It’s no surprise that when I fell for a man in Paris he was wearing a tall white hat.
For years, I stacked cookbooks on my bedside table and read them before I fell asleep. Saturday morning, I set off for the farmers’ market. Snowy days were spent in the kitchen: Homemade wild mushroom ravioli with sage butter. My grandmother’s black chocolate cake. Hand-kneaded bagels.
But my first Michelin starred experience wasn’t until 2015 at the Taste of Paris. The joint organizers of that year were the superstar chefs Joel Robuchon and Alain Ducasse. It was a 150-euro night which allowed us to sample the offerings of some of the most revered Michelin-starred kitchens of Paris, yet I left with no latent cravings. I enjoyed it, but it ended there.
Until last November when we stopped by Bordeaux for three nights, and the manager of our B&B helped us plan a trip to one of the famous wine villages of this region Saint Emilion. He recommended three restaurants including Le Logis de la Cadène. “Read the menus when you get there,” he advised, “and pick one. But this one is very, very special.” I realized he was warning me to check the price, but it was lunch in a small village in early December. How bad could it be? I asked him to make a reservation.
Everything about that lunch was stunning. The food. The wine. The ambiance. The service. The Bordeaux that the sommelier suggested was so perfect, I shipped some home for Christmas dinner. Three months later, this restaurant was awarded its first star, and I was hooked.
I was still dreaming of the experience when I read that Patricia Wells had declared the 110-euro fixed prix lunch at Guy Savoy the best meal deal in Paris. Yes, I realize that 110-euro lunches are exorbitant but this restaurant offers one of the most expensive meals on the planet with its fixed prix 525-dollar dinner extravaganza. I made a reservation for the “cheap” lunch and agreed to the 300 euro per-person no show fee. This would be our first foray into the outer reaches of the galaxy. In anticipation, Pat brought his sport jacket to Paris while I packed my dress.
We agreed this 220-euro lunch would be our 60th birthday gift to each other. (I’m sure there’s a psychological term for this sort of rationalization.) I won’t describe the meal except to say that from the door magically swinging open, through the staff greeting us in formation, to our table looking out at the bookstalls on the Seine, to a mind-blowing meal, (to the waiter offering to butter my bread, which was simultaneously slightly creepy and amazing), it was all pure sorcery.
Then last weekend, we returned to the scene of my first dalliance, the Taste of Paris. We bought the VIP passes which included unlimited access to a champagne bar. (I’m certain I rationalized this by saying it was our 60th birthday year.) From the champagne bar above the Grand Palais, we looked out at all those men in white hats. My cheating heart thumped as I squeezed Pat’s hand.
What drives this new-found passion? Are these food-obsessed people my soulmates? Is it the quality of cooking that I can’t, in my wildest dreams, achieve? Is the one-star experience a gateway drug that fuels this entire fabulous-slash-frivolous industry? I have no idea, but I am ensnared in its web.
The rain stopped just as we left the Grand Palais. The cobblestone streets glistened under the glow of cast-iron street lamps. I paused to take one last photo of the Petit Palais across the street.
In that moment, it was all pure magic.
Categories: A year in Paris