(Paris, FRANCE) On our third day in Paris, we rode around some more on Les Cars Rouges (getting our money's worth of the two day ticket). The overcast skies tried to rain but only managed a pitiful occasional spattering of the covered bus roof, not even enough to warrant breaking out the umbrellas. Tired of looking at monuments and hungry enough to eat a Royale with Cheese, we picked a busy brasserie known as L'Etoile Venitienne...
I have no idea what L'Etoile Venitienne means when we decide to squeeze inside for lunch (it means "Venetian Star" according to Google Translate, which I access later), but I'm up for anything. My appetite is still a tad unstable but the smells coming from the small kitchen in back are enticing, and all the other dressed-for-business folk seem to be enjoying their food. We are shown to another tiny table and given menus. I'm dying to try the menu of the day, but since I can't be sure how it'll sit, we decide to go à la carte again.
Since we know the omnipresent crusty bread will be coming, I pass on an entree (which is what they call an appetizer or salad). Instead, we order a French rosé and some sparkling mineral water. Juliet's been wanting to try the pink wine since we got to Paris and now's her chance. I don't mind it once in a while, usually with food; this vintage arrives in a unique cooling bag, which is pretty nifty. The wine tastes much like the pink wines back at home, though. No great shakes but not bad. A rosé is a rosé is a rosé... It doesn't really go very well with my meal, but at least Juliet is happy. (And if she's happy, then I'm happy.)
It seems like I'm going to be on a meat kick here in Paris, because the Onglet Boeuf (beef tournedos) is the only dish that's jumping out at me. You have to be careful when ordering beef or certain other meats, according to Rick Steves. If you order "medium" it'll come out rarer than you're used to, if you're American. For me, that's perfect. I order my medallions medium and they have just the right amount of pink for me inside. The beef is tender, easily cut with a serrated butter knife, and topped with still-crunchy stewed onions and tomatoes. Now I see why they call it the Venetian Star! This combination of beef, onions, and tomatoes screams Italian. The chunky steak-cut fries sop up the sauce and I unwisely try to finish all the potatoes. Too much good stuff!
While Juliet soldiers on with dessert (another apple tart), I must sit back and relax with a Grand Café (essentially a double shot of espresso), hoping somehow it will soothe the food on its journey.
The fun part is watching all the other people, as more and more diners drift in during their lunch break to completely fill the place. Skinny ladies in suits wolf down course after course of gigantic seafood salads and desserts without batting an eyelash. Hyperactive executives chow down on L'Entrée, Le Plat Principal, and Le Dessert while washing it down with glasses of wine, taking hours to complete their meal. I love this country!
We are pleasantly surprised to discover the charming brasserie across from our hotel is finally open after being closed all weekend. (We later discover this neighborhood is comprised of embassies and traveling diplomats, explaining why the weekend was so quiet.) I'm blurry-eyed from last night's indulgences. Our waiter quickly runs through the daily specials in French and I decipher one fish and one beef dish. I've eaten more red meat in two days than I usually do in two weeks, so I decide to go for the supreme de poulet listed on the regular menu.
Culinary History 101: The airlines needed a way to serve chicken back in the day when everyone got a meal on real china. They decided to supreme the breast, but leave the "drummie" portion of the wing with the bone in so it could be picked up and eaten easily. I think that bit of history makes the name a bit more palatable. The French are on to something. Supreme de poulet sounds much nicer than "airline chicken". Maybe it's the jet lag or sleeping in late (the first thing that hits my stomach today is a chilled glass of French rosé), but I begin to ponder how airline chicken is making a comeback in the US and how strongly I believe we should call it supreme de poulet. There is absolutely nothing appetizing about the word "airline" and the name stigmatizes the dish. (At this point in my diatribe, Jeremy looks slightly bored, but clearly I need to drink a glass of French rosé every morning, because my synapses are firing on all cylinders this morning.)
My lunch is not the most photogenic when it arrives. The chicken has been baked and the skin is flabby and colorless. (I'm a roast chicken, snappy skin, caramelization kind of girl.) That said, this becomes one of the best lunches I have ever had anywhere. Once I pull off the pale, grey slab of skin, I find the chicken is incredibly moist, tasty and nothing about it speaks "airline". There are two boiled potato halves and a mound of haricot verts along with a pile of fresh salad greens on the plate. Our waiter has given me a crock of Dijon mustard and I quickly discover that a forkful of chicken, potato and haricot verts with the tiniest dab of mustard is truly amazing. Contrasted by the green salad with a mild dressing (the French prefer less vinegar in their vinaigrette), this is delightful. Simple but just delicious. Clearly the rosé doesn't hurt either.
I finish lunch with a grand creme (the French equivalent of a latte) and a tarte tartin. The tarte is better than last night's. It's thinner with sturdier slices of apples and topped with a dollop of creme fraiche. The coffee helps bring me back to earth from my rosé trip and I am ready for a day of sight seeing.
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