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Food Porn
Comin' atcha from Paree, the food porn capital of the universe. I love this term, which Don at used recently when he sent me a link to his photo of this cheese.

Here's more -- a shot of the fish ordered by the Belgian girl seated next to us at an out-of-this-world incredible Basque restaurant Don recommended, L'Ami Jean, in the 7th arrondissement (Métro: Invalides, not far from the Eiffel Tower. 27 rue Malar, 75007 Paris,, closed Saturday and Sunday).


L'Ami Jean is not expensive, either -- 32 eu prix fixe menu for dinner (appetizer, dinner, and dessert), or you can order à la carte. We got a half carafe of good dry white for 12 eu.

The only problem is the ambience -- especially for a big American man like Gregg. Very small, very tight, and he was grouchy about it at first, but he came around when he got one look at the food. By the way, everything we had (soup with foie gras in the base in my case, and the duck with wild mushrooms, rare, just the way I like it) was thrillingly good -- and like eating art.

Here's a really good review from January by Christine Muhlke from The New York Times:

If in Paris a friend tells you that he’s taking you to a Basque rugby pub in the opposite-of-bustling Seventh Arrondissement, don’t whimper about wanting to try somewhere on your list of Places to Go — Le Comptoir, say, or Le Sensing. He’s taking you to L’Ami Jean, and soon you will be grateful.

The four-year-old restaurant has a lot working against it: location, décor, a kitchen the size of a crèpe stand. Even the menu seems like a letdown, with its 30-euro prix fixe, seasonal additions — game in fall, stews in winter — and traditional plats that bring the daily dish tally to about 60. The wine list recently added a page of historical offerings from the dealer across the street. But who would want an 1,020-euro ’86 Pomerol to accompany her head cheese?

Once the first dish arrives, you’ll understand. Not just the smart presentation on stylish plates that don’t quite fit on the table but also the quality of detail: cream-of-cauliflower soup with horseradish — poured table side from an iron tea kettle — with microscopically precise rye croutons; a langoustine from Brittany under a translucent sheet of crisp pig skin (the world’s best potato chip) dotted with orange-infused oil; a rich gratiné of game with a timely puff of foam.

Basque rugby pub? What Basque rugby pub? The room hasn’t changed since the 1930s, but the food will silence those who claim that French cuisine has ossified and that the culinary torch took the Eurostar to Spain. Perhaps silence isn’t the right word: L’Ami Jean is boisterous. While in a starred environment this food would invite hushed attention, Stéphane Jégo, the 35-year-old chef, stokes a rollicking room where it’s common to exclaim loudly over a dish or be offered a spoonful of pork belly and lentils from a neighbor’s casserole; where tables of four order magnums, and there’s a wait for 11:30 p.m. reservations. Try that at Taillevent.

Jégo is part of the next wave of gastro-bistro chefs. The self-taught cook spent 12 years with Yves Camdeborde at La Régalade, one of the revolutionary “Why here?” bistros that brought excited diners to featureless locales. Camdeborde, who now owns the more accessibly located Le Comptoir, made his name with generous hospitality, democratic prices and reworkings of classic fare built on a base of quality ingredients and rigorous French technique — all lessons that Jégo absorbed. Along with Parisian restaurants like Chez Michel, L’Os à Moelle, L’Ourcine and L’Acajou, L’Ami Jean serves food that is adventurous while sticking close to home, like an airy, deconstructed rice pudding that Tante Marie could have only dreamed of.

Hilariously, there's a television playing in the toilette, and a jail-style peephole in the door, too.


But, back to the other end of business, here are a few shots Gregg took when he went out to get us food.







Last but not least, here is the egg Gregg makes me every morning. This morning's version:


Not bad food art for a guy referred to by his bud Lowell Cauffiel as "Detroit ornery." (And he is, and I have to say, it's one of the great things about him.)

About the French eggs -- they really are different. I don't order eggs in America because they generally taste like nothing. This tastes like...well, with every bite, you can see faint images of the chickens running around the farmland, wind fluttering their feathers, and sun glinting across their tiny beaks.

And while we're on the subject of birdies, we went to Beauborg yesterday, aka Georges Pompidou Center, and saw the regular collection of arte moderne, and also the Annette Messager show.

The woman has to be mentally ill, and I mean that in the nicest way: Decapitated stuffed animals all over the damn place, and a pile of fabric carcasses of stuffed cows in the corner but without much of the stuffing. Really loved some of her work; specifically, the near-life-size cow made out of polar fleece being dragged around the outside of an exhibit by an electronic pulley of sorts, and especially, the case of what looked to be about 75 dead birds, each in a tiny little pastel crocheted sweater. Death becomes...adorable!

We couldn't photograph that exhibit, but Gregg did sneak a photo of me inside the art of one of my favorites, Jean Dubuffet:


If I ever built a house, I'd have a room just like this, with a desk built into the ice floes and one little ice floe made of down cushions with a little cushion for Lucy for my afternoon between-writing nap.

Finally, here I am on the way down the groovy outdoor escalator of the museum:


all non-restaurant photos by mon hombre, Gregg Sutter

Posted by aalkon at September 15, 2007 11:16 AM


Is that prosciutto or is the bacon raw?

Posted by: Allison at September 15, 2007 4:19 AM

It's the most wonderful prosciutto, which we get in a package at the grocery store.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 15, 2007 4:31 AM

Been following these posts with the greatest pleasure, Amy.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at September 15, 2007 7:12 AM

That's it. Euro be damned, we're going back again in May.

Posted by: deja pseu at September 15, 2007 8:14 AM

Merci, Jodi. And deja, it's worth it. Maybe, by then, the dollar will be better. If it's any worse, the next time I come, I'll be tempted to beg in the Metro.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 15, 2007 11:25 AM

I agree with Jody. Personally, I am spending a few hours a day catching up on your travels.

Posted by: Joe at September 15, 2007 2:26 PM

That looks delicious. I love food.

Posted by: justin case at September 15, 2007 2:33 PM

Hey, it's Louis de Funes on the tele...haven't seen anything from him in ages. Too bad he's not well known in the U.S. ...funny guy.

Posted by: The Mad Hungarian at September 15, 2007 3:24 PM

Is he on TV5? (French TV that airs in the USA?) I have it, I just haven't seen him. The show looked hilarious.

Justin, I, too, am a big fan of food. The kind that's appetizing enough to actually eat.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 15, 2007 5:30 PM

No offense, Amy, but Gregg overcooked that egg. Look at those black edges!

Unless you like it that way. C'est la oeuf.

Posted by: Rebecca at September 15, 2007 5:47 PM

Mais, non. The black is from the butter in the cast-iron frying pan. The eggs he makes for me are always perfectly runny. As was this one.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 15, 2007 10:12 PM

The show looked hilarious.

It must be one of the "Gendarm de Saint-Tropez" movies from the sixties and seventies, Amy. The woman sitting next to Louis de Funès is Claude Gensac, who played the female lead most of the time. Loved to see these movies as a kid. The reruns have become rare, though, and I never ever spotted them on TV5.

And you look great on that photo on the escalator in Centre Pompidou, by the way...

Posted by: Rainer at September 16, 2007 7:39 AM

"Personally, I am spending a few hours a day catching up on your travels."

Hey, Joe!

Spain's* loss is our gain.

(*Italy's too - if I recall?)

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at September 16, 2007 9:20 AM

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