France


The napkin.

I had lunch at a tiny little restaurant just steps from my hotel in Paris. It was called Le Timbre.

Only 11 tables. A lovely young woman and her husband own the restaurant — it has been open for about five years. He’s the Chef. From my observation, she managed the restaurant.

Husband and wife were both stylish, handsome, and in total synch in presenting their food. I was quite taken by them and their little restaurant.

It took me several days to get a seat because they were always booked. I finally scored a reservation for lunch on Saturday. The menu was transcendent. As was the food.

First though – there was this evocative moment. The napkin ring.

It immediately transported me to the VSOE. Oh, that it were one of those Harry Potter portkeys and could have literally transported me to the Orient Express. At dinner, the cameriere would play this game. He would hold the ring and have me pull out the napkin. Lovely evocative memory.

Anyway – back to my lunch at Le Timbre.

I picked the mini prix-fixe: starter and main.

White Tuna and Watermelon

Great starter. Cubes of white tuna lightly marinated with equal size cubes of watermelon. The dressing was green, had a slight kick to it: composed of parsley, chervil, coriander, lemon and some of its zest, and olive oil. The “kick” might have been a little touch of chile though it was not hot. It was fabulous.

Red Snapper with Braised Baby Leeks

The snapper was perfectly seared. Served on braised leeks. The golden rectangle of potato was crispy on top with layers and layers of deliciousness below. The purée on the plate was celery root.

Chef did something quite interesting with the dish. The spices were lightly sprinkled in discreet sections. A few sprigs of thyme about 3 o’clock. Some ground cumin with a couple of seeds at 10. Thin thin thin slices of pork belly laid on top of the leeks. There was one shallot in the dish that added another level of flavor. And a few nicoise olives were scattered about.

If in Paris and you get a chance – make a reservation at Le Timbre. It’s on the tiny little Rue Sainte-Beuve.

First night in Paris at the Quartiere Vavni in Arrondissement 6.

I’ve got a bad case of VSOE withdrawal. Going from complete service on the Orient Express to fending for myself in Paris.

As it happened, I found myself at a cafe on a corner in Luxembourg for some epic people watching.

A couple in their late thirties. Both professionals. He arrived at the table first, ordered himself a glass of rosé and lit up a cigarette. 15 minutes later, a chic looking woman joined him. He then ordered a carafe of rosé and a little glass bucket with ice. She is talking – French – sounds like she had a bad day. Oh but wait – they’re flirting. I think they’ve just started dating. Why? Because he’s actually listening to her.

Unless that’s what French men do.

Behind me – I haven’t stared yet, give me a second. It’s two men in their twenties who are working in fashion. Bitching about being assistants to someone who doesn’t appreciate them. Beautiful. African I think. They seem to be a couple. With them an Asian woman who they chided should order in English if she wanted to. Odd, I thought. But, she did.

All the while I am luxuriating in sloppily eating Petites Sardines á l’huile d’Olive. Slathering the butter that came with my order on what to them is probably some mundane bread (and to me is a little piece of heaven).

Digging the little Basque fish out of the can – and strategically laying it over the buttered bread. Squeezing some lemon and trying to maneuver it into my mouth without oil dripping down the corner of my mouth and onto my chin.

Not sure I succeeded, but man it was soooo good!!

Ha! The waiter just came and took all the goodies away. No “are you finished, Madam.” By that point I had progressed to squeezing the lemon into the oil left in the can with tiny bits of fish. And just dipping the bread into it. I guess I’m done.

Over my left shoulder – as I discreetly tried to take on the scene – sits a bohemian looking woman with white hair. She was nursing her one cup of coffee and madly scribbling away on a small pad. She seems oblivious to the “scene” around her.

Oh did I mention – everyone’s smoking.

A superb perch for people watching. An elderly couple crossing the street – he has a cane – she a baquette.

A woman sitting at a table with her two dogs. I suspect this is HER table. She was sitting in an alleyway that had bins of books, a restaurant and a theatre. At least one was a stage theatre – I might go see their Macbeth (The Notes) just for the experience. And though I didn’t see where the movie theatre was located – I did see posters for movies.

Earlier, I saw a Parisian woman confident and striding across the street. She was sporting the quintessential Breton-striped shirt. She was tastefully braless, and wearing baggy denims that had a high hem. And unpretentiously and unconsciously stylish.

Welcome to Paris.