Summer in France means a lot of things in France. En masse vacations, a blissfully empty Paris, price increases (which notoriously happen during August, when everyone is out of town – of course), and vide-greniers and brocantes, known elsewhere as flea markets, where people sell all kinds of things. If you’re lucky enough to take a trip to the countryside, the brocantes are amazing. But some small towns in France also have little antique shops that are always worth poking around in. And when your other half has a station wagon, well, the possibilities are endless. (And sometimes voluminous!)
Results tagged cocktail from David Lebovitz
The cocktail resurgence has hit Paris big-time (and it’s hit me too), and the team who created Candelaria and Glass, two of my favorite places in Paris, have another hit on their hands with Le Mary Celeste. This corner bar in the Marais is named after a ship in the nineteenth century that left New York and was later found adrift and abandoned. No one ever found out what happened to the crew, who left all their personal belongings and valuables behind, but the boat was also found fully stocked with barrels of alcohol.
I don’t think many – or any – of those barrels landed in Paris, although there is no shortage of things to drink around here. Wine has historically been the drink of choice, although beer seems to have overtaken les vins in popularity judging from all the young people drinking pints in cafés. But gaining traction are cocktails of quality.
When I was in London, it just happened to be Wimbledon weekend and even though there wasn’t a tennis ball in sight where we were, all we wanted were pitchers of Pimm’s Cup. To our dismay, a number of places didn’t have them, and at the one restaurant that did, we were unimpressed. (So much so that the waiter took it off the bill.) Since it’s the perfect summer refresher – and it’s nice to serve drinks by the pitcher, so you can spend more time with your guests – I decided to take matters into my own hands and make a batch as soon as I got home.
I hit a couple of liquor stores in my neighborhood and, of course, no one had Pimm’s No. 1 Cup. One vendor confessed that he did know what it was, but that he didn’t carry it. So I made the inevitable trip over to La Maison du Whisky, which may be my new favorite place in Paris (they have everything!) and picked up a bottle of Pimm’s – as well as a few other things to keep me well-stocked for summer.
I know tequila fans like to have their say about what tequila is best for margaritas. But as I’ve learned with just about everything, the buck stops here. Ok, just kidding. (Actually, I’m happy to let it stop somewhere else.) But I was having drinks made by a well-known bartender a while back and a few people pointed out online that I wasn’t drinking a margarita, which was a surprise to me because that’s what the bartender told me it was. And one thing I’ve learned is never to argue with someone serving you drinks. Or food, for that matter. So I decided to let the buck stop with him – and if anyone wants to argue with a Parisian barman (or anyone in Paris, for that matter), you have bigger couilles than I.
(And if you fit that bill, please be in touch because I have a couple of other things that I could use some help with around here.)
I recently went to a tequila tasting of a top-quality tequilas made by a Frenchman who told me of his uphill battle in France was convincing people that tequila could be a liquor worthy of serious consideration. Helping to overcome that image, I went to a tequila tasting at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Paris where there were many varieties of tequilas to taste and compare. Unfortunately the downside of a tequila tasting is that you don’t remember what you had, especially when the tasting is followed by an open bar. (Which might lead some to conclude that some of us aren’t doing much to help the image of tequila.) But all the drinks were excellent – whatever you call them – and I’m more and more inclined to drink a little more tequila these days, namely in margaritas.
I know, I know. A Vieux Carré is supposed to have Peychaud’s bitters in it. As you can see, it was at the tippy top of my shopping list.
But I went to four liquor stores that specialize in cocktail liquors and spirits and three didn’t have it. And the fourth, when I showed up, was inexplicably closed for some sort of fermeture exceptionnelle. There was no sign, no nuthin’, so I don’t know. I tried peering through the darkened window to see if they had the bitters but couldn’t tell and didn’t want to use up another precious day of my life since I had already spent three days on the “Peychaud’s Project”, and needed to move on with my life. Plus passers-by were starting to look at me funny as I began hoisting myself up on a fire hydrant and a drainpipe on the building, hoping to get a better look inside the closed shop.
Whew! It’s been quite a year. There were some ups and a few downs. Looking back as the year draws to a close, I’m not sure they balanced out this time around. I had my share of moments when I just had to stop, take a deep breath, and do a little reassemble and reassess. One highlight might include the day at the mobile phone office when I purposely drew my head back then banged my head on the counter. (And no, repair of forehead dents isn’t covered by the French sécurité sociale, the national health insurance.) Another was when someone explained to me – and yes, with a straight face – that they don’t have USB ports in one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.
There were a host of other things that were a little more serious, that I won’t inflict upon you. But I am pretty sure there are enough to stories from this year to fill a book. But I am also pretty sure that no one would believe me.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when one needs a Manhattan. And during the past few weeks, that time had come for me. Actually, it came for me several times. I’ve recently been turned on to rye whiskey, and although folks online spoke up about various brands they like when I mentioned my sudden craving, I learned that it’s not something that one comes across every day in Paris.
I went to three wine and liquor stores in my neighborhood and none of them had any on their liquor shelves, and none of the salespeople had ever heard of it. One offered me Scotch, which was kind of funny and someone on Twitter suggested that I explain to them that that’s like offering something sparkling wine because, really, it’s the same thing as Champagne*.
Quite a while back, I worked at an Asian restaurant in San Francisco. The food was amazing. Fresh shrimp were cooked up, chopped, then smeared on bread, then deep-fried for shrimp toast. All the dumplings had freshly cooked ingredients in them – no canned peas or frozen shrimp. And each one was hand-rolled. All the meats were well-sourced and cooked daily, then shredded for fillings and claypot dishes. And the seafood was sparkling fresh.
The restaurant hobbled along for a few years then, sadly, closed. There were number of factors, but the one that I heard from most people is that they balked at paying regular restaurant prices for Chinese food.
For some reason, people think that Asian food needs to be cheap. (Last time I was in New York City, I went to a place that is famous for serving dumplings that could be had five for $1. It was recommended by a lot of people and they were so awful I threw them away, mainly because I was concerned about the meat – or whatever was inside – that I was eating.) I don’t know why people will easily pay $20 for roast duck at a regular restaurant but scoff if it’s more than $8 at an “ethnic” restaurant, especially if the ingredients are sourced with the same care at both.