It was literally and figuratively a completely delicious and satisfying weekend. It really began, like in the olden days, on Thursday night. It was Michael’s birthday and, among other drinks and bites, we celebrated with some Ruinart champagne— a heavenly potion if there ever was one.
And thankfully, Friday night’s fun at Rosa Bonheur didn’t sap me of energy for Saturday. It was a gorgeous day and I biked northwest to explore the seventeenth arrondisement. I was mad at myself for forgetting my camera as it was one of those days that was filled with beauty and inspiration, from the patisseries and chocolate shops of Rue de Levis, to the darling park where I ate my lunch of Mediterranean saveurs, to the bright, happy sunlight that made the whole city glow. Lovely.
From the 17th arrondisement, I wandered over to the eighteenth—stopping in my favorite stores on rue des Abbesses and indulging in a strawberry Coeur at Coquelicot—and then down rue des Martyrs. All of the markets, fromageries, fleurists, glaciers, boulangeries, chacuteries—every little shop was a visual delight.
But I had to show restraint.
For Saturday night, I went to a proper French dinner party. I knew I had to bring a serious appetite and be awake for French conversation. As expected, it was a rigorous and brilliant night on both the culinary and language fronts.
First, the menu. The dinner party was thrown by my partner from work and his wife, who are both really into food. They created a five-course feast for seven of us that took over five hours and several bottles to get through. It was not for the faint at heart.
Orange and white wine granité (two of those for me)
Verrine of shrimp, avocado and grapefruit
Scallop and oyster tartare
Pomegranate seeds and cucumber dusted with cinnamon
Duck with Chantilly-Roquefort cream
Figs, balsamic and foie gras crumble
Risotto with langoustines
Plateau des fromages
Five yummy cheeses. Oh. My. God. How I love cheese.
Gateau au chocolat with a mango-passionfruit-cream sauce
I don’t think I’ve eaten that much in a very long time. Everything Lionel and Sylvia did was so well thought out and so well executed. Look at that presentation for our four apéros!
The langoustines—mini lobsters—were a dramatic touch to the risotto. Damn tasty, too.
The other courses were equally wonderful and gorgeous, I just don’t have pictures of them. But you can see me ogling the plateau des fromages, ici:
I even enjoyed the crumble with foie gras (it was an internal debate: do I make an ethical stand and make an ass of myself, or do I suck it up and suck it down. I did the latter.) and the oyster tartare. I didn’t think I liked oysters, but I that apéro was actually one of my favorites of the evening.
We were all responsible for bringing a wine to go with one of the courses, so the drinks ranged from sparkling sake to Pouilly Fumé to a vin rouge to a magnum of champagne, which Lionel expertly opened and poured.
Incredibly, the conversation never waned. (Or I guess that’s not so incredible. This is France, after all.) It was well after 2 a.m. before anyone made a move to leave and of course I wasn’t going to be the ugly American who got up before anyone else. So I sat and did my nodding and smiling. But it was fun. Even though I understood only about 40% of the conversation, everyone was really nice and checked in with me, en anglais, from time to time. Best of all, by the end of the night—morning, rather; it was 2:30 when I left—I was thinking in French. I love that. Even though it’s easy to feel conspicuous and semi-retarded sitting there, unable to contribute anything intelligible, it’s such a great way to build language skills and relationships. I felt so lucky to be invited into someone’s home and to enjoy such a carefully prepared meal with such warm people. It was fun, special and absolutely delicious.