Letter from Paris Part II - Café
April 22, 2009
On most of my sojourns in Paris, visits to cafés end up being more of an accessory than a mainstay. Sitting outside on a sunny café terrace during le beau temps (good weather) or inside because of la pluie (rain) is a filler activity in days packed with cultural events, visits with friends, wanderings through outdoor markets, explorations of back streets, and soirées at new restaurants. It is a short moment to reprendre ma haleine (catch my breath) over un café (coffee) or un verre de vin (a glass of wine).
My latest Paris jaunt, however, was as relaxed as my previous stays were full of motion. J'ai fait de la grasse mat (I slept late-"mat" is short for "matinée," the expression literally means 'to have a fat morning') every day, had a leisurely café and croissant at the apartment, went on balades (strolls) with no particular purpose and ended up at various neighborhood cafés for long, casual lunches.
Of course, no visit to my Paris neighbhorhood would be complete without a visit to the Café Deux Magots across from the church of St. Germain des Prés. It offers people watching par excellence and good café food such as les omelettes, steak frites and the like. On this last trip, I also made a long lunch stop at the Café Varenne in the chic rue du Bac where I enjoyed a tasty steak tartare and French fries with a juicy red Côtes du Rhône wine.
Eglise St. Germain des Prés
I think my favorite café stop this April was the Café Bonaparte on the rue Bonaparte. It is set back from the busy Boulevard St. Germain a stone's throw from the St. Germain church and from Les Deux Magots. At this café, there are more French people from the quartier (neighborhood) and fewer tourists. And it was also a spectacularly sunny warm day making sun block and des lunettes de soleil a must.
My dining companion and I knabbed a table right in front about 2pm. I decided to go the very café cuisine route by ordering a croque monsieur (a grilled ham sandwich with béchamel sauce and melted gruyere cheese) and salade verte and my companion ordered a salade composée with ham, gruyere cheese, green beans and lettuce with French vinaigrette. All was served with a basket of baguette slices, and we washed it all down with the house white wine from the Loire valley. Délicieux--and oh so simple!
~ La France à emporter
This week, you can replicate the French café meal experience with French Affaires and Central Market at the Central Market Cooking Schools across Texas. I am partnering with Central Market to offer French cuisine and culture evenings in San Antonio beginning Monday, April 27, Houston on Tuesday, Austin on Wednesday, and concluding with Dallas on Friday, May 1. We'll have a six-course casual French dinner while I take us on an exciting immersion trip into the culture of French cuisine.
Our menu includes an amuse-bouche, sorrel soup, steak frites, salade verte, a cheese course, and French apple tart.
For more information, visit the Events page of the French Affaires web site. Come join us for an unforgettable French dining experience stateside!
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