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Old Apr 11, 07, 5:05 pm
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: IAD, BOS, PVD
Programs: UA, US, AS, Marriott, Radisson, Hilton
Posts: 7,203
FTer meeting

Carol wanted to see Montmartre, but I kind of balked, as
I recalled the district as having been wholly repellant
before, so it just had to be even worse now. We got off at
Gare du Nord and instead of changing lines decided to brave
the gypsies and thieves above ground and walk there. Walked
up through a flea market and then up to the famous plaza
via some horrid streets offering tawdry merchandise at twice
what it would cost anywhere else in Paris (and five times
what it would cost at Wal-Mart, where you could get half of
it anyway, same junk). Carol's knees being what they are,
and my disposition being what it is, we decided not to walk
direct up to Sacre-Coeur but to skirt the hill on the Rue
des 3 Freres and then wander up the backside. Much less
crowded (until we got to the top) and much more scenic.

Looked to visit La Famille, but it was closed, so we ended
up at Le Relais de la Butte on Place Emile Goudeau (where
Picasso and others had their studios in a building that
burned down about 40 years ago), to which I can give a
recommendation for value for price at lunch (dinner prices
are in keeping with the mystique of the neighborhood).

Got there right at noon and were greeted by a pleasant black
woman who told us to sit anywhere, so we sat at a window
overlooking the end of the Rue des 3 Freres.

We had a bottle of Cotes du Rhone Les Magerins 04 for E13,
a nice wine, probably the best buy we had in Paris, if not
the best wine period, which it might have been.

We had identical meals, the formule at E11.

One had a choice of vegetable tartare with smoked tuna,
which didn't appeal, or lentil salad, which was fine,
except that I got (and chewed) a pebble in mine. A simple
thing, lentils cooked al dente and mixed with minced onion
and a splash of vinaigrette and topped with chopped parsley.

A nice country French bread.

The main dish was a pork chop with mustard sauce and mash;
the chop of supermarket pork, but French supermarket pork,
so it was quite good, the mustard sauce much better than at
Midi Vins, but the potatoes watery. The other possibility
was a very fishy-smelling fillet of fish that also didn't

We went down to Abbesses and window shopped for a while,
and then the heavens opened up again, so we took the subway
back to Sorbonne - I suggested returning to the hotel, but
Carol wanted to stay out and about. She suggested that we
go get a beer at Brasserie Lipp, so we walked down there
only to find the place elbow to elbow; Deux Magots was not
any better, so we went back down by the Lush and found the
Cafe Conti, where we watched the rain and watered ourselves
with a cappuccino and an Armagnac.

We'd arranged to meet Spiff (heading for Budapest) at 6 in
front of Le Sergent-Recruteur, a temple of gluttony on Ile
Saint-Louis, and we hustled through the rather heavy rain
to get there, only to find him not there. Stood around for a
while, and about the time me feet and head were getting wet
enough for me to think about formulating dinner plan B,
Spiff came roaring up, victim of a late shuttle bus from the
airport, so all was well. Turns out the restaurant doesn't
really open until 7, but they said that we could be seated
right away, and they would start us off at 6:45 if we
wanted, which we did.

Le Sergent is a peculiar place: there's an a la carte
possibility, which would perhaps provide enough food,
but the main draw is the E39 all you can eat and drink
formula. You start off with vegetable cream soup, heavy on
the cabbage, all you want, followed by a huge basket of
raw vegetables (red pepper, carrots, scallions, red cabbage,
radishes (excellent), tomatoes on the vine, hard-boiled eggs
(why are these considered raw vegetables?), cucumber, and
maybe other things) and a huge basket of charcuterie (three
or four kinds of salami, andouille, chourico, leberwurst,
and maybe one or two others). Bread also comes, a decent
country loaf. When you slack off they ask if you are ready
for the main course, which can be boeuf a la bourguignonne,
cassoulet, roast chicken, vegetable omelette, duck confit,
or leg of lamb. Oh, yes, for E15 extra, two can share a kilo
of rib roast. We had one cassoulet (not the long-cooked
thing one loves, but still a respectable portion of decent
food attractively seasoned) and two confits. I cannot speak
for Spiff, but my piece of confit was somewhat overaged and
underconfit, the result being that one was reminded quite
distinctly of the fact that one was eating hindquarter of
dead animal. Decent but very greasy fried potatoes - I
drained mine on my napkin. For afters, a cheese board (I
had an almost properly aged Port-Salut) followed by dessert:
we had one of each; Spiff liked his chocolate mousse; Carol
had a creme caramel that she enjoyed but that I found a bit
stiff; and I had an apple tart, quite mediocre, sided with a
scoop of Berthillon honey walnut ice cream (very strong).
Also at this price one gets vins et biere a volonte. We did
not try the beer but demolished two or three bottles of red
and two bottles of white among the three of us. The red is
a quite pleasant VdP from the Bouches du Rhone, Sergent's
private label; the white is St. Clair, from the Pays d' Oc.

After which we wandered about, took pictures of us at Notre-
Dame, and tried to buy an RER ticket for Spiff; but none of
our credit cards (we tried about 7 or 8 all told) worked.
So up to a coffee shop, Le Notre Dame, where we had some
wine and got change for the machine. Carol's Alsatian
selection de grains nobles was pretty attractive, but the
pitcher of Cotes du Rhone that Spiff and I shared was quite
inferior. We au revoired Spiff at the station and walked
back to the hotel (about 10 minutes) and got to bed a bit
after midnight.
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