On my only Saturday night in Paris I was going to hook up with my friend Magazino, Mr. TruffleTruck himself, who was i n town with his lovely wife.
I waited for them while browsing at Spring Boutique on Rue L'Arbre Sec. Poking about, I was disappointed to see that the boutique was not this perfect little food find as advertised on blogs throughout France, but more of a caviste (decent) and also stocked some products, like common tapenade I can get around the corner from home, at the local Met supermarket.
Given that the wine bar/caviste Le Garde-Robe is just across the street, their competition is fierce.
"I want fries," Magazino said immediately upon arrival. "I don't care where we eat as long as we have fries."
I repeat, this was Saturday night in Paris with no reservations and were on a mission to find good fries and great wine. As far as I could see, Mike Steinberger's Au Revoir to All of That, was true; food no longer existed in France. All of my wine bar standbys were booked. We were looking into the mouth of an epicurean disaster.
We enlisted Josh to help brainstorm a restaurant. Josh was pinched from San Francisco to run the Rue L'Arbre Sec store. Nice guy.
During the heated back and forth, a man who looked no older than a bar mitzvah boy walked in as if he owned the place. Turns out he did.
Dan Rose, is the American ex-pat touted as one of the hottest chefs in Paris. He's on all of the top ten lists here and across the pond. He's a media magnet. A darling. He has groupies. Fans. Women probably send him their netherware during their second course.
After awhile, eavesdropping but not joining in Dan offered his point of view on the miserable state of food in the city. "There's no place to eat in Paris except my restaurants. When my new restaurant opens it's going to be great."
His restaurants being Spring--now closed and slotted to reopen sometime in a slightly larger version which will include a subterranean wine bar, as well as Table 28, a rotisserie-based restaurant in the OLD Spring location.
I can't remember how it came up but at some point he was offended being called a chef, and said,
I'm not a chef.
Okay, you're not a chef. What shall I call you, a restaurateur?
That was worse.
I thought, you think you're difficult? You never met Ronny. I cut my teeth on difficult. My teeth are rough, they were so cut.
So, I made excuses for him. Okay, okay, even though he's American maybe we've a language problem or maybe he just doesn't like redheads. Or blonds. Or maybe he feels competitive with Magazino? Like who's food knowledge was greater kind of thing? Or perhaps he had hormonal fluctuations or his girlfriend just broke up with him or he was in love with a guy who ignored him? Who the hell knows but it just seemed off. Maybe he just didn't like people. I can understand. And maybe he really is the best in Paris. I couldn't tell from the store which was nice to have in the neighborhood, a nice little service, but if he really is a creative genius, I'll put his rudeness in greater context.
Never the less, Im not sure why we stayed on, perhaps because we didn't know where we were going. He kindly didn't kick us out. I asked about the new Spring restaurant, the one all of Paris was waiting for--it's been in construction for almost two years. The new place would have about twenty places. "One thing I love about Europe?" i said. "One can make money off of 20 seats.
"Who's going to make money?' he asked.
That's when I got pissed.
"I didn't say rich, did I? If you need to do something you love, money means sustaining that, not having a private jet. I don't know what your idea of making money is, but I live in a five-floor walk up with a tub in the kitchen. You don't have to have a leather seated Mercedes to make a living, do you? I think you and I have different barometers about money."
For some reason he softened, like couscous reacting to boiling water. Or maybe he softened because somewhere in that conversation I mentioned I had pitched a story to him to my editor at Departures.
When Dan offered a tour of the little new Spring, still a hard hat zone, he talked about how hard it is to write an interesting wine list. "All the lists in Paris are the same," he said.
The point that all vin nature wine lists are similar is quite true.
Dan assured me that HIS wine list was going to be different.
To make sure his list was great, he, (mind you he told me he had no investors nor did he make money) bought an old cellar of about 2,000 bottles. Two bottles of 1947 Petrus are in the stash. I can't remember what he was going to charge but it was way below retail. This struck me as very odd. And while I'm in favor of affordable wine lists, this seemed out of the park illogical.
Are you nuts? I thought.
I rest my case.
John, Beth and I talked about it all night. We went to two of the places he suggested and walked out. We hopped to Chez Paul (booked). La Muse Vin (booked). Ended up near Oberkampf. No fries.
The evening was saved by the wine of the week for me, the only wine that took the edge off of losing the Ploussard.
Long live Allemand!
I knew this would be a life changing trip. I'm not willing to spend another ten years in therapy so I have to take those lessons where I get them. Of those I am currently working on?
1) Take the Money and Run
2) Ask for what you need.
3) Be More Positive!
