Monday, January 28, 2008

Pungent and Fierce

Skirt steak and Frites.

Paris: The Grand Adventure in food.

It's my first night and first meal in Paris and I'm excited. I've eaten on the flights from Moscow but there's something about airplane food and flying that just throws everything helter skelter, so I'm back on the streets looking for some chow.

It's just past eleven p.m. and most places have just closed but the corner brasserie is still open for drinks and dining. I walk in, choose a table and the man sets me up with a table cloth and place settings - nice! The menu is simple brasserie food, just the way I like it. I fancy myself a man of French food so the Bavette d'Aloyau or skirt steak and french fries, is just up my alley. It's 200 grams of beef goodness coming my way and I can't wait.

This brasserie is a sports pub and after several minutes watching girls' wrestling and girls' karate championships (and who can't like cute girls wrestling with each other or beating each other silly?), my food arrives.

Suddenly, an unusual aroma hits my nose: the smell of livestock.

It's an unexpected odor. It's pungent and fierce. This beef smells like it came from the cattle pen. It's also thin, scraggily-looking and hard charred with grill marks. It's so thin, it's curling.

If this is the epitome of French Food then we might as well kill ourselves now.

But I'm a trooper and I'm determined to eat real, French brasserie food - just like the Parisians do. With Coke in hand, I get to work. The cutting is tough going and the meat is lifeless - no matter how much onion sauce I pour on. Even with a very generous hand of salt, the meat is still lame. And tough. Chew, chew, chew - it doesn't end. 200 grams suddenly seems like 2,000 pounds. I wanted to pass on the meat, but that's why I was here so I keep chew, chew, chewing.

At least the girls fighting each other on tv look pretty enticing. I start to wonder if there's co-ed wrestling and how I might join a class...

Then there are the fries. Again, if these were the definition of "Frites"<, I might as well kill myself by flinging my crying body into the Seine River and dying a ghastly, but romantic, death.

The fries are fucking frozen.

How do I know this? I know battered fries when they enter my mouth. They're crispy. Too crispy for fries of this color. They're crispy even as they cool. They're crispy when cold. Real Frites don't do that. Battered, frozen fries...

Paris is Burning.

It's not a total loss though (okay, maybe it is), the redeeming factor for this place is their fanaticism for rugby. Memorabilia is everywhere. A nod to the All Blacks, even a South Africa ball (boo, hiss) and lots of jerseys. It's something you don't see often in America.

At least I know where I can watch the Six Nations tournament this weekend...

Le Recrutement Cafe
36 rue de la Tour Maubourg
75007 Paris
01 47 05 46 85