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All ducks go to heaven…

5 Sep

I was going to title this post: “I don’t care what they do to those little ducks!”

Then I thought – “All ducks go to heaven…” was a little more appropriate.  I know, I’m late posting these things – you would think I would have plenty of time to do this, but it’s really hard to find 30 minutes to post stuff.  Two nights ago we really did the Donna’s 50th Birthday Celebration dinner at a restaurant that I’ve wanted to go to for over 10 years and is really legendary, a Paris tradition and simply, over-the-top.  We took a taxi to the restaurant because it was raining and Donna and I were both dressed up as it was “Jackets Required” at La Tour D’Argent.

The taxi pulled up and immediately, a man was trying to open the door.  I thought it was a Parisian trying to get out of the rain, but instead it was the doorman to the restaurant, trying to help Donna out of the cab.  Then I realized it wasn’t the doorman, it was the ‘Taxi Door Opener Guy”.  The doorman opened the door to the restaurant where we were met by the ‘manager’ who welcomed us, then by the person who takes our name, then by the coat check lady, all within 60 seconds of exiting the taxi.  So all in, we have already been greeted by 5 La Tour D’Argent employees and have not yet even made it into the restaurant itself, but were just in the lobby which was at street level!  This is a small clue that you have better saved some pretty pennies for this evening.

The next person we meet will be the elevator operator – who’s job it is to take us up the restaurant level and make us feel at ease by asking if it’s our 1st time coming to the restaurant.  Of course, that only makes us more nervous.  I made the reservations for 9:00 PM which is ‘normal’ for Paris restaurants hoping that we’d get out of there ‘early’ or before 1:00 AM, so I didn’t expect the restaurant to be full, or at least as full.  We walked out of the elevator to one of the most elegant, decadent and very ‘French’ restaurants I’ve ever seen.  It was fairly crowded, so I immediately was afraid that we wouldn’t be getting a ‘prime’ table.  But since I had made the reservation pretty long ago and I kept emailing the restaurant to ensure we would have a window table, sure enough, we were escorted through almost the entire restaurant to a window table near the very corner of the restaurant overlooking Notre Dame cathedral and the Seine river, which at night, look just beautiful all lit up.

At a French restaurant (at least the ones where you have ‘multiple’ people waiting on you), they almost invariably ask you “would you like an aperitif?”.  I read a Wine Spectator magazine article about fine dining in France which recommended that the answer is always, “yes” and almost always, “Champagne”.  So we followed French protocol and opted for the French Champagne.  Of course at a restaurant like this, that is just not the end of it.  Now came to the questions: “Would you like blanc de blanc, Rose or something from the Carte du Vin?”  Blanc de Blanc Champage is made from Chardonnay grapes which is usually great, but I know that Rose Champagne is made from Pinot Noir grapes and is usually a slightly more special wine, so I was beginning to lean towards the Rose.  The sommelier was beginning to get excited that we were going down this path.  He immediately asked Donna what she would like and she asked for a Blanc de Blanc.  So I switched and went for that as well.

Usually, a glass of champagne is brought to you on a tray at most places.  Here, they bring you a custom labelled bottle which they let you inspect, then pour your champagne right in front of  you to ensure that you are in fact getting the wine you ordered.  Ok, this could go long, so I’m going to cut to the chase and then just post lots of pictures of the food.

There is a small hand-blown duck sitting on every table at the restaurant.  It’s clear that this place is the place to come for duck in Paris or maybe even in all of France.  There is a dish on the menu called (in English) – Tour D’Argent Duck.  After doing some research, it turns out that duck prepared in this traditional French style is almost not offered anywhere because of the amount of time and effort it takes to make.  They in effect, take a duck and press it so that all of the juices are extracted and then make the most rich, thick, almost mole-like sauce to put on their duck.  I’ve been looking forward to this duck for years, so of course I had intended on ordering it, but then realized that it was a menu item “for two”,  Donna being a great sport, opted to order the duck as well so that I could have it.

We began with the very best foie gras Donna and I have ever tasted.  Truly something to savor.  The brought out ceramic ice cream looking tubs and scooped out 2 healthy scoops of the very best food item I’ve ever tasted onto our plates.  Then, something I’ve never experienced: 1 scoop of Sauternes jelly and 1 scoop of of Port jelly right next to our scoops of foie gras.  The only thing that made this heavenly dish even better was the Sauternes that Donna ordered and the Muscat wine I order to accompany our appetizer.  Wow!  If this is all we experienced, I would say that if you’re ever in Paris, you must make your way to this place and sample the foie gras – hence the “I don’t care what they do to the little ducks” comment.

Then came the 1st duck course which was the breast.  Since of course this would not be enough for this place, the next duck course was the thigh of our own personal duck as duck confit.

The pictures should help give you a little better image of the dinner we experienced.  Then came the post card with the duck’s number on it as a present to the both of us.  Apparently, this place has kept track of each duck that is destined to be served in this traditional style and has been documenting the ducks for many, many years.  Our particular duck was number: 1,102,095.  So over 1,000,000 ducks have been herded toward this place over so many years just to give people like me & Donna one of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had.  Hence the: “All ducks go to heaven” post.

