We grabbed a table in the small caveau breakfast room that serves Lavoisier and enjoyed some relaxation. Nisha, who has handled everything from bags to breakfast for well over a decade greeted all of us warmly, calling Anne his sister and hugging her.
We reviewed plans for the day. High on Jay’s list was finding presents for family and friends, so we suggested a few stores where he might find the right thing. We said that we would be checking out a new wine bar I had read about, Ô Chateau near les Halles, and maybe we could meet there later. Les Halles is where Dehillerin, legendary store for cooking and restaurant equipment is located, so it might also be a good prospect for Jay to find gifts.
David and I wandered through the MonoPrix store so I could pick up a few items, then to the St. Augustin café for a cup of coffee, then off to Ô Chateau. A taxi took us to where we thought we would find it, but the street it was on disappeared. We scrounged around a bit and found that the street resumed about three blocks later, just past Dehillerin. We strolled down the block and found it. The door was open, and people were inside, but the chalkboard outside said “fermé.” I started chatting with the young man at the door while David gestured to Anne and Jay, who had just emerged at the far end of the street and were walking towards us. The young man said that they were closed to the public as they had several private tours/tastings. I said how disappointed we were, as this was our only day in Paris and how much we had been looking forward to tasting wines with them. I stressed that we weren’t looking for a tour or formal tasting, but just wanted to sample a few wines from their collection. “I can make that work, ” he said, and soon the four of us were seated at the bar inside, wine list in hand. We started with a bottled of Meursault, my favorite white wine. Olivier, as we found was his name, was a delightful young man who spoke perfect American English. He said he had been part of the business world, but – after marrying a young artist from Mississippi – recognized that wine, this wine bar, and writing were his passions.
We wound our way through a few more wines, while he, David, and Jay chatted about wines, computers, and the like. A plate of delightful charcuterie appeared, and the afternoon wore on. Other people showed up at the door, and Olivier seated them and did a brisk business. We found that he and his wife had fallen in love with Key West, but decided a place there was impractical, so had bought a condo in Key Biscayne, and now split their time between their Paris wine bar and Key West…not a bad life, as he saw it. We agreed. His wife had participated in an art show at the Boca Resort, so he was familiar with our neck of the woods. As we wound things up and prepared to leave, Olivier showed up with a copy of his book on things to do in Paris and gave it to David and myself, He had signed it with a nice note. We exchanged emails and invited him to visit us when they were next in Key Biscayne.
Anne navigated us down the street to the rue des Petit Champs, and Willi’s Wine Bar, where she had met David, Tom Fowler and myself years earlier. It has changed dramatically, and is now more restaurant than wine bar. Willi has apparently bought or leased part of the building next door, broken through the wall, and added several dining rooms. The kitchen has been expanded to provide food for the extra tables. The old tattered-but-extensive wine list is gone, with just a few selections available. Tom Fowler’s poster hangs on the wall facing the small bar, just as it did when David, Tom, and I went there to sign his posters a decade ago. Memories. We had a glass of wine at the bar – white for Anne and I and a Loire red for David and Jay. We toasted Tom, finished our wine, and headed back to the Lavoisier. We were able to flag a taxi, and were rewarded with a wonderful driver who loved food and wine. He and David exchanged information on places to eat (David passed on the Crom ‘Exquis secret after the driver recognized the Meneau name), and he dropped us off at the hotel.
David suggested that Jay look in the Epicerie on the corner by our hotel for presents, as they seemed to have a lot that filled the bill for Jay. Anne and Jay shopped for gifts while David and I went next door to the Rugby Sports Bar. Anne and Jay showed up shortly with a bagful of presents, and we celebrated with a carafe of wine and a plate of cheese.
After a short break at the hotel, we went own the street to a nearby brasserie for a light meal. I had the steak with frites, while David, Anne, and Jay all had tartare du boeuf. We then headed back to the hotel and turned in.