Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Foodie Girls Lunch Brigade – Dateline Paris

This just in from HFG1, our foreign correspondent on the ground and eating out on behalf of the Foodie Girls in one of the foodie meccas of, um, well...the earth. After posting this intriguing blurb just a few short days ago...

"I just heard about the 4 restaurants run by Christian Constant, all located on rue Saint Dominique near the Eiffel Tower. He quit the Crillon, a Michelin 3-star gastronomic palace, to set off on his own and to stop cooking, as he put it, in constant fear of losing a star. Each has a very different menu, but they all share his striving for excellence yet keeping it all affordable for ordinary people.

...in true FG fashion she proceeded to immediately go and try it out for all of us. Here is her report:

For anyone going to Paris*, I recommend Café Constant, on rue Saint-Dominique near the Eiffel Tower, for traditional French cooking at very reasonable prices. I had the sardine starter: fresh sardines on a crispy wafer topped with lightly seasoned tomatoes and very sweet onions. For the main dish, I ordered venison but they were out so settled for grilled "bar", a white fish from Brittany's Atlantic waters. It was very light, flaky and perfectly grilled. I was disappointed that the side dish wasn't pureed sweet potatoes, as indicated on the menu, but rather pureed pumpkin that was overly salted. To finish off the meal, I picked a dessert that I used to have with my Grandma Gladys at her favorite cafeteria in Long Beach, CA : stewed prunes. But these were nothing like the cafeteria variety. They were soaked in mulled wine, making them pungent and spicy. My French friend picked entirely different things. For the starter, it was minced salmon, oysters and ginger (a sushi-inspired mix) on the half-shell. He hit a bad note for his main dish : grilled veal brains**. The dark brown thing on his white plate looked like a twice-burned pork chop. Normally veal brains are served luke warm in their gelatin with a parsley-and-egg-yolk vinaigrette called "sauce gribich". I'm not one to like odd meats, especially gelatinous ones, but this dish is rich, dense and very satisfying. He finished off with a plate of tiny chocolate eclairs smothered in even more chocolate sauce. This café had very friendly waiters and a welcoming barman (yes! this is possible in Paris) and an international crowd that was clearly enjoying themselves and leaving their plates wiped completely clean.

* If this is you, then I (Sharon, that is, not HFG1, who is very nice and didn't include any snide footnotes in her dispatch) am extremely jealous and hate you, but hope you have nice trip and visit this restaurant and many others and write to tell me about it but don't gloat too much when you do.

** I subsequently received this clarification: The correct translation of "tête de veau" is calf's head, NOT veal brains. It's a sweatbread composed of the meaty parts between the skull and the brains. Maybe it's just me, but I would still go with the fish.

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