Friday, September 30

Les Cocottes- Restaurant review

135 Rue Saint-Dominique
75007 Paris, France

01 45 50 10 31
(closed Sundays/no reservations)
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; $$$$ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on plats--main course)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  4 - Stars................................................................................................3 - Bells

Since we’ve returned to Paris almost 3-weeks ago, we’ve been doing nothing but eating out and catching up with friends. It’s not a bad thing, but the waistline, that’s another story.

We’ve been experiencing really warm fall weather in Paris. It’s been hovering around the low 80’s, but with the humidity it seems even warmer.  So, last night friends Matt and Elissa were giving a tour of the 7ème to show Matt’s mother Patty around, who recently arrived for vacation.  I recommended we go to Christian Constant’s “Les Cocottes” which is very close to the Eiffel tower.  For the locals, you may recognize his name, he’s one of the judge’s on “Top-Chef” France. Since they do not take reservations, I suggested that we meet there at 7:30 pm to ensure that we would get seats.  We could’ve actually gone later because it was quite warm and on warm Parisian nights most people like to eat later, and al fresco, so what were we thinking?

The restaurant is a small long narrow restaurant.  You can eat either at the bar or long tall tables to be shared with others.  You sit up high on “high-chairs”,  hence, because you sit up high, you look the wait-staff eye-to-eye, I kind of like this. It was quite warm in the restaurant since there was no cross-breeze, and as most of us know, it’s rare that a restaurant is air-conditioned in Paris.

Staub cocotte
The names cocottes usually refers to a cast-iron pot.  This restaurant uses “staub.” There is a blackboard with the menu written but you also get a the menu in either English or French at table which helps if you can't see the blackboard.  They also have listed on the black-board that evening’s special. 

We started out with some cold rosé to literally cool down from the heat.  As we perused the menu, we decided on the following:

“la vraie salade de César Ritz.” I believe it’s his interpretation of a “caesar’s salad”, it came with either chicken or anchovies. Patty ordered it with chicken.  It looked nothing like a Caesar, in fact, it had slices of hard boiled eggs on it. It didn’t look very appealing, and honestly after seeing the plate, I’d probably never order it.

Matt got the "emietté de thon, caviar d'aubergines et gelée de tomates".  We all tasted this dish, and this one was a hit. It was nice and creamy and surprisingly had a little kick to it as you got to the bottom of the dish. Imagine, what French Chef would think of adding a little “spicy heat” to food?

Elissa ordered the “velouté de champignons, chantilly parfumé au foie gras”. Elissa said the soup was OK,  but had very little foie gras taste, but very strong mushroom flavoring. So, for mushroom fans, this would be a soup for you.

Jack had the entrée of the evening, and by this time with a few drinks the name of the dish escapes me.  It was a fish filet atop a toasted baguette. I loved this dish, but Jack just said it was just good.

I had the oeuf “poché aus lardons croustillants, belle salad de roquette”. I loved this dish, but then again, who wouldn’t like bacon. The bacon was crispy and carmelized with balsamic.  It had a slight bitter taste, as a result of the carmelization, but with the argula and the egg, overall it was a nicely composed dish!

For the main courses:

Elissa had the “ravioles de langoustines, mousseline d'artichauts”. This dish came out bubbling hot.  It was listed as an entrée, but we asked the waiter if they can make it a “plat” (main dish) portion, and they obliged.  It looked very rich, but Elissa said it was very good.

Patty had the special of the evening which was a “porc avec haricot blanc”. This dish looked very French country, with pork sitting atop of white beans, almost like a simple cassoulet. Patty liked the dish.

Matt ordered the “palombe farcie au foie gras cuit sur son crouton”. At first glance I thought it was a quail, but it turned out to be “ring dove”, which is known for their more delicate and tender meat than a quail.  Matt thought the dish was very good.

Jack had the “cabillaud à la plancha, lentilles liées a jus de viande”.  The fish sat atop small green lentils. I tasted the dish, I liked it, but Jack thought it was just a bit bland. The restaurant does provide a small condiment of red crushed peppers (note: very unusual in France), Jack added the powdery spice to his dish and said, “it made it very good and tasty”.

I had the “pommes de terre caramélisées farcies au pied de porc”.  This was probably my favorite of all the dishes I tried. It was basically pig trotters de-boned sitting atop a poached potato with a nice salad of greens, so I had the contrast of the hot and cold. The trotters were perfectly cooked, very tender.  It was extremely tasty, definitely a hit.

