Friday, 23 May 2008, Sturm und Drang in Metz

(Written 24 May 2008)

Well, the sturm und drang were only in the morning. As usual, I had gotten up early and was dressing quietly so as not to wake David, when a siren went off in the corridor outside, loud enough to make me jump. It could only be the fire alarm, so I hastily threw on the rest of my clothes, grabbed my shoes, and went to investgate. Our room was pretty well sound-proofed, so when I opened the door to the corridor, the alarm was deafening, but I encountered no signs of fire or smoke; no scurrying, shouting, or approaching sirens; no sign of anyone at all. So I padded downstairs barefoot, shoes in hand to ask at reception (where another couple were tranquilly checking out), "so what's the deal; is there a fire?" No, no, I was assured, everything's fine, the cook just set off the smoke alarm making the breakfast toast. So I went back upstairs, once again unavoidably letting the din into our (relatively) quiet room, and went back to working on this blog. Presently, somebody shut off the alarm. David slept through the whole thing.

(Written 25 May 2008)

sundialAfter breakfast at our great little bakery, The first order of business was to hike back up to the museum and resume our chronological journey through it. Going by a different route than the day before, we came across this great sundial on the side of a building. The inscription says "Passerby, take your time, or it will take you." At the museum, the staff, several of whom were assembled at the front desk greeted us with effusion—oh, you're the ones whose feet got tired in room 56, just before the middle ages; here, let me conduct you back to that spot by the shortest route; remember that you can exit for lunch and reenter on the same ticket; just ask any member of the staff to lead you out to reception . . . .

headsSo we were conducted back to just the spot where we left off and continued the tour. Labeling and documentation seemed to improve as we moved forward in time, so we had only just reached the 18th century when, just a noon, the lady we took to be the head docent appeared and asked if we'd like to go to lunch now. On the way out, she told every docent we passed, and the front desk, just where we had been, so that we could easily be directed back and not lose our place. These stone heads are two of five that adorned a renaissance house that one can still see in the old town (Four of the real ones are in the museum, sheltered from the elements; reproductions now adorn the house; the fifth original is in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston).

For lunch we went to a little restaurant/tearoom called L'Heure de la Pause ("break time"), overlooking the Moselle, that we had spotted the day before on our walking tour. Flammenküchen again; this time, we both had the "gratinée," i.e., with cream, bacon, onions, and gruyère. The lunch was good, and the view nice, but the ambience of the place was a little overwhelming, in the hearts-flowers-teddybears-and-geese-with-blue-ribbons vein. Teddybears were literally drifted in the corners. On each table was a bud vase graced by a single spray of fresh, real geranium blossoms, but every other possible surface was draped, nay, festooned with artificial roses, rose hips, apple blossoms, apples, ivy, bittersweet, lilacs, etc., untidy tufts of decorative straw, rustic baskets and ladders, paper hearts, glass hearts, and chains of painted wooden hearts (some with hearts painted on them). The curtains were printed with hearts. Hearts were woven into the pattern of the table cloth. The glass-fronted counter-top fridge full of pies had artificial roses sprouting from its ventilation ports and a small unfortunate teddybear stuck to the front, his back to the room (perhaps impaled on a knob or handle of some sort). The beer dispenser bore two small potted plants and a teddybear. In the ladies' room (one stall and an even smaller antechamber with a sink) I counted five teddybears of various sizes, five paintings (one of a girl and the others of various flowers), three large vases of artificial flowers and apples, a lamp draped with fake apples, more fake flowers and apples and ivy on the walls, a wooden coat rack (depicting another teddy bear, a chicken, and goose with a blue ribbon around its neck), and a large heart-shaped "please be neat" sign. I deduced that (as was later confirmed by David) the same decor extended to the men's room, because I saw one gentleman enter, then pop hastily back out and carefully reexamine the outside of the door to verify that it said "lui" and not "elle."

