Sunday, 23 June, Lazy Day in Paris, with food
Written 21 July 2019
The breakfast buffet at the Hyatt, included with our rooms booked through Viking, was spectacular, so I'm going to document it completely.
First, water. Sparkling and still. Iced and room temperature. In an urn with lots of lemon and lemon on the side in case you want to blend your own.
Then juices: grapefruit, orange, mixed red fruit, and carrot.
Fresh fruit, anyone? Watermelon, pineapple, orange wedges, honeydew chunks, canteloupe slices, grapefruit wedges, strawberries, and finally more watermelon. Behind the cut fruit were big baskets of whole bananas, apricots, red and green applies, peaches and nectarines.
Several items on offer might be improved by the addition of oddments to be sprinkled on. At the right is part of the assortment of sprinkles: blanched almonds, pistachios, macadamia nuts, light and dark raisins, walnuts, dried figs, dried apricots, cashews, dried cranberries, and granola. Crushed almonds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, and others I couldn't identify.
The muesli and dry cereal station started with dry muesli and muesli already mixed with yogurt and fruit, in addition to all bran, cornflakes, and chocolate flakes and its own collection of optional amendments: chopped fresh fruit, raisins, and stewed prunes.
This row of cans dispensed whole milk, apple juice, low-fat milk, and lactose-free milk.
Just to the left of the milk cans was this apple clafouti—apple chunks baked in an egg-flour-milk batter and sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar. The following morning, it was replaced with a blueberry pudding. Heaven forbid the guests should get bored with the breakfast choices.
Beyond that was an assortment of yogurts and fromages blancs, both "faisselle" style and smooth, with a choice of two house-made yellow fruit coulis (probably peach and apricot).
On the other end of that table were bowls of fresh blueberries to add to yogurt, as well as these plates of Isigny butter, both salted and unsalted. Note that these are decent-sized 30-gram disks that unwrap completely, not those miserable miniature ones that you have to dig out of plastic cups.
At the right here is a cauldron of rice congee, with its own assortment of sprinkles: cilantro, broad beans, chopped onion, bean sprouts, soy sauce, and raw mushrooms. To the right of that, bottles of ketchup, steak sauce, vinegar, and two different styles of French mustard.
The scrambled eggs were good, and the eggs of the day that day had spinach and those long clusters of cherry tomatoes baked right into them. A lovely presentation idea. A basket of boiled eggs was available for those who preferred them. Note also the warming plates built right into the counters that display their temperature settings in centigrade) at a glance.
To the right of the eggs were a large platter of sausages and a sliced roast of pork. The roast also rotated flavors on different days.
The other side of the table displayed grilled eggplant and tomatoes.
At the right is a closer view of the more distant veggies: roasted sweet potato wedges and focaccia sandwiches of grilled tomatoes. The sweet potatoes were kept hotter than the eggs.
Note also that the decorative basket of raw potatoes had been there for a good while. The ones on top had turned entirely green from light exposure.
Here's the assortment of "Viennoiseries": miniature croissants, pains au chocolat, pains de raisins, and what I thought were chocolate-chip torsades but that turned out to be studded with dried cranberries instead. Not an improvement.
Those preferring toast were not disappointed. At least three kinds of sliced bread, lots of toaster slots, three jams, and wildflower honey.
Around the corner, sliced brioche, neatly folded unfilled crêpes, and baguettes to trim to whatever length you liked.
Then more bread and, on the end cap, three kinds of sliced pound cake.
Finally, way in the back, a whole table of cold cuts, including (back where the guy is standing) raw and cooked ham, turkey, bologna, and several kinds of salami. Nearer the camera, big wedges of cheese and whole sides of cold roasted salmon with caperberries and olives and three sauces.
In case you were still hungry, you could then fill a plate with the whole prepared veggies, add herbs from the pots behind them, and dress them with oil and vinegar or one of the prepared dressings.
Coffee and hot chocolate were available from a couple of those machines with push buttons for all different combinations of espresso, decaf, cafe au lait, hot chocolate, hot milk, hot water, etc. Box of assorted tea bags on the side.
A breatfast indeed.
The plan for the day was for me to work on the blog until time to get David up for lunch, to have lunch locally, and then to set off for the Musée de la Magie—the Museum of Magic. Accordingly we set out to read menus and settled on "le Sud" (the South), about a block from the hotel.
The restaurant occupied more than one building, and we were seated in the glass-roofed alleyway between two of them, surrounded by olive trees and citrus trees in pots.
David ordered daurade again. It came draped over a "tartlet" of roasted vegetables and accompanied by an emulsion of cockles.
I ordered two starters rather than a main course. First, traditional fish soup, which came in a copper saucepan. The waiter ladled out the first serving for me and left the pot and ladle in case I wanted more. It came with the traditional croutons and aioli (a fierce garlic mayo). The idea is to spread the aioli on the croutons and throw them into the soup. Very good, but I had to soak the croutons for a while before I could eat them—they were hard as rocks.
The other starter was friture—tiny fish fried whole, of which I am very fond. These were tiny éperlans (smelts, Osmerus eperlanus, a small member of the salmon family). They came with tartare sauce for dipping.
