Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Les Fetes Galantes

Sadly, our trip to Paris was coming to an end. It had been a great (if fattening) six days of indulging in mostly French food and snacks. I developed a fondness for the ham and cheese baguettes that somehow made the rain delays at Roland Garros a tiny bit more bearable. On the one night we decided to take a break, I disregarded my rule of thumb of NOT dining at any establishment specializing in two different cuisines, and had some delicious Chinese and Thai dishes at a restaurant near the hotel. Also, adding to the fun was getting our orders and questions across to the proprietor in a mish-mash of stilted Mandarin, broken French with a little English thrown in.

Anyway, walking down the quiet side street rue de l'Ecole Polytechnique in the Latin Quarter, we chanced upon the intimate Les Fetes Galantes, peaked inside and scanned the menu, and then decided to dine there the following night for our last dinner in Paris. I'm not sure exactly why we decided that, maybe it was because Les Fetes Galantes epitomized the intimate, family-run restaurant serving classic French dishes that we were looking for, or maybe the location helped - a bit away from the circus atmosphere of numerous restaurants situated side-by-side on busy streets that ensnare so many tourists.

The chef's wife (whose name escapes me) ushered us to a table and patiently waited while we took our sweet time deciding which dishes to sample from the 25 euro 3-course prix-fixe menu. Not an easy decision to make, as they all really seemed so tempting! I opted for the three cheese goat salad (pictured above) and duck confit, while my brother P. decided on the sumptuous cream of mushroom with foie gras soup and steak. While waiting for our orders, we passed the time examining the hundreds of business cards, handwritten notes from satisfied customers praising Chef Bibi's cooking, diners' pictures, and assorted foreign currency bills tacked onto the walls surrounding our table.

The meal was excellent in every aspect, the service prompt yet unobstrusive, and we even fell into conversation with the diners at the adjacent table who recounted their sighting of Karl Lagerfeld, but not being fans of haute couture they were unaware of his fame, much to the disbelief of the museum security guard who told them who the man everyone was looking at was. I heartily recommend Les Fetes Galantes (gallant party?) for an authentic slow-paced celebratory French meal. Quite the perfect ending to our Parisian sightseeing, tennis and food holiday, and at night's end two more business cards were enthusiastically added to the collection on the walls.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

An American Breakfast in Paris

Ahh...Paris...images of delectable French cuisine come to mind - foie gras, escargot, etc - all those rich, fat-laden dishes that break a dieter's will and wreak havoc on his regimen (ahem). My brother P. and I spent most of our 6 days in the City of Lights devouring crepes, croissants, baguettes, steak, duck confit (only me, actually :-D), and of course, "chien chaud" (hot dogs). One morning, in search of something that would tide us over spending the entire day at Roland Garros watching tennis and not having to line up at the concession stands, we consulted my guidebook and decided to hit Breakfast in America, which fortunately was just a couple of blocks down Rue des Ecoles from the hotel.

Brightly lit and decorated like a typical American diner (much nicer than Tick Tock diner in Jersey!), BIA offers home-sick expats a taste of food back home, and crazy tourists who insist on eating American food while abroad something to blog about (laughing at my own clever self-referential joke haha). I liked the decor - perched atop the ledge on the periphery were objects that invoked Americana - a football helmet, a plate with the familiar "Route 66" sign, an old cash register, a blender (why?) - to name a few. Picture frames of movie scenes set in a diner, most notably Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan at Katz's Deli (never been there...shame, shame) in "When Harry Met Sally" (never seen the movie...duh), adorn the walls as well.

I chose the Veggie Omelet with cheese which made me feel irrationally self-satisfied, knowing that I had somehow resisted more artery-clogging breakfast options (steak and eggs! Is this Denny's or what?!), ignoring the cholesterol-laden eggs and cheese on my plate. The portions, as expected, were super-sized. And after days of ordering trop cher espresso in those miniature cups, a familiar bottomless mug of cafe Americain provided the caffeine fix to start the day on the right foot. Service was superb - not only were the staff attractive, but for once I dropped any effort of blundering with tourist French, and simply addressed the staff in English. Now that's something I could get used to - feeling right at home in Paris.