Sunday, June 29, 2008

Confessions du Boeuf

The wood burning fireplace.

Robert et Louise is the reason I'm in Paris.

The steak has been on my mind since February when I made two trips here eating the duck confit and entrecote when I should have eaten the cote du boeuf. Don't get me wrong, they were both great but the true piece de resistance is the cote du boeuf. And this time, I won't miss.

Some of you might be thinking that I'm joking, or just being dramatic when I say that I cam to Paris just for Robert et Louise.

I'm not.

Originally, I had no plan of visiting Paris this trip, but the memory of the beef keep nagging me in the back of my mind to the point where it seemed absurd that I would be in Europe and not made the side trip to Paris. I mean, considering the cost of a separate trip to Paris, a side trip to the City of Lights seemed downright sensible.

And since I hadn't yet visited the Eiffel Tower, now would be my chance.

Boudin Noir

It's a good thing I checked the Internet for hours of operation because I was originally going to stay in Zagreb until Monday and then fly back to the United States on Tuesday to get home in time to host my annual Fourth of July Party. The problem is: Robert et Louise is closed on Mondays. Merde.

So, if I trim a day off of Croatia and fly to Paris on Sunday afternoon, I could make it to Robert et Louise before their 11pm closing time. It was risky. The timing of flights would have to be perfect. One mistake and the whole Paris trip will have been for nought.

In spite of the God-awful crowds at Zagreb Airport, I just barely made it onto my flight to Frankfurt. The connection to Paris was smooth and by 8pm, I was rushing towards the Gare Est on the B Train from Charles du Gaulle. After checking into my hotel, a quick rinse in the shower and a change of clothes, I was on my way and made it to the restaurant by 10pm. Whew.

Cote du Boeuf for two

The bar area was packed - which meant half the restaurant was jam-packed. Everyone was watching the Euro Cup Finals between Germany and Spain. Luckily, there was a small two top available in the back next to a table of eight. I massaged myself into the chair with a split view of the kitchen, the fireplace and occasional glimpses of the game whenever someone moved their head.

Ordering was simple: I'd been dreaming of the sausage so give me that. No can do, mon cheri. They were out of the sausage, but I should try the boudin noir because it's excellent.

Now, I wasn't too pleased. I really wanted the sausage. I had been dreaming about it. I needed it. And I typically hate boudin noir, or blood sausage. It's too mealy for me. Can't stand it. But these guys were raving about it. Maybe I just have never had real boudin noir.

But it was excellent. Creamy without being mealy with a definite taste of vinegar. Roasted on the fire, it was delicious. Not firm but just right. I really liked it. I didn't want more. But I would order it again.

Salad, sel gris and freshly ground black pepper.

Finally, the beef came and it was huge. And rare. And mean looking. This was beef that was about business. It wasn't fooling around. The large ripples of fat stared menacingly at me, as if taunting me to tear into them.

My only wish for this beef: I wish they used a heavier hand in seasoning. More salt would have worked to pronounce the beef flavor. As such, it was a bit muted resulting in a heaver use of sel gris. But the results aren't the same.

Otherwise, the meat was good. For France.

I hate to say it, but the meat is simply better at home where I can buy incredible quality beef direct from the farmer who raised the cows. American beef is more flavorful than French, but this was still great steak. I'm now just able to discern a difference.

You may be wondering why I decided to order the Cote du Boeuf for two instead of the entrecote for one - am I a glutton or something? Well, maybe.

But seriously, I've had the entrecote. I wanted to see what the Real Deal was all about. There's no way I expected to finish it. In fact, I took the center cut of the ribeye home and tossed it into the fridge for a later meal. Whatever the case, I was done.


I've been learning over the past year that I'm really not a dessert person. Sure, I love a good ice cream, but it's not necessary after a good meal. In fact, I'm starting to prefer skipping the dessert course entirely. Maybe a small order of salty french fries to cleanse the palate, please.

As I was sitting there: digesting, one of the staff came up to me to tell me that they were now closed and would I mind terribly if people started smoking. While I'm against cigarettes personally, I'm even more against draconian laws designed to prohibit adults from making personal choices - smoking being one of them.

Of course, let them smoke. In fact, bring me a cold beer so I can smoke my cigarillos too! I sat there for at least another hour enjoying several Montecristo Havana cigarillos and ice cold Heinekens.

It was a beautiful way to end an evening. Go fuck yourself, California.

Stranger 7th

Back in February, I joked that staying in the 7th was like being at home. Turns out it's getting serious this time.

I'm back in Paris for a couple of days and decided to stay once again at my home away from home at the Best Western Eiffel Park Hotel. It's part of the Paris Rive Gauche chain and I really liked it last time and the rates were good this time. There's a new French-Algerian girl working the reception desk and I'm even back in the same room again: 206.