4) Lose the Guilt
The Ploussard Perdu was a classic illustration of how and why I need to integrate these life pointers with speed. Not a moment to lose.
The Overnoy was a mere 21 euro. That very night would have been my only chance to drink it. Bringing it to dinner at the Cousin's would be perfect. Digging into my euro stash I purchased, I would have bought two if they had taken Amex. I thought of it all the way up to the Cousin's house. Olivier welcomed up with some fresh, snappy Pet Nat. I presented the wine, wrapped in tissue.
Olivier with pet chicken before dinner.
That was the mistake. I presented it. It was a gift. In no way did I suggest a partager. I expected him to know. Now, you tell me, how many love affairs and marriages have fallen by the wayside because part of the couple expected their mate to KNOW without being TOLD? You see? Never again in love or in wine. Never.
I am a fan of Olivier Cousin's wine making and the bottles were being opened with freedom. He even shared a 1959 made by his father. This never went through malolactic fermentation. Odd little thing it was. A red without malo in the Loire is somewhat autistic. And while I was trying to find out what the wine was feeling, I was in turmoil myself. The wine, my wine, Overnoy's wine, taunted me unopened and I just didn't know what to do.
So I obsessed about it for the next ten days (which is today.)
I thought I'd hop on Wine Searcher and buy the first 1999 Overnoy Ploussard I could find and there is nothing. Not searchable. The opportunity has been lost and only because I am an imbecile.
I am not the first crazy person to do write about such issues. Lettie Teague wrote an eloquent piece in Food & Wine
And I am sure 3/4 of you have been in this situation, and so if you are ever again in this situation let me tell you what I have learned. The fault was all mine.
#1: Never present a wine you want to drink when you enter the house.
Obviously I felt guilty that I was an uninvited guest. Guilt rules my life. Note to self: dis the guilt and gain a healthier self of entitlement. Like, am I so bad? (don't answer.)
#2: In the middle of dinner in your best lousy french say, J'ai presque oublié! J'ai une bouteille pour partager! Je regarde ainsi en avant pour le partager avec vous.'............Or say something like you can't wait to taste it with them.
#3: Jump out of seat and run for the bottle. Get it to the table and ask for a tire bouchon. Get that cork out as soon as possible before anyone can protest.
#4: Everyone wins.
I should start at the beginning, but I need to tell you about something that happened in the middle.
The punishing wind, the sweet asses, Millesime Bio and Domaine des 2 Anes behind us
Jenny, Francois (of the selections) and Kate, the lasagna maker and crack sales chick, took the road for the seven -hour drive up north.
One hour into it, I saw the Toulouse signs. "Hey! Anthony said there was a great wine bar around here."
I quickly scanned my old texts, and sure enough there it was, Le Temps des Vendange.
Francois' iPhone GPS guided us through the most visually unusual French city I'd ever been. I'm used to Frenchly white and yellow and bone tinted cities. Limestone cities. Cement cities. But this one could have been Lowell, Massachussets, with its landscape of oxidized red-colored brick buildings.
"All the same labels," Jenny whispered to me.
At first blush, yes, but then under more careful scrutiny others popped from the shelves.
Neither one of use had seen
and I was delighted to see ...
....a wine Jenny had pointed out to me at the La Remise tasting a few days back, from the barbated, Cafe de la Nouvelle Mairie past owner who turned vigneron.
There was also a selection of two vintages of Peyra and a string of vintages of Overnoy. After that I couldn't concentrate on nutrition as I plotted how to cope with my dread of ferrying bottles back to the states.
Lunch for non-meat eaters was challenging, but the others had a soothing meal with which to prepare for the next stretch up to Anjou
I dug into the butter and a crispy and greasless twist of phyllo encased spinach and chevre and stared at the 1999 Ploussard.
We now take a commercial break
As first in a series of shout outs about an April event in New Orleans, for an amazing debut.
Meet the next generation of wine weekends.
Never before has any one put together such celebration of bubbles.
And if you can't figure out a sweet Valentine Day gift, get yourself a bottle and two tickets and head down to New Orleans on April 15th for an incredibly bubble bath.
Yes, I'll be there.
THE INDEPENDANT CHAMPAGNE AND SPARKLING WINE INVITATIONAL
I'm hunting the Leon Trotskys, the Philip Roths, the Chaucers and the Edith Whartons of the wine world. I want them natural and most of all, I want them to speak the truth even if we argue. With this messiah thing going on, I'm trying to swell the ranks of those who crave the differences in each vintage, celebrate nuance and desire wines that make them think, laugh, and feel. Welcome.
And, if you'd like a signed copy, feel free to contact me directly.