By Larry Levine –
Stick a shovel in the ground in England and you’re likely to find something at least 400 years old. The irrigation system built during the Roman occupation still is in place and operational.
In Los Angeles we fight to preserve the original Golden Arches, or some other similar trinket of the 20th century.
But dinner in Paris the other night give old a new meaning. We dined at a restaurant that has been in continuous operation in Paris since before there was a United States of America. It’s Le Procope and it has been serving patrons since 1686. That’s 90 years before the U.S. Declaration of Independence was published and 101 years before the U.S. Constitution was signed.
Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were frequent diners at Le Procope and allegedly debated and developed portions of the U.S. Constitution in a room on the second floor of the restaurant. Napoleon’s famous hat, which he left as security for a dinner bill one night, is on display in the lobby. There’s a room devoted to Voltaire’s desk.
Although the restaurant has been renovated since those days, the décor is reflective of the times.
The food on today’s menu will warm the heart of a Francophile. Amid all this history and glamor, we started our dinner with a glass of Louis Rœderer Brut Premier Champaign. After all, when in France … Then I had goose liver foie gras. YES. I SAID GOOSE LIVER. I haven’t had goose liver foie gras in so long I can’t remember when or where. In the state’s foie gras is strictly duck liver and there are efforts constantly afoot to ban even that. Our waiter recommended a Château du Levant sauterne as the wine to accompany the course. I tasted it before the food arrived and found it very sweet. But as an accompaniment to the foie gras, it was perfect. Jennifer enjoyed a first course of creamy burrata cheese and tomatoes. Her wine throughout the meal was a Côtes-du-Rhône Parallèle 45.
My main was a generous portion of steak tartare with French fried potatoes and toast points. The waiter selected a Bordeaux Les Hauts de la Gaffelière for this course. For Jennifer it was braised ox cheeks accompanied by tube pasta in a wonderfully rich sauce. After all, when in France …
Dessert got just plain decadent. I had Mille-feuille à la vanille made with flakey pastry and a beyond-rich whipped cream. Jennifer went for Café Liégeois Procope, which was a white coffee ice cream, iced coffee, coffee-flavored panna cotta, and vanilla whipped cream served in what looked like an old-fashioned, very tall ice cream soda glass.
We topped the whole thing off with a double espresso.
You can see the full Le Procope menu by here.
We had eaten at Le Procope before this trip, when we had lunch with friends. That time I had coq au vin and learned that the French make this dish with parts from a six-pound rooster, not from a chicken as is done throughout the U.S.
So, now we have accomplished the first of our two planned old-restaurant experiences for this vacation. The second will be at Rules, the oldest restaurant in London the night before we head for home. In the meantime, it’s on to Giverny and Monet’s gardens.
(You can see the full series of articles in this posting by clicking here.)