We went to Paris for a long weekend with hopes of eating and drinking our way through town in a gastronomic fantasy come true. Like Bonnie and Clyde with oysters and Chablis . Instead we were like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Hamlet , lost behind scenes on the set of a beautiful play. Armed with our business cards, restaurant guides, and dozens of emails from friends, bosses, and wine reps on where to eat and, more importantly, where to drink , at every point of the day… we were shocked to discover two things: nothing is open in Paris on the weekend and what is open is boring. It's a cruel joke.
My boyfriend said he had envisioned fully cooked and perfectly seasoned quail flying directly into his mouth while foie gras dripped down from the heavens. I'd dreamed of back vintages of Raveneau and of Champagnes that are too difficult to find in the States. Instead it was like we were in a food and wine ghost town. We did have two wonderful meals: L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is not a terrible way to spend a ridiculous amount of money. And Le Comptoir was delicious in all its pig’s feet splendor but also replete with a surly older waitress, bien sur. What was so frustrating for us, even at these places, was that the wine lists were so thoughtless.
Boring and uninspired wine lists are something I complain about in New York as well. I’ve said it before , if I don’t like the wine list, I will walk out of a restaurant. I don’t understand how my fellow wine directors could not take the time to find the hidden gems of wine to compliment the beautiful cuisine. It seems lazy to me to have Veuve instead of Goutorbe on your list. It makes me feel like you think I’m stupid when you just put a bunch of wines down on a piece of paper and expect me to drink them. And worse, I feel insulted because I genuinely worry about my list. Do I have enough Washington wines? How is the price range? Is it biodynamic? How is the new vintage? Is the list interesting and diverse? Are the wines good? But after our weekend in Paris , I will add a new question to worry over while planning my list: If I was the guest would I be happy with this selection? The ultimate test.
Now, I know there are plenty of wonderful wine lists and many talented wine directors in New York . I’ve had the pleasure of dining at their establishments. And maybe those lists have helped to cultivate that expectation of greatness, or at least uniqueness on other wine lists and in myself. And perhaps this is what made it so difficult for me in Paris . It wasn’t about an being Americans in Paris but rather a couple of New Yorkers in Paris . Or rather, a couple of New York restaurant professionals in Paris . And we brought all of our expectations of food, wine, and service with us. It definitely made me pay attention differently to the guests in my dining room the past two nights. Are they celebrating, are they visiting, what are their expectations? One could possibly have a similar experience to ours, even in New York City . Though, I would venture to guess, that most people would react differently to a waitress pushing her off the sidewalk and out of her way if she were in NYC instead of Paris, n’est ce pas?
Carolyn DeFir is general manager/wine director of NYC’s The Tasting Room . Prior to The Tasting Room, Carolyn was the general manager at NYC's venerable The Red Cat restaurant.
We Went to Paris for a Long Weekend
- Blog comment by natalya, Nov 5, 2007.
Carolyn- I completely agree with you about the Parisian wine lists. Very uninspired. I spent a long weekend in Paris in July after Vinexpo and had been warned that cocktails (and beer) were the way to go. Drinking highlights- I had my first flute of Billecart Salmon Rose at Hotel Costes and discovered a delicious Lambic beer at a Belgian restaurant (the Liefmans Kriek http://www.liefmans.be/EN/Liefmans/...). But alas, no great wine anecdotes to share. Bordeaux was a different story- the wine there was amazing, as you'd expect.
- Blog comment by Pop-Pop, Nov 6, 2007.
Sorry that your experience in Paris was not what you had expected. I would never thought that the City of Paris would close for the weekend. In fact it would be my thought that the City of Paris would be open all of the time.
But I am happy that you had the chance to go to Paris and most happy that you made the trip safely.
Take care--love-Ya. Pop-Pop
- Reply by amour, Jan 23, 2010.
I pulled this up so those who enjoyed PARIS
I will write later about my lunches at
TAILLEVENT and more.
- Reply by dirkwdeyoung, Jan 23, 2010.
TAILLEVENT is fantastic from my experience, glad you were able to enjoy. Next time you go, let me know and I can make a couple of suggestions. cheers,
- Reply by amour, Jan 23, 2010.
So pleased that we can have such a rapport dirkwdeyoung !
Thanks to Snooth !
I am still in touch with my Taillevent sommelier, Marc.
He has introduced me to many vineyards and their
owners and so on !
He is very close to Domaine Mazurd pere&fils in the Rhone.
I had the 1999 La Mazurka.....enthralling, my friend.
There is also the 100% Grenache from 120 year old vines,
called L'OR du Rhone 1995 ...quite sweet and delicious.
Will keep in touch and share our gems!
Thanks for offering suggestions.