all the pleasure and none of the pain

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The other night I had dinner another neighbourhood restaurant called La Boulangerie (15 r des Panoyaux, 75020). I take it the site was an old bakery, though there's nothing that remains of the original. The floor is rather a quaint rustic french pattern, though hardly the thing one associates with bakeries.

Anyways, we had decided to go there out of Kim's suggestion. She has the most bizarre sense of food I've come across in awhile. On one hand, she swears by kaiseki, only the best bread and rather good scotch, on the other, she's dipping surimi (fake crabmeat) into cheap chinese hot sauce and mayonnaise. Rather reminds me of myself, except that I make no claims to being a gourmet... only gourmande.

Kim's suggestion, though, is a good one. We start with a nice bottle of white (I never remember what I drink because I have no head for Chateaux, dates and whatnots) and pondered the menu. I picked Utah oysters in a beet and horseradish aspic as a starter, Kim seconds the notion, Benoit picks some kind of effiloché (tangle) of fish and potatoes, Leo picks the velouté de l'étrilles (cream of velvet swimming crabs). My oysters are pretty darn happening, though quite standard as far as that kind of thing in a high-class restaurant goes. Benoit's fish is lovely, but it's Leo's soup that skins our teeth. It has that kind of pure essence of sweetness hidden beneath barbed shelled vermin one needs to have in a crab soup. But it also has something more. The sweetness of a crab is lightly mixed with something strangely green in taste which evokes the sea. It is a subtle humming from the past Sirens, and it has us in gushes, oohs and awws.

Aside: Apparently Sirens would drown themselves if they let a boat pass without successfully seducing them. Crabs, as you might know, are necrophiliacs. Which would mean they'd be pretty happy if those Siren things chucked themselves into the water... maybe we were eating crabs that had eaten Sirens... in which case, we'd still be us. But, enough with that crock. On with the show!

Afterwards I settled for a roast duck with honeyed spice bread and salsify. There was a nub of very unattractive yellowing broccoli on my plate which I managed to eat first thing. Definitely points off for letting such aged folk crawl around haphazardly. I'll eat aging broccoli in the comfort of my own home far from prying eyes, the same way I can eat Chef Boyardi when nobody's around to testify. Anyways... that duck was pretty darn good but it was the salsify that made me happy, which, when you think about, speaks a lot for the mediocrity of that duck.

Benoit had the most atrocious and ostentatious dish on the menu, a brazenly enormous chunk of pork gratineed with parmesan and served with some kind of risotto and sauced with parmesan!!! Horrific on paper, tasty on the plate. Only he could have ordered it. Anything with meat and cheese and the man hops down the aisles in ecstasy. It was a little unconvincing, though, when he winked a little too saucily at the girls while downing his heart attack special.

At this point I'm pretty liquored up already. We're into our fourth bottle of something else... I push myself into picking a dessert and such is my state of satedness that I don't even bother to touch anyone else's plate. In truth that's a bit of a lie because if I didn't taste anyone else's plate it was because my dessert was the best of all. I had a minute du chocolat served with lavender sorbet sided with some pickled orange peel. Hah! You can guess what it tastes like. I just know I pushed out my belly quite unselfconsciously for the rest of the evening and rolled my eyes around like a cartoon raven after it gets knocked out.

To properly end this kind of tale, something bad must happen. People always like the epitaph to be either winning, after a losing tale, or losing, after a winning tale. In this case, I'll just tell you that moving between metro lines the other day, I noticed a man at the head of the stairs, looking down rather curiously at a woman midway. He seemed concerned. The woman, herself, was clothed in an expensive black wool coat, almost to her ankles. Her whole body was hunched towards the wall so I was unable to see her face. Halfway down I heard the unmistakable sound of someone retching violently, and, before the smell could reach my nose, I ran fast and far away.

That should help everyone with their diet.