Friday May 23, 2014 – the beauty of Paris and catching up with friends

Paris remains the most beautiful city in the world.

A quick morning stroll down the Boulevard Malsherbes confirmed it.

We met Nisha, our good friend at le Lavoisier for roughly 15 years and got caught up on all that was new. It’s been a year since we were here last, so a lot has happened, but Nisha’s warmth and friendship remain unchanged. We saw pictures of his daughter, Margaux, now grown up at 13, and showed him pictures of Anne and Lucy.

Then, it was off to the hotel St. Jacques in the 5th arrondisement to see our friend Fabienne, who worked at the Lavoisier for more than a decade. Our taxi ride there was incredible! The lady driver calmly drove at near warp speed, lurching into and out of the bus lane, sending bike riders careening off onto sidewalks. Sort of like the car chase scenes from The Bourne Identity. The 5th is a picturesque district, while the 8th, where the Lavoisier is located, is more of a business neighborhood. The St. Jacques is a charming small hotel set just a couple of blocks from the Pantheon, the Sorbonne, Notre Dame, and more. It’s a hilly area, which adds more nuances to the winding streets and buildings.

Fabienne greeted us with hugs and tears. She has been a dear friend through all of my medical travails, always keeping in touch, and taking special care of us when we were in Paris. She has now moved to a position as assistant manager at the St. Jacques and is happy with the added responsibility. After chatting for a bit, she showed us around the hotel, from the tiny two-person lift to the narrow old hallways to the nicely done rooms. The rates are reasonable, the location terrific, and the staff seemed warm. A nice place to stay.

We bade farewell to Fabienne, promising to spend more time with her in October, and strolled across the street to a restaurant that she recommended for lunch. It was packed with students and locals, but the service was prompt and friendly, and the menu appealing. David ordered a carafe of rosé and in short order I was having my first, and only, moules (mussels) of the trip while David had lotte (monkfish) with risotto. Both were good, and we finished the meal with a café gourmand – café noir with small pastries.

After lunch, we strolled down to a nearby square and grabbed a cab back to the Lavoisier. The ride was less dramatic than the previous one, and we were actually able to see the sights.

Our friends Marc and Catherine Refabert from Tours were in Paris for the weekend, and we had made arrangements to meet them for dinner at Crom ‘Exquis, the new restaurant from Pieerre Meneau just 50 meters from the hotel. Meneau is the talented son of three-star chef Marc Meneau whose l’Esprance in Vezelay (Burgundy) is a dining Mecca. His menu is Burgundian in style, but lighter, and absolutely terrific. Marc and Catherine were already at the restaurant when we arrived. It was wonderful to see them and catch up on all that was new in their lives. Julie, their oldest child had gotten married within the last year, and – we found out at dinner – is expecting. Great news which was met with multiple toasts. Both their boys are doing well, and Marc and Catherine are now enjoying a vacation home in Cadaques in Spain. This is the same village where Bryan and Pat Youl, owners of the mas in Eygalieres, are renovating a house, so there will be good reason for us to get there in the future.

Marc is on top of the dining scene in France, but had not heard of Crom ‘Exquis. In short order he was raving about the food, telling Pierre that he will soon have his own Michelin stars, which is a safe bet. We ordered multiple starters and shared – everything from Encornet (baby squid) to sardines. Every morsel disappeared. For our plats, Marc and David went with the St. Pierre (fish), while Catherine and I ordered the Jarret d’Agneau (leg of lamb.) The food was astoundingly good, with the lamb cooked perfectly, sliced off the bone, and served with a delectable au jus accompaniment. Check out the photos. Marc and I shared a wonderful Marsannay white, while David and Catherine shared a Gevrey Chambertin red, both wines from Burgundy.

Everyone had a wonderful time. Pierre came to our table and talked for a bit. Marc again raved about the food and his bright future, and we were glad to have introduced he and Catherine to a real gem.

With hugs all around, and plans made to go to Pierre Gagnaire together on our return in October, Marc and Catherine headed back to their flat and we strolled back to our room at Lavoisier.

 

 

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