From the Best Caesar Salad to Walking Dubuffets
Journalist, author and food blogger (not to mention old friend), Meg Bortin, invited me over for lunch last week to test out her Caesar Salad recipe. Little did she know that the hunt for the perfect Caesar Salad has been going on ever since my arrival in France, so she was thrilled to use me as her ‘Guinea pig.’ If the salad passed my test, she said she would feel redeemed.
While she was whipping up the dressing, one of the secrets to a great Caesar Salad, we commiserated over the lack of great Caesars in France, the inability for French restaurants to make a great salad in general (this is a whole other topic of conversation!) and contemplated where one could find the best Caesars in Paris.
We both agreed Joe Allen Restaurant was at the top of the list and I added one for her — a restaurant in the 7th arrondissement that also did a very respectable job of recreating a real American-style Caesar. Most French restaurants think that if they use what they ‘think’ is a Caesar dressing, that they can call their concoctions “Caesars,” but they are far from what a Caesar really is. And when it’s good, it’s one of the best salads ever created.
Meg made her own fresh croutons (major difference!), whipped up a dressing using anchovies so that they weren’t just thrown on top (making the taste too salty), broke up fresh Romaine lettuce (this is essential), added chunks of fresh grilled chicken breast plus a bit of Parmesan cheese on top and ‘voila!’ — the most delicious Caesar Salad I’ve ever eaten.
To read all about it and learn Meg’s Caesar secrets, read the Everyday French Chef blog.
Thinking of Caesar Salads led me off to Café Beaubourg for lunch on Sunday, which also happens to have one worth eating (I forgot to mention it to Meg). It’s a favorite spot of mine to work on a laptop, as there are electric plugs everywhere you turn and free WiFi. Meanwhile the sun pours in (when there IS sun!) and the views of the activities on the “parvis” of the Centre Pompidou are forever fascinating.
New York Times journalist, Liz Alderman (Chief European Business Correspondent for the Paris-based International New York Times), joined me there to set off on an outing to a few exhibitions we hadn’t yet visited. Her spontaneous phone call came in synchronistically at the same moment while reading an email from the blog, Eye Prefer Paris, featuring Liz as “Parisian of the Month.”
Passing Les Halls on route to Le Musée des Arts Décoratifs, there is a platform from which you can step up high enough to see the works and massive reconstruction of what Mayor Bertrand Delanoë called “the worst urban planning disaster in the history of the city of Paris.”
One can fully see the new canopy taking shape — an impressive structure that we all hope will put a fresh face on the landscape. We have a few more years to go before completion (2016), but the plan is to resurrect the district as the ‘heart of Paris’ with “an inviting new public garden, a larger pedestrian district, a new building inspired by nature (La Canopée), a greater number of easier-to-use pathways and routes, a larger, more functional regional train station, an enlarged, refurbished shopping centre, more cultural facilities and a reorganized underground road network.” The city is calling it “The Paris of Tomorrow.” “On vera!” (We’ll see.) For more information, visit parisleshalles.fr.
The exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs was a big surprise and well worth a stop. Jean Dubuffet’s Coucou Bazar (on until December 1st) in collaboration with the Fondation Dubuffet is possibly his most original creation. Painted cutouts are positioned alongside “costumes” restored specifically for this exhibition in one long parade against a black background. There are also paintings and drawings to get an even deeper look into the man whose black, white, red and blue creations are unmistakeable.
We had the good fortune of watching someone dress in one of his elaborate creations, walk out into the exhibition and on the platform to join the others! It was a special treat.
The afternoon ended with tremendous satisfaction at Erwin Blumenfeld’s “Photographies, dessins et photomontages” at the Jeu de Paume — not to be missed. Of course, while all his works are beautiful and many haunting, my favorite is his photo of top model, Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn swinging gingerly from the Eiffel Tower, taken for Vogue in 1939. (We should all be so ginger!)
Liz and I agreed that while there are lots of other great cities in the world with plenty to do, there is simply nothing like Paris for filling our lives with cultural activities and that makes up for all the pains of living entrenched in the world of French bureaucracy. (And this is a whole other topic of conversation!)
A la prochaine…
Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC
(at Les Halles, photo by Liz Alderman)
P.S. Stay at La Paris Plage in the heart of Le Marais for your next Paris getaway and take advantage of this special offer! Book your stay for arrivals from now until February 28 (excluding December 19 to January 2) and you’ll pay only 100 euros per night for stays of 4 to 6 nights, and 90 euros per night for 7 nights or more — that’s 20% off! And for only 50 euros per night more your friends or family members can stay at the adjacent Le Parisol. Visit Parler Paris Apartments for more information and to make your reservation.
P.P.S. We’re compiling the Best of Parler Paris for a possible book of about 100 “Nouvellettres®” since 2001. If you have a favorite (or two or three) you think should be included, please email me at [email protected]