In Paris when I mentioned I was going to Le Havre, no native French speaker knew what the hell I was saying. So I asked the wine importer, Jenny Lefcourt whether my French really was that bad. Turns out my French is worse than even I admitted to. She corrected me. I had to pronounce the town's name with an exaggerated HA as if I was saying Havad (as in Harvard with a Boston accent). So, equipped with proper pronunciation I took the train from Paris-- just over two hours.
I booked the same hotel as Dressner and Shawn Mead (his west coast colleague) directly across the street from the train station at the taxi-yellow-doored, 2-star, ultra-cheap Les Balladins. The walls were paper thin, the shower as tiny as an MRI machine but it was smoke and bed-bug free. (Those of you who fantasize and jealousize about my fabulous, glam life as a jet-setting wine writer might want to reread this paragraph.)
Because Le Havre is shuttered on Sunday night, we settled on dinner next door, the one with the sepia signage of a bubbie-like-creature ostensibly the restaurant's inspiration. Though we all knew it to be false advertising, our only other choice was Doner Kebab, which might have been the better option. As it turned out the carrots were sawdust, the beets were filmy, the marinated mackeral was a terrifying mistake, the fries were limp and it was a blessing that Dressner didn't go for the tartare.
The wine situation was just as dicey. We pointed to a Loire pinot gris ros from Reuilly hoping it would be the safest wine on the list. Dressner bowed to the pressure to taste it. He made a face as if the pink stuff was liquid tetracycline. Shawn and I, desperate to drink suspended our ethics and palate and just deal with it. Just then, with glass to lip, one of the Muscadet Gods, Guy Bossard walked into the restaurant. Dapper in his fly fisherman’s vest, he came over to our table to say hello, picked the bottle out of the ice bucked and raised an eyebrow in disbelief which surely said, “Such crap on your table?”
When he sat down to have his way way with the menu and wine list he didn’t do much better. Neither one of our parties polished off the bottle. But then Shawn and I made saved the night with some Calvados, 8-year old Roger Groult.
Sometimes you do what you have to do.
Guy Bossard after his more satisfying oyster-centric lunch break during the Dive.