Sunday, April 25, 2010
Dinner with French Friends
Last night we went to dinner with Danuta (who is Polish but married a Frenchman nearly 30 years ago), her daughter Agnes who is 27, and her son Vincent who is 19. This family is not typically French because -- one, they don't have a television, and two, they are passionate about music. Their entire family play instruments or sing. Vincent came to Paris to composer school when he was 14. We were visiting then when he took his exams, which required writing the part for different instruments and voices for some kind of classical music. The family has three other children and the husband, Michel, was not in Paris.
We met them for dinner at about 8:30 and we begin to wander down Rue Mouffetard in search of a restaurant. There are tons of restaurants but they did not meet the requirements of the French family. They are very picky about their food. Vincent has been this way since he was little. He would not eat the noodles that the other children were served, but wanted a grown up meal.
Inevitably, he argued with his mother at each place we paused. But this was not a real restaurant, this was only a bistro. He called a cousin who knew the area well to get her opinion. He spoke to his father.
Danuta rejected a number of places because they were winter foods -- fondue or raclettes. Those were for skiing season, she explained.
We finally settled down to eat dinner out doors a little after nine. Truthfully, it wasn't a great choice. The restaurants in France have different priced "Menus." Each menu has starters or entrees, then the meal or plats then dessert. Sometimes the "Menu" includes wine as well.
I wanted the goat cheese salad, but there wasn't a plat to choose from that looked great. I ended up with steak au poivre - that's a pepper sauce, but basically it was covered in gravy. The salad was terrific and luckily filled me up mostly. Also the dessert I chose was chocolate mousse -- lighter than air but much more scrumptious.
Earl had onion soup -- of course that was French onion, and Danuta didn't tell him he should have had a warm weather choice. He ordered turkey cordon bleu -- basically deep fried turkey. We were both pretty disappointed in our dinner choices. Earl's dessert was Tarte Normande, which is an apple tart with creme fraiche on the side. His dessert was good too.
Agnes got fish and it was like surgery for her to eat it. Yes, it looked like a real fish lying there on her plate. She used her knife and fork to carefully pul out the meat, looking for tiny bones.
The company was the point of the meal though and we enjoyed catching up on all of the friends and relatives.
Earl bought Vincent a coke because when he was 14 and we were having dinner near l'Opera (Oh, a truly great restaurant as Vincent recalls), Vincent and his father fought. Vincent wanted a Coca Cola but his father told him, "You'll drink wine like the rest of us." Our friends in the U.S. get a kick out of that story.
We left the restaurant after 11 and walked back to the apartment where Vincent and Danuta were staying for the night before catching the train back to Nantes in the morning. Vincent was going to play the piano for us, but since it was after 11:30 we cancelled the piano date
"Vincent plays very passionately," Danuta explained, and it was too late at night for such a raucous piano concert. He will play for us when we visit Nantes at the end of the week.
Agnes headed home to her Paris apartment while Earl and I walked back to our hotel.
Earlier in the day, Earl and I went on an excursion. We stopped for cups of hot tea to give us some energy. 9 Euros was the cost. That's basically $13 for two cups of tea. Then we went to Luxembourg Gardens to walk around. Everyone in Paris was there to enjoy the beautiful weather.
The seats and the benches and the walls were all full of people. The areas of grass in the center remained pristine. No one is allowed to walk on the grass, much less lay on it or sit on it.
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