I am home in Peterborough, and I've left a little piece of my heart in Paris.
The most rewarding thing about experiencing Paris was participating in its unique gastronomical culture. It's very alive in Paris as you might imagine, and far more laid back than you might expect.
|Slicing ham at Le Garde Robe|
I feel inspired, rejuvenated and a sense of affirmation. I think we can make Le Petit Bar feel like a little Parisian local... and I hope it becomes your corner zinc.
On our last day, we walked and walked and walked in search of a bar called Le Rubis.
When you walk through the door at Le Rubis you immediately feel like you've entered a Parisian institution. It's clear this bar has been operating for ages, and is the favourite hangout of many locals. Again, it's a tiny place, with a beautiful zinc bar and multiple wines by the glass. It serves comfort food and charcuterie, and is like no bar or restaurant I've ever been to.
When we entered Le Rubis and I asked for a table for two we were sent upstairs, to the second floor "dining room". You access upstairs by stepping behind the bar, opening a very narrow door and following a tight, winding, wooden staircase to the second level. We were greeted at the top of the stairs by a woman in a tiny kitchen with a man who appears to be the primary cook. The women, it becomes clear, serves and helps assemble the plates. She points us to a room that may be 12'x12' and rammed full of tables. Twenty-four seats, 12 tables of two, and less than an inch between each table. They are arranged in three rows, with 16 seats running parallel to each other in two rows of eight tables, and eight more seats (four tables) perpendicular to those 16, capping off the arrangement. A chalkboard lists the day's lunch options. I choose saucisse-lentilles, and it's a great choice. One nicely browned sausage served beside a heaping serving of puy-lentils braised in a rich stock with some carrot and onion, finished with a generous dollop of butter. It is very simple comfort food, and it's served to us shortly after we order it, along with a carafe of vin blanc - we think it may have been Muscadet.
I really couldn't take many photos in this place. We were elbow to elbow (literally) with our neighbours and it just felt too intimate for me to start snapping away. The place cleared out as we finished our lunch and I whipped out the camera to photograph my dessert, tarte tatin.
|Tarte Tatin - Le Rubis|
This place was the real deal - the service staff did not speak English and I am sure we were the only non-Parisians in the place. Visiting Le Rubis confirmed for me that a French bar a vins really is a local bar. It's not the American version of a wine bar - super chi-chi with high-end wines and delicate food.
Wine is a delicious drink. It, unfortunately, carries with it a strange stigma in our culture. It, for some ridiculous reason, it's often attached to snobbery or status. In France the bars a vins are like the local pub, but instead of five beers on tap you have five whites and five reds by the glass. Instead of, what we recognizes as, pub-grub you are served simple and hearty charcuterie. You go to the bar a vins to shoot the shit with your neighbours and friends, and your primary drink of choice is wine. We don't have a spot like this in Peterborough, yet.
|A glass at Baron Rouge|
At Le Petit Bar you can expect a cozy and comfortable place to sit and relax. You can expect simple and filling charcuterie, intended to be shared with your friends. You can expect to sit relatively close to other patrons, and perhaps make a new friend each time you visit. You can expect ten wines by the glass, some cheap and cheerful, some elegant, some unique and interesting, and some meant for you to splurge on.
Visiting Paris confirmed for me what we are trying to do at Le Petit Bar. It also made me relax and think about how important it is to enjoy everyday, as corny as that may sound. You don't get a cup of coffee to go in Paris, and walk down the street gulping it before you get to your next destination. You set on a terrace, even in January, and people-watch while sipping your cafe. You take a coffee break. You spend a few hours after work over a glass or two of wine, unwinding before worrying about what you're going to eat for dinner (perhaps this is easier to do if you don't have a family!), and then you take your time when you finally sit down to dinner at 9 pm. It's a lifestyle that is a little foreign to us, and in some ways does seem impractical to my North American sensibilities, but it's also so very civilized!
|Baguette - Marche Bastille|
You can probably tell from my posts that Paris was a great experience. I've brought home with me fresh ideas, new energy, revitalized confidence and a few bottles of wine.
I've also made a realization about why why Parisians are so slim. It's quite simple, actually - you can't eat if you're too big to fit between the tables and into the dining room. You have to be slim by necessity, or you aren't eating anything anywhere.