Please enjoy the photos…

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Paris – Day 2…not much and then…the big Kahuna!!

3 Sep

Well, today began by us sleeping in until 9:00 AM.  Wow – had to catch up on some sleep.  So we didn’t do much for breakfast except run down and grab a croissant & pain-du-chocolate from the local bakery while running across the street to the bar to get some cafe-au-lait to go.

For lunch – we really went ‘bad tourist’ and ate some bad omelets & crepes at the restaurant in the gardens of Versailles.  While beautiful, the food really disappointed.  It was our own fault, as the timing really didn’t work out for us to get there and then leave the grounds to grab some good food (see oversleeping).

But wait folks, there is redemption here!!  For tonight is the night when Donna and I will actually celebrate her 50th birthday by going to one of the best & most legendary restaurants in the world: La Tour D’Argent, near the Notre Dame Cathedral.  The menu is ridiculous in both food & prices:  http://www.latourdargent.com/restaurant/la-carte/entrees

I have been wanting to go to La Tour D’Argent for years and have never been able to come up with a reason good enough to go.  Both Donna & I turning 50 this year was the appropriate reason for us to really splurge and head over there.  The reservations must be confirmed 24-hours in advance.  A coat & tie is required (something I have not done for a long time).  I’ve requested a table by the window so that maybe I can bring you some spectacular pictures from our table tomorrow.

I will also ask for a tour of the wine cellar – we’ll see how charming my lame French can be.  So – please check out the menu and make your fantasy-feastball bets.  Tomorrow I’ll let you know what we decided on for our food as well as what wonderful, one-of-a-kind wine selection we choose to celebrate Donna’s 50th birthday.  Wish us well!

Paris – Day 1

3 Sep

You would think that there’s all kinds of time to update this.  It’s 8:53 on Saturday morning and I have to ‘hurry’ to get this out there, or I fear that I’ll already be 2 days behind!  As usual, nothing goes perfectly.  The plan was to sleep on the airplane, land in Paris @ 9:00 AM and take the train into Paris for a late breakfast croissant or pain du chocolate & a cafe o-lait.  That didn’t happen.  We ended up checking in to our room at 1:00 PM and rushing out the door to grab the nearest cafe on Rue Cler.

Cafe Central was our pick based on the pure ‘touristy’ factors of sitting outside watching people with the ‘most French’ looking menu.  I know – but we were hungry and tired and thirsty.  In the end, it was just what the Dr. ordered.  Typical French Cafe fare:

We skipped dinner & breakfast on the plane so we were very hungry and ordered too much food.  Meat plate, cheese plate, bread, butter, water & an entire bottle of Viognier wine from the south of France.


I’ll write more about the food – just wanted to get out some pictures and what we ordered.

Cheese plate of course – amazing cheese, more later.  Meat plate – wow – the mortadella was from Italy, but was great!  Then we gorged on the best butter on the planet on the best bread on the planet until our food came.

Best Mortadella ever!

We went ‘typical French cafe’ again:  I had a Croq Madame – which is the best toasted ham & cheese sandwich with an egg on top, Donna had a classic ceasar salad and also, we split an order of fries.  No we didn’t finish all of it – but yes, tried all of it.  The fries were just ‘pretty good’ – I really expected crisper fries, but still great flavor.  The wine – just perfect for a hot sunny day in Paris – cold, crisp & fruity.

Not just - toasted ham & cheese with an egg on top!

 

We did NOT order dessert as we obviously ordered too much food – so we had a coffee for me & cafe creme for Donna.  Then off to explore Paris by walking to the Eiffel Tower & taking a boat cruise up the Seine – pictures on FaceBook: www.facebook.com/manny.montejano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then – dinner, 1st night in Paris @ Willi’s Wine Bar – http://www.williswinebar.com/ my favorite place to eat in Paris, not because it’s got the best food ever, but because it’s got it all.  Great food, great staff, poster art that you can buy and bring home (I have 6 of their posters at home) and the food and wine is great – and the staff know something about every bottle on the wine list.

 

My favorite place to eat in Paris!

 

Ok – gotta go quickly now.

We both started with champagne & the fois gras – an extra 3 Euro supplement – but so well worth it!  (For those of you who are against eating fois gras – I understand, but I will continue to eat this rich, tasty, like-butter, decandant stuff until I can’t afford it.

Donna had the lamb, I order the beef & had a crazy good bottle of Cornas wine from the south of France.  We ran into some wine industry people who obviously could afford any bottle on the menu, but chose to drink the same Cornas – I highly recommend it.

Here are some pictures – I have to run now – finished with a great cheese plate & Donna had pralines that were out of this world.

More tonight!! Gottta go grab a croissant & pain du chocolate!

 

Donna's Lamb @ Willi's Wine Bar

 

Cornas @ Willi's Wine Bar

Dessert @ Willi's Wine Bar

Beef @ Willi's Wine Bar

Bon Jour France!

31 Aug

Less than 24 hours from departing to France for 14 days of food & wine.  First stop is Paris for a few days.  We’ll land in the morning and head immediately to central Paris to grab a snack.  More tomorrow