Our final evening in Paris was almost perfect. The air was warm and lovely, and like Monday evening, I was again able to capture a little of the sunset glow as we strolled.
Joan of Arc was particularly radiant.
This photo nicely captures the essence of Velibs, Paris’ street bicycle rental program…
I captured this photo of John, one of my favorite of him in Paris. He looks so contented.
(And maybe also hungry?)
Our dinner reservation was at La Regalade St. Honore, and as we passed the time walked up its namesake street, I became mesmerized by one of the shop windows. It was full of hats, marvelous hats! I love wearing useful and practical hats, but I especially love trying on beautiful hats – and this window was stuffed with huge-brimmed sunhats, and tiny decorative ones, and everything in between. However, hat shopping is NOT one of John’s favorite activities, so we walked onward, looking at the Eglise St.-Eustache, having a moment of humor seeing the Indiana cafe, then circling back on Rue de Rivoli.
As we re-passed the hat shop, right on target to make our dinner reservation on time, I stopped again, and stared at the window. (“Hats … hats…. can’t … keep … walking….”) Then I saw that just inside the open doorway was a large grouping of hats labeled “sun/rain” in an eruption of bright colors, 30 euros each – which was too much for me to handle. They drew me up the step and in the door, and suffice it to say, we ended up being 15 minutes late for dinner. John probably does not want to relive all the gory details, so I will make it brief; I tried on quite a number of hats, and liked almost all of them, and bought one. It broke our no-souvenirs plan, but I don’t care – it’s “a hat, a real Paris hat!” (As Audrey Hepburn/Sabrina says to Margaret about the coming-home gift she brings her.) Plus it’s a small item (and easily fit into my carryons) – and not too expensive – and just might fulfill all my hat dreams.
(I have had various problems with various hats in the past: they’re too small and give me a headache, or too big to wear on a windy day, or too floppy, or not foldable/packable, or not washable. This one is plenty big, but has a drawstring to tighten in the wind, and completely crushable and reshapeable, hand- or machine-washable, and beautiful. I think my only regret may be only buying a single bright color, instead of a color and a neutral. Or several colors. Or the whole barrel full. Maybe next time!)
I tried to take a photo of my new hat this morning, but Maxwell, still damp from his rainy morning walk, really wanted to be in the photo too. He’s clearly enjoying his normal role as my photography model.
After the hat shopping detour, we did make it to dinner (albeit late) and sat down for an excellent meal. However, this is where the minor tragedy (that I mentioned when first writing about our spring vacation) occurred. Again, it’s very insignificant in the grand scheme of life, but it did turn what may have been the best meal of my entire life into just a great meal.
The meal began well; they brought a terrine of meats and crusty bread to snack on while we browsed (and deciphered) the menu and sipped pink champagne that John ordered as a celebratory Paris treat.
To start the actual meal, I ordered an egg.
My starter egg is tied for my top food item of the trip. It was actually a soft egg sitting on a bed of duxelles (diced and sauteed mushrooms, garlic, and shallots) and surrounded by foamy mussel broth, with three slices of dried ham and an excellently crisped crostini – the whole dish together was salty and intensely flavorful, and silky and crunchy, and amazing. If I had to pick one thing to eat for the rest of my life, I might choose this, although I would probably become malnourished from lack of vegetables and calcium.
John reported that his starting course, a pureed pea soup with crab, also was wonderful, although I didn’t try any so I can’t comment on the specifics.
John also chose a half-bottle of wine for us to share during the meal, “2011 Morgon,” which was very enjoyable although you’d have to ask him for more details; I don’t have anything more to say about it, except that it was a cool-looking bottle.
For the main course, though – this is painful to write – I ordered something for myself that verged on (to me) inedibility. It happened innocently enough, and through my best intentions and my own natural weaknesses, as if my dinner-ordering self that night were a textbook Aristotelian tragic hero.
There were two menu items between which I struggled to choose: one was listed as “cod with crispy spring vegetables” and one was “chicken breast with foie gras and handmade gnocchi.” I had just eaten cod the previous night, and cod isn’t my top-favorite fish, but (1) it sounded much more healthful, since the chicken didn’t list any vegetables, and (2) I usually try not to order chicken in restaurants, although not for any good reason – I just feel like I should choose something more interesting – so I decided on the cod, thinking it would come with some spring peas and asparagus, and be a perfectly tasty dish.
