Paris lunch, day 2

While I arrived here Saturday afternoon, the full-scale lunching didn’t begin until I recovered on Monday. The plan, which I’ve worked out over the years, is to have walking/sightseeing activities in the morning, a big slap-up lunch at 12:30 or so, and then either a nap or light afternoon activities. There’s only coffee for breakfast and no dinner; ergo, I can eat a lot but not gain weight. The walking also helps: yesterday there must have been four hours on the hoof.

For lunch yesterday I returned to one of the first places I ate in Paris—when I moved here in the fall of 1989 for a six-month sabbatical. I lived in a tiny garret apartment on the Rue Jacob in the 6th Arrondissement: the literary area of the Left Bank.

Although I worked way out in the suburbs, nothing was going to stop me from living in the center of Paris. Every day I commuted an hour each way to the CNRS evolutionary biology labs in the suburb of Gif-sur-Yvette; but I didn’t mind the long commute (the only time in my life I haven’t walked or biked to work) because I was living in Paris!

The food here is, of course, a revelation to nearly all Americans, and as I learned about the restaurant culture and how to eat, I worked my way up from cheap student dives to fancier bistros and restaurants (I conserved funds by having a quotidian dinner at home of salad, a baguette, and France’s fantastic cheese). But our go-to restaurant in the neighborhood was La Lozère, a humble but wonderful bistro specializing in the hearty food of the Lozére, a department in southern France.

I hadn’t eaten there since I left Paris in the summer of 1990, but looked it up to discover it wasn’t only still going, but also had really good reviews. And so to lunch again—28 years later. But first, a brisk three-hour walk through the Marais, an old and colorful area of town.

One of the few medieval half-timbered buildings left in Paris:

Below is the Agoudas Hakehilos synagogue in the Marais, the only Art Nouveau synagogue I know of. Completed in 1914, it was designed and built by Hector Guimard, who also designed the fabulous Art Nouveau Metro signs that you can still see in Paris (e.g., here). The Germans dynamited it and six other synagogues in 1941, but it was restored.

Security at the synagogue is very high, as I learned when I watched someone with an appointment try to get in (sadly, there was no chance of me going inside, though I’d love to see the interior). This is, of course, because of the terrorist attacks on Jews in Paris.

A 17th century carving of a winemaker on a building across the Seine, just one of the many  uncelebrated sculptures you can see if you keep your eyes peeled while walking around the city.

Some of the shops have retained their old and colorful business signs. This store once sold cooked vegetables, but now purveys confectionary from Provence. The Parisians are rightfully proud of their history.

Crossing from the Marais to the Left Bank and the Quai de la Tournelle, you get a great view of Notre Dame, with all the buttresses flying:

Here is La Lozère, exactly as it was three decades ago. It’s near the Place St. Michel: one of the few decent bistros in the area. (Allard is also near, but pricier, and I’ve not eaten there.) And, I found, it’s still very good.

The cozy interior. I reserved for noon, half an hour earlier than usual, and by 12:30 the place was full of diners who had reservations. Lots of others without reservations tried to get in, but were turned away. And everyone inside (except two of us) were French. Wine at lunch is de rigueur, though I don’t know how French workers can be productive after a bibulous lunch.

Appetizers: Charcuterie from the Lozére and foie gras sauteed with pears (note: anyone wishing to comment adversely on my choice of food should immediately leave this site). The wine is an inexpensive specimen from the region, a Côtes du Roussillon. (I never drink fancy or pricey wines in Paris.)

One difference from when I ate here in 1989-1990: back then, the charcuterie was a huge basket of whole sausages and a knife; you’d cut your own portions—as much as you wanted. But you still get cornichons (small gherkins) and butter to go with the excellent bread (which you do cut yourself from a big half loaf).

Lamb chops. The only misstep in the meal was that they were overcooked: they should be pink in the middle. Shredded squash and potatoes are on the side.

Duck breast (god help me). This was properly cooked: rosé, as a good magret de canard should be. But I am doubly damned, for this was not only duck, but it was cooked with HONEY. Honey! Potatoes and squash are on the side here, too:

The desserts were superb: a flaky apple tart with puff pastry, whipped cream, and dark honey, and a fantastic chestnut cake with a chocolate center and vanilla cream on the side. It’s chestnut season, and today I bought myself a special treat: marrons glacés, or candied chesnuts, which I adore.

I’d never had chestnut cake before, nor do I know how it’s made, but it was wonderful, with a heavy flavor of chestnut that melded perfectly with the coeur chocolat.

19 Comments

  1. BJ
    Posted November 7, 2018 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Jerry, these posts will be an enormous help to me when I take a trip to Paris so day in the next couple of years. I’m going to use all these posts to figure out which bistros to try, and this one will be at the top of my list!

    Thanks again for sharing these. I love your travel posts.

  2. Michael Day
    Posted November 7, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    That picture of the charcuterie just makes me swoon. I could eat a plate like that every day and not get tired of it.

  3. Kieran
    Posted November 7, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Roussillon is waving a flag in my head for some reason, all I can think of is ocher and it being like the set of the original star trek.
    I spent a lot of time in that region of France as a child, trying to remember the different places we visited can be hard.

  4. Joe Dickinson
    Posted November 7, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Our best ever Paris trip: in April, 2005, we rented a houseboat for a week moored just upstream from where you photographed Notre Dame. We basically looked under that bridge for that view.

    • Posted November 7, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Ooh, I’m writin’ this shit down! Good idea! 🙂

  5. Posted November 7, 2018 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Jerry! Wonderful. I love the composition of your Seine & Notre Dame de Paris photo, well done!

