Last night, I dined at Au Fil des Saisons and had what has definitely been (and I can only imagine will continue to be) the standout meal of my Paris adventure. I was glad the reviews I read online had warned it was difficult to find, as I otherwise may not have ventured down the dark alleyway on which it was located. Any fear at the lack of clientele when I arrived (the restaurant was totally empty) was soon assuaged by the owner who came out to welcome me and start to tell me about the restaurant and menu (he also explained that business has slowed very suddenly this week and attributes it to the apartment tax that has to be paid at the end of the month as well as the two week school vacation that is upcoming in Paris). The restaurant was tiny - maybe 15 tables - with a super comfortable, bistro atmosphere, the menus written on large standing chalkboards that are set table-side, displaying the standing items and daily specials.
The menu was organized into three sections: entree, plat, and dessert, with a prix fixe choice from each of the categories for 28 euros (tres bon marche!). The restauranteur gave me a couple of minutes with the menu (en francais) then came over to run through it in english and give some more details about the selections. Ingredients are sourced locally and everything is made in the restaurant from scratch and without shortcuts. You could tell by talking with this guy that food is his art and that he takes considerable thought, time, and pride in his craft. He was also quite attentive and generous with his time (something I've not encountered often here).
For my appetizer, I chose a homemade pesto ravioli (I know, not very French of me, but fret not, as I made up for this over the course of the rest of the meal). Baked in the tiniest pot and topped generously with slices of parmesan, it somehow managed to be melt-in-your-mouth creamy without being at all heavy. Tres bon.
The next course was a surprise from the owner. As he was going over the menu, we discussed one of the appetizers, la moelle: bone marrow. Spending a good portion of my teens and twenties as a vegetarian, this would generally fall into the too-strange-of-a-meat-product-for-Cole-to-consider category, but I was feeling adventurous. The owner actually talked me out of it after learning that I had not had it before (apparently it's one of those things that you either love or hate and I think he was afraid my opinion would fall into the latter category). Evidently he wasn't going to let me out of his restaurant without trying it, however, as it arrived at my table between the appetizer and main without words, just a smile. I found the marrow to be super interesting - the sensation seemed to come in equal parts from the texture and flavor, the latter of which I can only describe as earthy in a really pleasant way. I enjoyed it on slices of freshly baked baguette.
For my main course, I chose one of the daily specials: the lamb. Even this would typically fall into the afore-mentioned too-strange-for-Cole category, however the description sounded amazing and it just seemed so French that I couldn't help but try it. And subsequently devour it. Despite spending a lamb-lifetime and three hours slow roasting together, the bone and meat departed amicably from one another at a light shake or the slightest pressure from my fork. I'm not sure I knew meat could be like this; it was incredibly tender, juicy, and flavorful. I think this was a perfect example of quality ingredients prepared simply and thoughtfully. An approach to food that I definitely admire and enjoy.
I was completely content (and completely full!) before the dessert course, but naturally couldn't pass up the molten chocolate cake that sat atop caramel made from salted butter and was served with simple cream that had been whipped to perfection. An amazing ending to an amazing meal.
My evening meal two nights ago was also very nice (just not as amazing as last night's). I dined at Gaya Rive Gauche, a seafood restaurant near the Musee D'Orsay. Here's the quick pic overview:
|Crab on a bed of leeks with fresh herbs, sprouts, and the bright punch of lime juice.|
|Oysters in broth "with a little pig" (the waiter's words) topped with slices of browned garlic. A nice combo of salty sea and land flavors.|
|Really tasty sea scallops that certainly stole the show from the vegetables (which were a little more done than I like).|
|The dark and sweet flavors of coffee and chocolate drew the evening to a close.|
One year ago: roasted garlic, kale, and cannellini soup
Two years ago: roasted garlic mashed potatoes with leeks