Monday, November 1, 2010

Binge and remorse

It was a wonderfully indulgent weekend. Until the indulgence didn’t feel so wonderful any more.

It started Thursday night at Chacha—a farewell party for my creative director who’s heading back to the states. Sidecars turned into champagne turned into bottles of beer, as 9 pm turned into midnight, which turned into 3am, with Jo and I limping down the quiet streets behind Les Halles.

No regrets. It’s not often I go dancing anymore and I love the way it makes me feel. The problem, of course, is I didn’t feel so good waking up a few hours later at 8:30. But I took a hot shower, had some coffee and set out for the Salon du Chocolat—miam!

Chocolate for breakfast, I know better, it’s not a good idea. But when everyone is shoving squares of dark chocolate tablettes in your face, offering freshly rolled truffles, passing out sweet and warm pastry bits, well, tell me, how does one say non? (Easy: you don’t.) It was all I could do to tear myself away after two hours of trolling the convention center. I knew I’d be in real trouble if I kept circling and accepting the free samples so I left with just a couple small chocolate bits in my pocket.

Plus, I had dinner plans with Michael that night. At A la Biche au Bois. I had read the recent write-up on David Lebovitz’s blog and was ecstatic to hear they reputedly had the best coq au vin in the city. Maybe the best frites too. I’ve had my share of fries in Paris, but I still hadn’t had coq au vin so I was very excited for a good dinner. As well I should have been.

A la Biche au Bois is old-school, hearty French cooking with plenty of game on the menu. There’s nothing chic or trendy about it, but that doesn’t stop the crowds from pouring in. We decided that I would order the coq au vin, Michael would get le formule, and we would split his extra courses. Thank goodness. We couldn’t imagine both eating four full courses. But maybe I could have. It was one of those meals that was so insanely delicious, and exactly what I was hoping it would be, that I couldn’t stop eating what was in front of me.

We started with oeufs mayonnaise – deviled eggs, essentially, atop salad with a tangy vinaigrette. Perfect. Then came my coq au vin. Okay, disclaimer: there were bits of bacon in the cocotte. I don’t eat red meat, but I wasn’t not eating this heavenly dish. Because it was. Heavenly. The meat was so tender and smoky and hearty, and when the frites soaked up the heavy sauce, it was even more heavenly.

Now, at about this point, a woman over Michael’s left shoulder had a seizure or some sort of medical emergency where she went unconscious and started vomiting. Liquid was coming out of her nose. It was terrifying and horrifying and not one bit appetizing. But after a panicked pause, and once the staff and her family seemed to have things under control, we got back to eating. Which made me feel simultaneously disgusting and revolted but I couldn’t stop. It was too good.

The cheese course came next. By then, we were pretty stuffed—the portions were generous and we put the food away—so we only sampled a couple slivers, while still gushing about how great our meal was. And instead of dessert, we digested with Armagnac. Then the woman got sick again. This time, she was conscious. She was horrified and I felt horrible for her. But, selfishly, I was also sad for me that this incredible meal was a bit tainted by those images that still haven’t left my head. The proprietor of the restaurant gave us another round of Armagnac.

Three hours later, back in the street, we were lured inside Le China, a fabulously designed bar-restaurant that Michael knew about. So cool was it, that we went down to the basement bar, where it was burlesque night and all kinds of interestingly costumed Frenchies were flitting about that. Despite my fatigue and food coma, despite it being 1 am, we had one last drink.

2am, I fell into bed only to be up again at 8:30. For I had to get the croissants. Saturday morning was the third American Smackdown in Paris: the croissant edition.

Mon dieu.

Eight friends came over for coffee and croissants from three different boulangeries. We had to sample them in the name of research and discovery. And Carol brought her own loot from her Salon du Chocolat visit—several varieties of spreads ranging from caramel to chocolate-orange to my favorite, praliné. Plus, Jo brought jams and Kasia brought berries and I was quite ready to explode by 1pm.

But I couldn’t stop. I had two coffee dates in the afternoon. Luckily, I had the sense to skip the chocolat chaud at Les Deux Magots and have tea with Karin instead. And, my second date cancelled at the last minute, so I limped back home, relieved, my food marathon ostensibly over. (Except for a few bonbons I had left over from the Salon du Chocolat.)

Sunday was spent recovering and repenting. My belly was bloated as brioche and my eyes were as puffy at as the croissants from Monoprix. I dragged my ass across town on a Velib, trying to undo some of the damage. But then I just zonked out on the couch the rest of the day. The damage was done.

It will probably take me four or five days to recover from the 48 hours of gluttony. And the sad-slash-scary thing is, I would probably do it all over again.


  1. Amy, you *should* just do it all over again. The French Fries may have nipped most of my dancing days in the bud, but oh, the memories.
    (Trust me, food/drink comas are even less fun when you have to get up at 6 am to fix toast and Nutella.)

    La Mom
    An American Mom in Paris

  2. Oh yes, please, Do It Again !
    What is the point of being in Paris if you are not going to over indulge in chocolates and croissants and bonbons ?? My god, imagine being somewhere else and wishing you had just had one more pain du chocolate ! Or dreaming of that time you had an entire weekend of goodies, now that you are living somewhere ( like Argentina) where they just haven't got some things perfected yet ...
    Do it again and remember to tell us all about it.
    Although I , personally, can do without any more visuals of diners getting sick ...
    Merci, gracias, besos..

  3. Adding my voice to the voices of encouragement AND approval. Please do it again...went to Sweet Freak and saw the Smackdown posting there.

    Of course you must do it are living in Paris after all...gourmet city - it is expected.

  4. Please, please, do it again! For the love of Paris (and research). I just spent Sunday "recovering" from too much wine the night before with greasy pizza and boxed cake mix cupcakes. At least you can feel decadent with memories of coq au vin, truffles, and croissants... where I, on the other hand, just feel gross:)

  5. You guys are great - thanks for the support. But you probably shouldn't encourage me. :) xo

  6. I love Paris because I always enjoy my three favorite food groups:
    Fromage, Chocolat, & Champagne!


  7. oh la, chacha me manques. believe it or not, am envious of your limping home! Your smackdowns sound amazing, I wish I were still in Pareee!

  8. OH MY GOODNESS, girl!! I had no idea!!!! A thousand kudos to you for doing all that and *still* meeting up with me!

    But you know, you only live once, so you might as well live it up 'til you can't live it down. ;-) I'm proud of you for engaging in such a hedonistic marathon. And wow. I hope that lady in the restaurant is okay! That sounds gross, awful, and nerve-wracking to have been through! But I am glad the dining was so good that you could carry on! LOL. Gotta hand it to French cuisine. If it had been Taco Bell -- well, the mind boggles at just how bad a scenario like that would have been in a place like Taco Bell. ;-)

    Thank you for having tea with me, my dear, and at Les Deux Magots no less. Now I can say, "been there, done that" and focus back on my hole-in-the-wall places here in the 19th. :D