Across the street a sign advertised a lunch special that included "smoke meat," just like that, in English. Some native of Montreal had opened a restaurant in Metz? We checked the menu, and sure enough, the place is called "Canad'Aventure" (Canad'adventure), and the menu features not only caribou and bison but pancakes with maple syrup and blueberry jam (though as a dessert rather than breakfast). [Note added later: We came across another in another city; must be a chain.]

map1map2After lunch, we were readmitted to the museum and once again escorted to the place where we left off, then spent another couple of hours completing the circuit, ending with (mostly abstract) modern art. My favorite piece in the modern section was this crumpled world map, which measures maybe 6 x 6 x 3 feet high. It's made of something hard and smooth (ceramic? plaster?). I have no idea how he did it.

flocoat hookIt was clear we weren't going to get a chance to have a meal at Brasserie Flo (we already had dinner reservations and would be leaving Metz the next morning), so we strolled down there on our way back from the museum and just ordered a decaf for David and a mint-verbena tea for me. The photos shows part of its Art Deco decor, which extends even to the coat hooks.

Dinner was at le Jardin d'Adam, in the suburb of Plappeville, the first restaurant we would have to drive to. So far, David had done all the driving, but when we have to drive home from a restaurant, I get to do it, because he's been drinking wine. So I always get to drive the rental car for the first time coming home from someplace in the boonies, in the dark. Actually, I often drive to the restaurant, too, just so I get a feel for the route and the car (although we often have to come back by a different route, because of, e.g., all those pesky one-way bridges). Anyway, going out, we only got lost once (you get in one wrong lane, and its all over—you get shunted off in some odd and unexpected direction), but I found us on the map, and we bushwhacked our way back through the twisty little suburb of Devant les Ponts to Plappeville and reached the restaurant on time.

The dinner differed from others we've had in that you got just what you ordered—no amuse-bouche, no little sorbet between courses, no predessert, not even any mignardises unless you ordered coffee. It's small and run by a young husband and wife. She runs the dining room, and he cooks. She knows nothing about wine, so he also serves as sommelier, coming out of the kitchen in his jeans and sweatshirt to answer questions, recommend wines, etc. The place is also more economical than most places of similar rating, even including the four different glasses of wine that David had.

We both had the "menu découverte."

mousseFirst course: Mousse of pigeon with sweet onion jam. Yes, silky smooth, slighly fluffy mousse, but made of pigeon (the ultimate in bonelessness). It was very good, and the onion jam was great.

asparagusSecond course: Chilled cream of asparagus soup. Really, really good. First, he made a thin, smooth cream of asparagus soup, using white asparagus, and chilled it. Then he made a consommé strongly flavored with langoustines (Nephrops norvegicus, a crustacean), chilled it until it gelled firmly, and cut it into half-inch dice. Then he cooked whole green asparagus tips and sliced white asparagus stems (peeled, for tenderness) and chilled them. At serving time, he put the two asparaguses and some dice of consommé in each bowl, whipped the cream soup to a froth, and poured it over them. Wow, was it good!

duckThird course, breast of duck, cooked like a rare steak and napped with a slightly sweet sauce, accompanied by carefully seasoned vegetables and a crisp cake of hash-browned potatoes. Delicious.

Cheese: David had a ruffle of tête de moine, something described as "like a roblochon but with blue veins" which he didn't consider an improvement on roblochon, some roquefort, and a tomme de brebis, the last accompanied by wild rose-hip preserves, which we'd never had before. They're very good, but they don't taste like roses. I had half a rocadamour, a mild creamy cow's milk cheese I didn't get the name of (robin-robert, something like that), three dried apricots, and the most amazing Pouligny-St.-Pierre. It was so ripe they had put it in an old St. Marcelin dish, where it had collapsed completely, and they were serving it with a spoon. It was superb!

dessertDessert: Rhubarb compote with fresh strawberries. The whiteish-green object is a mint leaf covered with powdered sugar (the sugar had already dissolved where it rested on strawberries.

We'd brave the traffic pattern to go back there anytime. Highly recommended.

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