Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Paris Journal 2006: Home Cooking

For my last meal in Paris, while Margy worked a thirteen-hour shift, I was treated to a home-cooked dinner at our friends' lovely new apartment. And did I mention I spent the day zipping around town on the back of a scooter? This is one of the finest possible ways to tour the City of Light, assuming you don't get into an accident as you clear accelerating vehicles by less than an inch, over and over again, as is mandatory.

The apartment was way over on the edge of town, mere blocks away from Bistrot Paul Bert. I arrived to find my pals, a couple expecting their first baby, setting a charming table and laying out plates of spinach salad with mustard vinaigrette and warm goat cheese. Delicious. The main course was a sort of riff on cassoulet that merged duck confit (in Paris this is wonderful even out of a can) with a mild yet porky Toulouse sausage and beans cooked in goose fat. Oh, yes. The lady of the house -- she's Parisian, her fella's from California -- had taken pity on me, knowing it was a goal of mine to enjoy a real French cassoulet, and though she was great with child and had worked a long day, she made sure I didn't go home disappointed.

Not even close.

As I reached for the bowl of beans for the third time and scraped the spoon against the bottom to try and liberate even the ghost of any remaining goodies, the father-to-be reminded me that we weren't through with dinner. Indeed, out came a nice piece of unpasteurized cheese, followed by cookies with ice cream and chocolate sauce. All the while, we drank wine that my buddies had bought in bulk from an independent vintner and bottled themselves. These were maybe my favorite glasses of the whole trip. It just goes to show you what can be achieved in a country that holds wine in high regard -- in the States, homemade wine is almost always terrible, at least in my limited experience.

But really the best part of the whole evening was being removed from the restaurant scene, as exciting as it is, and hanging out with some friends on their turf, chatting, laughing, listening to their music, eating their food. It was lots of fun, and it made the trip feel more personal. If only Margy had been able to join me.

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