Brrrr! I’m in Paris this week and took a very long power walk the day I arrived to shake off the airplane doldrums. By power walk, I mean almost 6 miles. That’s a lot for lil ol’ me! I started out east of the Arch de Triomphe and made it all the way to St. Germain – in sub-40° misty gray weather.
It was the first Sunday of the month, and that meant that L’avenue des Champs-Élysées was closed off to auto traffic and super-open to pedestrians. I didn’t know about that and wondered why all of the police vehicles were blocking the road, and the military personnel were checking the bags (including mine) of folks who wanted to walk down this most famous of Parisian avenues. I though maybe a terrorist had created a semi-lockdown situation.
But no!It turns out that first Sunday is actually big for family outings in Paris, even on this most cold and wet day. The people-watching was magnificent. The experience was magnificent. Walking down the middle of this historic street with no cars on it was magnificent. Children and dogs were…magnificent.
I was bundled up, but it was super-cold! I needed to warm up in a café with a cappuccino. I got near Café de Flore and Le Deux Magots, expecting one of them to be my solace place. My son and I visited this area on a trip to Paris (click here) where an experience motivated him to write an award-winning essay, and I was eager to warm up in this area. Les Deux Magots was closed for renovations and Café de Flore was packed and on a waiting list, so I took my frozen bones over to Café Louise across the street. I made a great choice!
Ordering a sparkling water and a cappuccino, I admitted to the waiter that I was very, very cold. I was so very impressed with the hospitality that he and Café Louise provided:
The sparkling water came with a very heavy, beautiful crystal glass. The cappuccino warmed my hands after I removed my gloves. The waiter came right back after delivering the beverages and gave me a complimentary snack, “quiche bites”. Oh. My. Gosh. Rich, simple and delicious, I was cold-no-more after devouring them.
The waiter visited often and made me feel like an important guest that they were just hoping to host that day…as though I was expected. I just love that Parisian hospitality.
Thank you, Café Louise. You made me feel at home on a cold, foggy, gray Paris day.
More hateful violence by bad actors in Paris this week, and therefore, all the more reason to reinforce the goodness and light of that beautiful city. Reblogging this post in solidarity with Parisians and folks all over the world who reject prejudice, hatred, violence and vitriol.
Read the online reviews of Bistro Des Augustin in Paris and you’ll be hooked. There’s no way to overstate the simple deliciousness of the gratin at this humble little restaurant at the corner of the Pont Neuf and the Seine river in Paris, on the Left Bank.
Also billed as a wine bar, Bistro Des Augustin is known primarily for its gratins and provides a nice selection of them, from vegetarian with tomatoes or eggplant, to duck breast or chicken, to smoked salmon. But the one that four of my colleagues chose on a recent summer evening after work (on a business trip) was the Bistro Gratin.
As you can see, this dish is swimming in creamy, cheesy goodness, browned to perfection on top and sprinkled with extra herbs of Provence. Bits of bacon dot every bite of the perfectly cooked potatoes. All four of my colleagues who ordered this meal were close to swooning with the goodness of it. I realized after begging a bite that I had made a huge error in judgment by ordering a (very good) smoked salmon and goat cheese salad, copying our only French colleague in the group and trying to eat healthy. Mistake! The salad was lovely, fresh and flavorful, but the Bistro Gratin far surpassed it – it was downright heavenly. You know those dishes your grandmother made waaaaaay back when you were a child and no one has ever been able to reproduce, no matter how hard and how often they tried? That’s the taste in this gratin; it’s grandmotherly good,an instant and permanent deep-seated taste memory.
The menu lists the ingredients for the Bistro Gratin: potatoes, cream, egg, bacon, herbs de Provence, garlic and Emmental cheese. I haven’t been able to find a recipe with this precise mix of ingredients on the internet, but I am on a mission to recreate this cheesy, rustic masterpiece.
I can’t recommend this restaurant highly enough, and noticed in the online reviews that many of the testimonials include a mention of eating there two or more times during the same vacation! In addition to the mouth-watering, jealous-making (if you didn’t order it) gratin, Bistro Des Augustins has a Parisian homey charm and an authentic, true sense of place. Did I mention that it is tiny? There are perhaps a dozen tables, half inside and half out.
Here’s one final shot of the Bistro Gratin, until I can replicate it at home and share it with you here.