorable, but god awful by the looks and sounds of it.

And, Rene, they have the classic restaurant pitfall: the parsley plating (two of the three pictures has parsley plated as a garnish...eek).