After lunch, we stood on the sidewalk outside the restaurant and considered the afternoon. David admitted that he didn't feel like trekking across Paris again to visit the Museum of Magic. On reflection, I realized I didn't either. We would have to be up and out very early the next day, so we decided to blow off our plans for the afternoon, go back to the hotel, pack and (in my case) work on this diary. Lazy bums, both of us.
Come the dinner hour, though, we once again bestirred ourselves, put on our glad rags, and ventured out into the world. We strolled south to the Port Maillot metro station and took the #1 line to Place de l'Étoile, where the Atelier de Joel Robuchon (one of two in Paris and several around the world) is located in, of all places, the basement of the famous Publicis Drugstore. The Drugstore is not, in fact, a drugstore. The French find our drugstores, like Walgreens and CVS, amazing because of the huge variety of things they sell, besides drugs. French pharmacies sell only medicines, beauty products, and maybe a few items like bandaids and toothpaste. Only the beauty products are on display because all medicines, both prescription and OTC, are kept behind the counter. So the French are amazed to walk into Walgreens and find greeting cards, candy, groceries, soft drinks, shower sandals, beach clothing, pool-maintenance equipment, paperback books, cell-phone accessories, prophylactics, canes and surgical boots, hair brushes, stationery, crayons, and photo processing. The Pubicis people therefore opened, in prime and expensive real estate right next to the Arc de Triomphe, a "drugstore," which is a sort of mini-deparment store selling high-end candy, fashions, books, etc. at very steep prices. I don't think it even includes a pharmacy.
And in the basement, a very high-end restaurant overseen by a world-famous and world-class chef.
We chose the tasting menu of course, so we ate all the same things except for two courses. Last year, we sat at the counter because all the tables were taken. This year, I requested the counter because sitting there had been so much fun.
As before much of the view was of shelves more ornamental than functional (left), but this year, we also had a good view of the cold station, where we watched a member of the kitchen staff with a very small pastry bag meticulously and painstakingly apply many tiny green dots to a dish, which then turned out to be our first course: caviar gelled in the bottom of a dish and covered with a delicious cold cream of cauliflower soup. Tiny chervil leaflet in the center.
The next course posed a problem. It was described on the menu as beets in a duo of potato with salad sprouts and a sorbet of green mustard, but great consternation arose behind the counter when I specified at the beginning of the meal that I was allergic to avocado. Apparently a considerable amount of avocado lurked in there with the beets. But after earnest consultation with the head chef on duty, the decision was reached to serve me the tartare of St. Pierre instead if that was okay with me. Yes, please!
So I got this gorgeous plate of slices of raw, almost transparent fish decorated with fine shreds of green basil, sprouts of opal basil, tiny chive slices, and flecks of something red that I couldn't identify. Drizzle of delicious olive oil. Scrumptious!
Next came an organically raised egg on a bed of "mother-of-pearl rice, just colored," and wine-braised morels. Actually the morels turned out to be chanterelles, but we weren't complaining. It was garnished with crisped slices of prosciutto, flakes of Parmesan, and an asparagus spear. Notice the morel pattern on the plate at the upper left. Did they, I wondered, stock plates for every species of mushroom they ever serve?! No, it smudged with rubbed with a finger—they stencil it on as needed with some sort of black powder.
Next was a pair of ravioli containing langoustines and braised with green cabbage. Also delicious.
The next course was black cod with Malabar black pepper and stewed with baby spinach. It was so good we ate it before I got a photo.
The main course offered a choice of two, and we got one of each. David chose the pigeon, which came as little steamed bundles of the breast and foie gras (presumably of duck—I don't think anyone fattens pigeons for their livers).
I chose sucking lamb and got these three tiny chops, "saut&eacut;ed golden brown with flowering thyme." Giblets on the side pierced by sprigs of rosemary and flowering thyme.
Both the duck and the lamb were marked on the menu as being served with the Joel Robuchon's famous signature mashed potatoes, and you can see a dollop of them on each plate, but just in case we wanted more, they gave us this decoratively swirled bowl of them to share.
The predessert was a rose described as being made of Opalys white chocolate flavored with orange and served on a "trembling jelly" of sake. The chocolate was of the texture of firm whipped cream, and as far as I can tell, they made made the rose with a pastry bag, piping it out as one would make rose out of frosting to go on a cake, then chilled it hard and dipped in or sprayed it with something red; the red was only on the surface. The jelly was too alcoholic to suit me, but the rose was delicious.
The "real" dessert was called "the hive." It was a mount of honey-flavored "sabayon" (a sweet foamy concoction that's put together about like a hollandaise, over simmering water) studded with "fraise des bois" (French wild strawberries) and topped with a cookie lattice resembling honeycomb. The little white honeybees on top and stuck in drops of honey-flavored marzipan on the underplate are made of edible rice paper.
And so ended our last day in Paris for this trip. We had to have our luggage packed, ready, and set outside our hotel-room doors at 6:15 a.m. on Monday, so we skipped coffee and headed for the Hyatt.Previous entry List of Entries Next entry