It's nice to return to familiar surroundings but I was hoping to try out a different room. This time, it's really like returning to your flat after months away on holiday. Just wish the bedding was more than foam core.

With the severe heat and dips into cold air conditioning, I contracted a cold in Croatia that I'm trying to stay ahead of. I also was bitten by a spider on my inner left thigh. At first I thought it was a simple mosquito bite, but after two days of constant itching and that tell-tale hardening of the skin - not to mention tonights' new twist that makes it stiff to walk, it's got to be a spider bite. Damn spiders.

I'm a bit low on the antibiotic side. If we were still in Copenhagen, I could have borrowed some Avapena from the girls. Since I'm too stubborn to treat it and am determined to "tough it out", I'll probably end up dead in a day or two from poisoning. Well, if one MUST die, might as well be in Paris.

I've come to Paris for one reason: to eat at Robert et Louise again. This time to try the Cote du Boeuf. Originally, I was planning on staying in Zagreb until Monday. Then I found out that Robert et Louise is closed on Mondays, and since I want to be home on July 1st, I needed to come in a day early.

The next problem is that I wanted to bring some baguettes from Stephane Secco home with me. Secco is closed on both Sundays and Mondays. That means I had to get a later flight through Frankfurt instead of the non-stop from Paris - just so I could buy baguettes in the morning.

In the meantime, I've got my goals set up:

1 - Visit Pierre Herme for macaroons
2 - Visit the olive oil shop in Bastile
3 - Visit our friends at Soluna Cafes
4 - Hunt down tasty steak and frites
5 - Find Absinthe
6 - Look at books
7 - Visit Leticia

Okay, perhaps I'm not too serious about Number Seven, but the rest I've got to jam in for tomorrow. Otherwise, I'll work on meeting more girls on this trip. I've already got one number...

Moving To Zagreb

Cappu-Sara: a most compelling reason to move to Zagreb.

Happily, the heat has abated here in Zagreb, making much more enjoyable to go out, walk around the city and tour its' sights. It's a pretty city. Small, compact, but quite pretty. Take the funicular to Upper Town and see the city spread out at your feet. Lovely.

Too lovely are the women here. Every few steps, it's "dobra dan" (meaning: "hello" in Croatian). I've said it a lot in this city. Gobin keeps asking me when I'm moving here. I might be crazy, but I'm not that crazy - this isn't Mexico City, afterall...

But it certainly is tempting.

Whatever the desire may be, I still have more Empire Building to do at home in Maryland before I can start setting up worldwide outposts just to sarge women.

My time here is coming to an end. I will be heading to Paris this afternoon and while I am enjoying life on the road, I'm starting to long for the comforts of home. My bed sucks so i really don't miss that. I've got friends wherever I go, so I'm not missing that either. I don't have a steady woman at home either, so I'm not missing anything there. The food has been excellent on the road, so I don't miss that. Gee, maybe I really don't miss anything and am just feigning that longing for home because everyone else feels that longing for home.

Okay, so the real reason I "need" to get home is because I'm running out of money. If that were constant and never-ending perhaps I would never return to the United States.

The main market here is amazing. The produce is beautiful. The meats look stunning. The seafood immaculate. I saw a piece of tuna that just looked stellar. I wanted to buy it. So many ingredients that I wish I could try.

Instead, Eva cooked lunch for us. Croatians are interesting. Unlike America (and perhaps the rest of the world), there's no set time for meals. Lunch easily means three or four o'clock in the afternoon and nothing else the rest of the night. Perhaps this is a better way to eat. Whatever it is, it certainly is a lot to eat. Lunch spreads are not simple salads and light sandwiches, it's full-blown, multi-course meals. Meals so large, they're best capped with an afternoon nap. Perhaps this is how Spaniards live too?

Lunch started with a simple salad of spinach and arugula with a light vinaigrette, sliced fresh tomatoes with basil in olive oil and balsamic, and some roasted scallops on the half shell. Amazing. Next up, a bowl of langoustines stewed in tomatoes and pasta. Delicious. Little, tiny langoustines that you peel off the tail shell and suck the heads. Fantastic. But that's not all, next up was a meat course. Roasted pork wrapped in pancetta in a tomato cream sauce with gnocci.

Dios Mio, this is some serious eating. Hearty meals here seem commonplace. These are American-sized meals and after a week in Copenhagen eating very little for way too much, it's a shock. American-sized they may be but industrially processed they are not. Advantage: Croatia.

So much food I've taken to multiple laps around the town square each evening.

Some of you have been wondering where the images are? While on the road, it's a bit harder to upload images to the blog, as well as keep up with the adventures. I've got more images as well as reports coming after I return to the United States.