Desserts: at this point we were all feeling pretty full, but we got one order of the “fromage basque, configure de cerises” and “la fabuleuse tarte au chocolat de Christian Constant”.  The cheese was a brebis (sheep cheese) since it is our favorite cheese, we were happy. The chocolate tarte was excellent, very rich and decadent.

In summary:  this is not a restaurant you want to go to for an intimate romantic dinner, nor a place to be seated with your own group, since you will share a table or a bar with strangers. In the U.S., we would call this type of restaurant, “down home cooking” well this is French “down home cooking” à la Basque.  What we had ranged from good to, as Edwina would say, “absolutely fabulous”.  And, honestly, for the price (dishes range from €7- €28) and the quality of food, you can’t beat it.  Even though they do turn tables, you don’t feel at all rushed. I understand that they oftentimes have lines out the door because they do not accept reservations, with that said, go either earlier or later, and I also suggest you not go when it’s warm, since it is not air-conditioned.

Sunday, September 11

Ten years ago

It has been ten years since that fateful September day. I was standing in a customer's office. The tv in the office was blaring out something about a tragic accident involving an airliner flying into the World Trade Center.

I left that customer's office and started to make my way down to Bamberg, South Carolina, where I had to examine a real estate title. My mobile phone rang. It was my mother. She said another plane hit the other World Trade Center tower. She also reminded me of something I had not thought of, my father was on an airplane headed for Chicago.

I turned around the first chance I got. The title exam in Bamberg could wait. I went to my home. By the time I got to my suburban Columbia home, The Pentagon was hit. I still remember VH1 of all stations having the news on.

I spoke again to my mother. She had yet to hear from my father. I quickly made plans to go to their home in Honea Path. Between the time I left for Honea Path and arrived, my mother spoke to my father. He was stranded in Columbus Ohio with some business associates.

I had a chevy astro van at the time, something I had for NASCAR races and the like. But, it became clear that my van and I were Ohio bound. My father's best friend, a man I call "Uncle Skip" was at my parents house and ready to go with me. "Uncle Skip" was an old army special forces guy, a guy who had been called up to go and rescue the ship Mayaguez during the Ford administration. Having old Skip with me was invaluable. He kept me both awake and sane.

And, there were crazy things Skip and I saw in our trip from Honea Path to Ohio the night of September 11th and the day of September 12th. There was an improvised checkpoint in the state of Tennessee. For what, I still don't know. There was a soldier and his wife we met at rest stop in Kentucky on his way to Ft. Campbell after being recalled from leave. There was gas prices as high as $5 a gallon in Kentucky and Ohio. We both listened intently to President Bush on the radio.

I got tired. I got irritated. But, ole Skip kept me sane. He kept saying things like " we got a duty here boy," and the like.

Eventually, we reached my father and his business associates in Columbus. They cramped into my little van and made their way home. They were grateful for the ride home. For, you see, there were no airflights, and all rentals had been frozen as well.

Many people remember where they were when they heard that an attack had happened. I remember that as well. I also remember the long, weird night into day trip I had with ole Skip to go get my father and his business associates. The time was surreal. So much was so odd.

I will never forget what happened on September 11, 2001, not only because of the tragedy, but because of what I learned about the best and worst of America. The best was ole Skip, a true friend who was a companion in getting my dad back home. The worst was the folks who wanted to charge us $5 a gallon for gas south of Cincinnati.

If I live to be a hundred, I will never forget that day, and the barbarians who threw our lives into surreality. It is something we should remember. I will never, ever,forget the images of people jumping from the trade tower out of my head. I will never, ever, forget the images of the towers falling. I will never, ever, forget the surreal night and day Skip and I had to get my father and his business associates home.

So many of us forget what happened that day. Politics or whatever inspires so many of us to forget. I will never forget. When I later learned that the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania came very close to my father's flight, I cringed.

Ten years later, the memories of September 11th burn in my mind. It is why I am proud that I voted for President Bush twice. At least he got the fact we have to fight the Islamic fascists head on.

Regardless of the politics, I will never forget, and I will always be grateful to ole Skip. He is one helluva man.

Friday, September 2

Enjoy Labor Day, but drive sober

Enjoy the Labor Day weekend.  But, if you a few cold ones, ride home with a friend or call a cab.  Two reasons for that.  First, you will not be risking lives if you do not drive drunk.  The other reason is the boys in blue are out to get you and they will see you before you see them.  Thanks to all the deputies and troopers out there who work to keep the roads safe. 

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