Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Paris — A Tale of Two Cities

It took me a little while to get my bearings in Paris. It’s a city I know well — I’ve spent a lot of time here — but after the easy, laid-back intimacy of Italy and the French Rhone-Alpes, Paris was a jarring awakening.

Arc de Triomphe, Bastille Day

Arc de Triomphe, Bastille Day

The entre, after two weeks of meandering country roads, was driving the rental car into the heart of the Marais to drop the family and luggage off at the Airbnb, and then trying to navigate my way along the frenetic Rue du Rivoli to the subterranean Hertz offices at the swirling mayhem of the Louvre Carousel.

After a few moments of harrowing ambivalence, I made it, got back to the flat and was soon in the rhythm of the city.

Our small but lovely apartment is in the 4th arrondissement Marais, an intimate neighborhood of narrow streets, bars and boutiques, Lebanese groceries and open markets, musees Picasso and Pompidou. It is a colorful, bustling area alive with energy and life.

Visiting Picasso

Visiting Picasso

Our friends, the Schneiders, are staying on the other side of the city, near the Arc de Triumph, in the 16th arrondissement. Or, as Donnie Schneider’s friend put it: “Where rich old Parisians go to die.” Rather than an Airbnb, the Schneiders did a home swap, and came out quite well in the bargain. They’ve got four or five rooms in a sprawling apartment filled with antiques and beautiful art.

So we are eating at their place. Mostly.

A key feature of our neighborhood is falafel restaurants. My pal, Vic, sent me a message saying, “If you get to the Marais, you must eat at L’as du Falafel.” As it turns out, L’as du Falafel is on our block, a few doors up.

L'as du-licious!

L’as du-licious!

“This place is world famous,” said my wife Leslie, who lived in Paris and had eaten there before. “It’s where Lenny Kravitz used to always go when he lived in Paris.”

“Let’s try it anyway!” I responded.

The falafels, as expected, were delicious. The Achilles heel of most falafel — dryness — was tempered by a lush slaw, pickled onions, caramely roasted eggplant and a generous wash of tahini.

A key feature of the Schneiders’ neighborhood is a butcher where the meat is displayed much like handbags in the window of a Louis Vuitton. Don had sent me photos upon discovering the place.

“See if they have Bresse chickens,” I responded.

Imogen getting bourgeois in the 16th

Imogen getting bourgeois in the 16th

The French region of Bresse is known for having the world’s best chickens. We had driven through Bresse en route from the Alps to Paris, and seen a large roadside chicken sign as we entered the area.

Somehow, Don had interpreted my comment as an order (“I got excited,” he said), and reserved the last Bresse chicken they had. “Can you swing by and scoop it up before 7?” he said. As it was 6:30, and we were on the other side of the city preparing for a 7:30 dinner reservation with a friend, I could not. The butcher, apparently, was not happy. He had already cleaned the bird, and it seems once the bird is cleaned, you must cook it immediately. (The French are that way.)

The chicken was $50.

We determined to eat it the next evening, when we were reasonably sure it would not have decayed beyond salvage. I roasted it as you might any ordinary chicken — brushed with butter, salt and pepper, surrounded by garlic and potatoes…

Bresse chicken

Bresse chicken

“That’s the best chicken I’ve ever had,” my wife said. And she’s had some chicken! The skin was paper thin and crisp, the meat tender and flavorful. Although I don’t think I’d spend $50 on a chicken regularly.

We had also purchased a $50 60-day dry aged ribeye on the bone at the Louis Vuitton butcher. This, we cooked the following night with some white asparagus and chanterelle mushrooms I’d purchased at the Marche des Enfants Rouge (“Market of the Red Babies”!?), the oldest covered market in Paris, dating from the 1600s.

*    *    *

60 days is pushing the limits of aging and courting the boundaries of rot. A few days more and the thing might’ve been inedible. As it was, the aging produced a complexly layered product, displaying the nuances of a cellared Bordeaux.

In addition to the dinners cooked with the Schneider family, there were other exceptional meals — a surprisingly good (and unsurprisingly expensive) Japanese small plates feast with our friend Elizabeth in the Marais; a long and leisurely lunch with Leslie’s long-time family friends the Dei Cas on an island in the Seine outside the city (my choice: a fine trilogie of steak tartare); dinner at the tres authentique Marais bistro Chez Paul where we had eaten last time we were in Paris, 15 years before on our honeymoon.

Trilogie of tartare

Trilogie of tartare

And Paris being Paris, wherever we were — in the crowded charming 4th or the stately 16th – every day is filled with sublime breads and pastries, extraordinarily complex unpasteurized cheeses, gorgeous produce and other tastes unparalleled in the world.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Amanda
    Jul 15, 2016 @ 15:40:16

    $50 dollars for a chicken! Wow! I’d love to get just half that price for mine… LOL

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Jul 16, 2016 @ 04:40:22

      Yeah, I was wondering if I could get some of the Bresse breed and raise them on my property. But I’m guessing France is pretty strict about not even letting them out of the Bresse region!

      Reply

  2. Mom
    Jul 15, 2016 @ 15:49:47

    Well, I’m jealous as usual but I did make a nice Bastille Day dinner last night with mussels , Coq au vin and profliteroles. And one of Beth the baker’s famous baguettes.

    Reply

  3. Bobby Mahaffey
    Jul 15, 2016 @ 17:26:27

    My new favorite short film – “Man Contemplating Existential Angst Whilst Watching Aged Steak Grill in Paris Kitchen”. The sound and slo-mo visual effects superb!

    Reply

  4. Dshore
    Jul 15, 2016 @ 19:23:26

    Aaah my friends, Paris! Just reading the first sentence, I could feel the city envelop me like a well worn robe. Complete with tatters, a bit of glitz, and a crumb or two left from well loved pan au chocolat. I say “Google Maps saved my marriage” as we survived our drive through Paris. Don’t forget Le Entrecote the restaurant, or Le Gran Grenuille for some famous frogs legs guys! Love to all.

    Reply

  5. Michelle
    Jul 16, 2016 @ 10:28:28

    Oh, I know that one: jaloux!

    Reply

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