l’Institut Suedois et Frenchie
by jemma margaret
There is absolutely no reason to check the weather in advance in Paris. Well, maybe an hour in advance, but any greater interval and your guess is as good as anyone’s whether it will be sunny, raining, windy, calm, or cloudy with a chance of meatballs.
Yesterday Madeleine toured the free museums of the Marais and I stayed in and tried to work. We began the day with what I called brunch (since we ate closer to 9:30 than 8), which consisted of everything we needed to finish eating such as smoked trout, over easy eggs, avocado and steamed broccoli. We also each had a piece of toast and some yerba maté tea.
As had happened yesterday, we set a time and place to meet in the afternoon. Since it was supposed to be sunny (and it mostly was except for some dramatic morning showers), we met at the Swedish Institute at 15h for coffee. Neither of us were much in the mood for sweets, although the cakes there are lovely and come with whipped cream, so we just sat outside and drank.
However, knowing that dinner wouldn’t be until 21h30, we had to eat some sort of midday meal (besides cashews and fruit), so stopped by one of my favorite bakeries (134 RdT) to get a sandwich and some schwarzbröt.
At around eight o’clock we set out for the evening, and stopped for two very cheap glasses of rosé not too far from where we would be eating.
If I look very hungry it is because there were no snacks and the bar regulars were singing along very loudly, but we did get to sit outside in the sunshine.
I don’t believe I have ever eaten at a restaurant with exactly two seatings. When we arrived on Rue du Nil, our fellow diners were waiting outside for the first seating to end and the tables to be prepared. At almost precisely the hour of reservation, we all entered. If I do say so, we had an optimal table, fairly central with a peak of the kitchen.
The service was brusque, which I found somewhat surprising considering there are only two choices for each course on the menu and everyone’s timing was more or less the same. We were possibly the only table with tap water, but lest you think we were being stingy, Madeleine ordered the supplemental foie gras, which was very beautiful and I forbade her to take a picture of (that’s what the Asian tourists at the table near us were doing, I imagine you can find their images somewhere on this internet). Possibly the best part of a very good meal were the accompanying tiny wild strawberries, no bigger than almonds and tasting like candy. Upon the waitresses recommendation we had a Bandol rosé (I asked in French for a wine recommendation, she looked quizzical, I asked in English, she said white wine? I said, would red wine be possible? she said, anything is possible. We settled on rosé), which very nicely complemented the spring flavors.
The butter was nice and salty.
For the entrée and plat we had “une du chaque.” First, something Madeleine accurately described as a deconstructed chicken pot pie and a mackerel with Japanese accompaniments. There were foams and flowers and many different vegetables, too. Then, we had pigeon (so good, we should eat ALL the pigeons) and a white fish. Madeleine said the pigeon tasted like steak, more accurately it tasted like duck. She protested that it was in a steak sauce, which happened to be the pigeon’s juices from a very rare sear. Who knew that pigeon goes into steak sauce! The presentation was again lovely, probably some of the most beautifully plated dishes I have ever had. You will have to use your imagination. We may have chosen poorly on dessert, since the only thing we did not eat were the cherries. Instead I had the cheese plate (from Neal’s Yard) and Madeleine had the chocolate. Tied for first place as most delicious thing that evening was a bruléed piece of Brillat-savarin served alongside the chocolate cake?mousse?brownie? slice. More savory things should be sprinkled with sugar and broiled. Accompanying dessert we shared a glass of Frères Parcé, Rivesaltes “La Soierie de Rivesaltes” 1996 as recommended on the menu. I figured since we were celebrating Madeleine’s birthday (merely three years before that), it was a very appropriate gesture.
French rosés are not high in alcohol (generally) and the portions had been European sized, so we walked rather than stumbled or waddled home. Although it was quite late, I read some War and Peace. Those aristocrats are such jerks!