    Our schedule is similar in Paris: Pound the streets and see the sights in the morning when it’s cooler and less crowded, then have a lunch in a random streetside cafe wherever we were (we had 100% hits this time. Yum!) and then home to rest. We generally had a very restrained picnic in the evening (wine, cheese, bread, charcuterie, fruit, pre-made salad from FranPrix, small portions) sometimes in a park; but often in the hotel room (we watched the World Cup (Vive la France!) and the Tour de France).

    I heartily agree with this: “I never drink fancy or pricey wines in Paris.”

    We were drinking Cotes du Rhone (sometimes even Vacqueyras or Gigondas) from the neighborhood Franprix, at about $5 a bottle (or less) and they were very nice.

    We even found very decent Provencal wine (rose, rouge) in small cans* that were perfect for popping in a bench in the Champs de Mars (though there were also loads of young mean selling bottles of wine from ice buckets).

    (* It was just fine. It was not fussy wine. I have first growths, 4th growths, etc. in my cellar, Chateauneuf du Pape, Barolos, etc. And surely I love them; but I also always say: It’s wise to be able to enjoy that $3 bottle of country wine too!) 🙂

  6. John Conoboy
    Posted November 7, 2018 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Have not been in Paris since 1991. We did not have a lot of money then so we rarely ate in restaurants. Still remember one place we tried and liked a lot called Le Trumilou at 84, Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville. It seems to still be there. Looks a little more upscale now then I remember. It served Provencal cuisine. I also remember there were a couple of cats roaming about who would jump up on your lap while you ate.

    • Posted November 8, 2018 at 12:56 am | Permalink

      Le Trumilou is in fact the very first place I ate in Paris. It was a cheap restaurant for students and young people then, but I haven’t been back.

  7. Steve Pollard
    Posted November 7, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    I will remember La Lozere for the next time we visit our son (he’s living in a tiny flat about 5 min walk from the Pantheon). He took us to Le Louis Vins in Rue Ste Genevieve, a pretty good French restaurant but not the cheapest. La Lozere looks like the real deal.

    We also ate at the restaurant where he is a chef, L’Entente (“Le British Brasserie”: the grammatical mistake is intentional), which is also not cheap but an unexpected success with the usually chauvinist Parisians (we were the only non-French customers on the evening we visired).

    Apologies for the plug; but the lad’s got to make a living!

  8. dabertini
    Posted November 7, 2018 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    I was also in Paris in 1989, but in the spring. I have fond memories of Parisians walking home from work snacking on baguettes. Does that still happen? How could anyone criticize your food choices? Absolutely brilliant.

  9. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted November 7, 2018 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    OK, I plan to go to France next summer, and I have listed “duck cooked with honey” on my major to-do list.

  10. George
    Posted November 7, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    PCC(e) – I hate you. When I am in Italy next March, I will send you at least ten pictures a day of what I am eating. See how you like that.

    • rickflick
      Posted November 7, 2018 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      It is said that the French learned to cook from the Italians. Let us know if you think so. 😎

      • Posted November 8, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        I think that’s true. But what is also true is that the Italians learned to cook from the French.

        (That said, I personally prefer Italian, but …)

  11. Serendipitydawg
    Posted November 7, 2018 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I can eat a lot…

    You certainly can, and I tip my hat to you because, for the most part, one of your starters would finish me for the day!

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 7, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    “on the hoof” — From the looks of the pic of yesterday’s lunch, that’s pretty close to the way you like your steak, too. :0

  13. Jon Gallant
    Posted November 7, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    My last, short sabbatical in (and south of) Paris (1999) stimulated the following report.

    “The publicists of French tourism have been holding out on us in not telling more about idyllic Gif-sur-Yvette, south of Paris, where I am staying. It is a veritable little theme-park of “France-Land:” narrow cobbled streets, a medieval chateau and church, tables on the sidewalk at the local cafe; and the picturesque inhabitants are always to be seen carrying their baguettes to and fro. Indeed, technically one is not permitted on the street in idyllic Gif without a baguette, or at least a brioche. There are Controlleurs who will send you to Devil’s Island if they catch you abroad without the requisite baked goods in hand, although I believe one can buy a certain kind of monthly ticket which, when properly validated, permits one to take one stroll per day sans baguette.

    All of the inhabitants of idyllic Gif are of the cheery, smiling, non-stressed, non-Parisian variety who always smile and say “Bonne journée” to each other and to strangers as well. There are charcuteries on every hand — if you have any hands left over, that is, from carrying your quota of baguettes and brioches. There are ducks on a meandering ruisseau in the Parc, and I was even charmed to find picturesque characters in berets playing at Boules nearby. One day, in fact, I went into the Parc and found it completely over-run by Boules-players; there were hundreds of them, jamming every square meter: on the grass, along the trails, in the soccer field, among the ducks, in the trees, all madly tossing the Boules.

    I was astounded. A giant Boules team-tournament in tiny Gif? Surely the assembled bouleurs exceeded the entire population of the town. Where did they all come from? Later, someone told me that the Departement organizes these competitions for les chomeurs, the unemployed. Too bad. I had been hoping to get into a game of Boules one day, and so learn a little about the game. But I guess being on sabbatical would be viewed as different from being en chomage, at least from an administrative point of view.”

  14. Joseph O’Sullivan
    Posted November 7, 2018 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    You were eating duck? If a signed copy of one of your books isn’t at my front door soon, Honey might somehow find out. Just sayin’…


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