I should mention that I many foods, but I might be more picky than the average adult; there are some foods I do not like very much at all, including many fruits – and top on the list of fruits I don’t like are tomatoes (and any sort of tomato-containing product), which I cannot stand at all. Another item on my list of not-favorites are cooked carrots; I’ll eat them if they’re served to me, but without very much enjoyment.
Now when we were about half finished with our amazingly delicious appetizers, the first shadow began to fall upon the evening. The table next to us had two main courses brought out – the exact two items I had been trying to choose between – and the cod looked suspiciously like it lay on a bed of cooked carrots.
“Well, OK,” I thought to myself. “I’ll eat some and leave some, and the fish will probably be great.”
At the same time, I couldn’t help noticing with regret that the chicken dish came with not only hand-made gnocchi (one of my favorite foods) but also a lovely, perfect-looking pile of mushrooms and a lovely, perfect-looking pile of asparagus – two more my very top-favorite foods.
Worse yet – as the cod and carrots at the next table over were eaten and displaced, it became clear that along with the carrots … another “crispy spring vegetable” in the dish was diced tomatoes, my gustatory arch-nemesis.
I was in despair, desperately wishing I’d ordered the chicken and wondering if I could change my mind at this point – but the order had been placed, and I didn’t want to cause any problems – so I stayed silent.
I don’t want to relive dinner, but I’ll sum it up – I ate some cod, and I ate some veggies (no tomatoes), but it wasn’t with much relish. John graciously sliced me some bites of his 57 oz. steak (just kidding, it was probably more like 31 oz.) (ok, 23) and shared a bite of salad, and even more graciously ate a significant portion of my meal on top of his meat-indulgent order.
The worst part was not the food I did eat (which was tasty) but the plaguing, remorseful thought of what I might have been eating instead. The chicken dish had so many of my favorite foods and flavors, and after the starting course, I could just imagine the skill with which it would probably have been prepared, and I was filled with regret at having missed out on what may have been an excellent – or possibly the best-ever – start to finish meal.
All was forgiven and forgotten when dessert came, though. John had a caramel-chocolate mousse:
and my rice pudding may not be as pretty, and in fact may remind you of scrambled eggs topped with Tabasco, but I can pretty much guarantee it was more delicious.
This is the other item that’s tied for my top food eaten in Paris, possibly the best dessert food I’ve ever eaten – possibly even the tastiest food I’ve ever eaten, period. (Although for me, food is like shoes – I love many different styles and varieties, and tend to think whatever I’m experiencing at any given moment is my very favorite, ever.) At any rate, it was fantastic, redolent with vanilla and mildly sweet. They served it with a salted-butter caramel sauce on the side, which once poured over the top created a sumptuous (and sweeter) combination.
I was in danger, because that little pile on the plate in the photo was not what they served me. No – the actual presentation was a 3-cup (or maybe a little smaller) glass dish full to the brim of pudding, with a small carafe containing maybe 2/3rds of a cup of caramel sauce. (I only took that single shot of my dessert, probably because I was too busy consuming it to think of more photos, but the serving method was so startling, I wish I’d captured it too.) I may have had trouble restraining myself in the face of such a toothsome and scrumptious dessert in any event, but as it came close on the heels of my dinner disappointment (and resulting smallish meal) I struggled mightily to limit my rice-pudding consumption to a reasonable amount.
I am happy to report that I did NOT eat the whole thing. I’ll leave it there; I don’t know exactly how much I did eat, but it was a lot, and probably too much.
(Or should I actually regret to report that I didn’t eat the whole thing? I may never have a chance to taste it again; will I spend my whole life pining after those uneaten, wasted mouthfuls of bliss?)
All in all, despite my ordering tragedy, our meal was excellent and I felt very grateful and glad that John had found and chosen this restaurant. It still falls in my top-10 meals of my whole life, just based on the appetizer and dessert, and was an awesome way to end our time in Paris.
Stuffed and sated, we ordered coffee to prolong the meal a few minutes longer, talking about the happy memories we had from the trip, our favorite sights of the day, and our anticipation of the second half of our trip that we’d be moving on toward the following morning.
But with an early morning train to catch, we didn’t linger long; we packed the madeleines to go, strolled back to the Hotel de Ville metro (with my Real Paris Hat in hand!) and headed home.