Friday, August 13, 2010

Eating in Paris: Polidor

Paris is full of very chic, very fashionable, very crowded restaurants doing all kinds of modern things with food for a very discriminating clientele. I stay away from those.

I unabashedly admit that when I am in Paris I want to overdose on the atmosphere I know from the old Hollywood movies. Think "The Last Time I Saw Paris" or "An American in Paris."

Give me a cluttered, cozy old cafe or bistro serving stick to your ribs French classics on porcelain dinner wear. I want croque monsieur dripping with bechamel sauce or onion soup gratinee with a cap of bubbly, melted cheese, or steak, roast chicken or moules with piles of golden pommes frites or a heap of homemade mashed potatoes.

I want something like Cremerie Restaurant Polidor.

Polidor's cozy interior looks like a Hollywood movie set. A window filled with greenery. Yellowed lace curtains. Mottled mirrors with wine lists scrawled on them. Chalkboards promoting the daily specials. Tarnished brass and silver. Crowded noisy bench tables with communal pots of salt and mustard. Everyone seems to be having a wonderful time.
When I ate there in Spring 2007, cigarette smoke still swirled about in an atmospheric cloud. That's changed now since the smoking ban, but everything else is still the same.

While the atmosphere here is so Parisian as to almost appear manufactured, Polidor's patina is genuine. This place has been around over 100 years. And though Polidor is a tourist guide staple and has been featured on Rachel Ray's "40 dollars a Day" show in the U.S., the prevailing language here is still reassuringly French (although the menu is written in many languages).

On my visit, I was disappointed that they didn't have pumpkin soup, which I hear is a house specialty, but the bean soup was hearty and tasty.

The bouef bourguignon stock on the other hand was watery, the meat a little tough -- but then that's bouef bourguignon pretty much wherever you go.

The tartes here are homemade. I wavered between the lemon and chocolate before going with the citron. Delicious
The fixed formula menu is a good value as is the house wine.
The restroom facilities are, ummm, interesting.
A gourmet experience? Hardly, but but if you want to experience a weathered French bistro as you always imagined it would be right in the heart of Paris (the popular 6th arrondisement), Polidor is it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Shopping in Paris: L'Arche de Noe

You don't have to be a child to be enchanted by a Parisian toy store window.

No big-box Toys R Us these, merci beaucoup, but tiny curiosity shops, bursting at the seams with the most delightful treasures.

At L'Arche de Noe (Noah's Ark) on Rue-St-Louis-en-Ile, hand-painted ceramic cups, plates and a curvy, baroque silver tea service, complete with candelabra, are laid out ready to serve a beautifully decorated wooden gateau.

In a tableau reminiscent of Goldilocks, a fair-haired rag doll, with a body shaped like the Eiffel Tower, snuggles up to a giant bear's head that unzips at the collar, et voila, out tumbles a family of little stuffed bears.

High up on a shelf, spare, sleek leather lunch satchels, that look more like designer handbags with their intricate contrasting top-stitching, promise to elevate a sandwich, banana and bag of chips to haute cuisine.

A hint of pink tulle peeks demurely from behind an old-fashioned chalkboard. I instantly whoosh back to Christmas 1965, when I awoke to discover my very own pink tutu with a silver sequined bodice -- exactly what I had put on my Christmas list.

I can't tear myself away from a display of wooden music boxes. On each lid, a trio of bumblebees, ladybugs, clowns, giraffes, frogs, butterflies or fairies, twirls in time to the tinkling melody. I agonize over which one to bring back to my niece.

If I write Pere Noel a nice note (en francais mais bien sur) on the pretty pre-addressed stationery by the register -- do you think he might deliver one of these lovely little stores to my neighborhood?

It couldn't hurt to ask; after all he came through on the tutu didn't he?

L'Arch de Noe
70 Rue St-Louis-en-l’Ile