After the most hideous possible travel experience (cancelled flight on Friday night, piss-poor communication by the airline, hours of line-ups, turbulence, stinky feet in the next row of seats, etc.) Mr. Gateau and I arrived in Paris very early Sunday morning. All the travel rottenness was quickly forgiven, and we settled into our lovely apartment just steps from the Louvre, right in the middle of the bullseye of Paris.
Naturally, or shall I say naturellement, we went out to eat almost immediately.
The Parisians seem to have adopted the concept of Sunday brunch, which fits well with their habit of lingering for hours over coffee and cigarettes. We walked over to the Galerie Vivienne, one of those beautiful interior passages with high ceilings, skylights, and carved stone and wood doorways that make sort of the proto-shopping malls of Paris. There, we ate at A Priori The, a lovely tea room. I had the "SHANGRILA" salad, a deep bowl of greens, shredded cucumber, fresh cilantro, marinated crispy sesame chicken breast, and soy dressing, with a pot of Moroccan mint tea. Mr. Gateau had the tart of the day, which was tomato and Gruyere, with green salad and a chai tea. We could see people around us ordering the 30 Euro brunch, which was an insane amount of food -- wine or cocktail, coffee or tea, pastry basket, fromage blanc with berries, choice of entree (these were huge themselves; I didn't even finish mine), salad, and dessert.
After lunch we began exploring the neighborhood, immediately noting the bakery recommended by our landlady, a gelato shop, and various nice-looking cafes. We listened to a chamber group perform on the plaza right outside the Comedie Francaise, then walked up to the Opera and around Les Halles, past the apartment on the Rue des Halles I'd lived in when a student here in 1988. Across the street we found an open little market, the equivalent of the bodegas in NYC, only these carry wine and a small selection of hard liquor, and got some basics (milk, butter, jam, coffee) -- our plan is to make our own breakfasts of croissants and baguettes. We spent the afternoon and early evening walking through the courtyard of the Louvre and wandering around St. Germain and St. Michel/Quartier Latin, where we found a touristy but pleasant place to sit and have a beer and people-watch.
Dinner we attempted to handle in an impromtu manner, ignoring everyone's reminders that reservations (even day-of) are recommended. The first place we wanted to try (a well-regarded bistro) seems to have disappeared, and we could not be seated at L'Ardoise until 10pm. We decided to take our chances at Pinxo, the Alain Dutournier tapas-like place in a chic hotel, even though (a) we didn't have a reservation and (b) we were wearing jeans. Something about us must have touched the heart of the maitre d'hotel, because he said "peut-etre" he could seat us, and then quickly found a choice of a table or seats at the bar facing the open kitchen. We chose to watch the kitchen at work and had a fantastic meal.
For starters we shared sauteed baby squid on little skewers with roasted peppers and shards of crispy artichoke and garlic chips, and a "cold fondue of tomato and peppers." This is not usually my favorite kind of dish, but this was a knockout -- ovals of tomato-sweet pepper terrine or aspic, inside of which was embedded a still-runny poached egg. This was served on top of a tomato-pepper jam and little toast and topped with a perfect basil leaf. Alongside was a pickled hot pepper and crispy Spanish ham. The whole taste profile was of concentrated fresh tomato flavor, basil, and the hits of salt, spice, and brine from the pepper and ham, with a smooth, cool, and velvety texture.
Next we had very nice beef carpaccio, with capers, lemon, parmesan, and artichoke, and tournedos of lotte (monkfish) with fava beans and onion marmalade. With all of this we had a nice carafe of white wine. I accidentally got an extra glass of wine when a server began to pour another customer's bottle into my glass. I'm not sure how they made up to that customer, but it was nice for me! Mr. Gateau could not resist dessert -- he chose spicy warm chocolate cakes, three tiny ones per platter, with orange marmalade sauce and sheep's milk ice cream, and I had coffee (served with nice biscotti) and half a little cake. Warm chocolate cake has become a bit of a cliche, but there is a reason -- it is delicious.
Day One came to a fine end. We have blisters and tired legs, but we have lots to see and eat.