Results tagged natural wine from David Lebovitz

En Vrac

En Vrac

I’ve been trying to tick off some of the places on the wad of post-its that are next to my front door, noting spots I’ve been meaning to visit in Paris but haven’t quite gotten around to. There are a few restaurants, some pastry shops that at some point piqued my interest, and a couple of Turkish sandwich places that really should be moved to the top of the heap.

Looking at them now, I see that some of the restaurants have already closed. (So it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t go there in the first place.)

En Vrac

One place that was on my radar was En Vrac. In French, that means “in bulk,” which is how the wine is available there. I’ve heard people snicker about le cube, or wine sold in quantity, especially in boxes. But for those who live near a winery, it’s much more economical and easier to get wine, saving a few bottles – and a few euros – in the process. It’s a perfectly acceptable way to handle wine that is meant to be drunk young. Which means more money for wine!

En Vrac

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Le Siffleur de Ballons

terrine d'oie

It wouldn’t be the first time, but I almost had an accident on my bike when I was heading to yet another tile store (who knew is was going to be so hard to find plain, white tiles?), and raced past a new place on my list. I had the usual 4 second debate in my head whether I should stop and grab a bite and a glass of wine, before I made the decision to grind myself to a halt and hitch my bike to a signpost.

Fortunately no one else was injured, but let’s just say that I think I need to lower my bike seat a little in case I have to brake unexpectedly in the future. (Well, at least if I ever want to have children, that is.) However I did manage to save the baguette and the croissant in my bike basket, so I think it was a decent trade-off.

basket of wineriz au lait (rice pudding)
Parmesanwine and water glasses

It was actually my third visit to Le Siffleur de Ballons this month. My first was when I was planning to meet my friend Theresa for drinks and a snack and due to an e-mail misunderstanding (you would think someone would have come up with a snappy name for that by now, a mash-up, like ‘spendy’ or ‘bromance’…I tried to come up with something but have other things on my mind at the present) but while I waited for her, I had a few glasses of Cheverny while I balanced myself on one of the metal stools, which I eyed for my new apartment, and talked to the counter woman.

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Quay Restaurant

ewe's milk ice cream

Since it’s my blog, I can do what I want. So I’m going to start with – what else? – dessert. At one of the opening dinners for the visiting chefs who came from around the world for the Crave Sydney Food Festival, four Australian chefs got together and made dinner for us. Tasting menus can be hard because for one thing, they’re a lot of small dishes and it can be hard to appreciate things when blitzed by a bunch of different foods and styles of cooking. And for another, by the time you get to dessert, your taste buds can be wiped out from the multitude of things that came before. And believe it or not, some people even wave off dessert. I know, weird.

But when this dessert was set down in front of me and I dug my spoon in, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but found a dreamy dish of ice cream made from ewe’s milk spread over a layer of caramelized walnuts and macarons, a bit of prune, and Pedro Ximénez sherry. It was a delightful contrast, the crunchy, nutty base with a layer of cool ice cream. And on top were scattered shards of pulled caramel, chocolate, and vanilla milk skin that you kind of broke off as you wished, to customize and change the taste of each spoonful.

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Vivant

cured pork belly with pepper

If you have a lot of food concerns – if you need to know how something is cooked, or what vegetables are included in les légumes – although they’re happy to answer, at Vivant you should just let your experience of the restaurant be guided by slipping out of the mode of being in control, and putting yourself in the capable hands of the staff of the restaurant. Some of the wines, which are unapologetically natural, are a leap of faith. And you might find yourself being surprised and delighted, or dubious and perplexed. It’s part of the experience.

blackboard menu at Vivanttomatoes for Pasta
herb saladseared white asparagus with Parmesan

Pierre Jancou was the former owner of Racines, an excellent restaurant which featured market-fresh food. Like so many other places in Paris and elsewhere, many say they do cuisine du marché, but a majority aren’t sourcing from the producers themselves and are still getting ingredients from market middlemen.

pasta with eggplant, tomatoes, ricotta

Pierre is someone who does know where everything is from, and he can tell you the provenance of every piece of fish, wine, herb, vegetable, and sausage served at Vivant. After letting go of Racines, he left Paris for a while but is back in a small, personal location in the middle of the 10th, in a colorfully tiled space that was formerly a shop that sold birds. After passing by streets filled with African hairdressing shops and the youthful crowds drinking on the newly-hip rue du Faubourg Saint Denis, when I stepped inside, I was happy that I had pointed myself in the direction of Vivant.

vivant

It was nice to see Pierre and his friendly staff behind the bar, as well as racing back to the kitchen to check a pasta, or taking orders from a table in the small dining room. Because I’m always punctual, I had a quick glass of wine at the bar while I waited for my friends Barbra, Meg, and Alec, although this is not a wine bar so guests should reserve a table for lunch or dinner.

(Because of local laws, this isn’t officially a wine bar, so stopping in just for a glass of wine isn’t possible.)

natural wine at Vivantwine list at Vivant
pierre jancou of Vivantpain des amis

Vivant is funky and fun. But eating here made me realize how different dining is in France than in the states. The chalkboard listing for Poularde indicates that it’s chicken, but there’s no mention of how it’s cooked or which vegetables were going to be the légumes listed alongside. In the states, each vegetable would have to be note on the menu and guests would want to know what cut of chicken it was, how it was going to be cooked, and what kind of sauce it was going to come with. At Vivant, it’s best to put yourself in the hands of the staff and let them do what they do best.

Vivant in Paris

white wine at Vivant

So leave all the stuff outside the door. When my friends arrived, I chose the Lieu de ligne (line-caught pollack from the Basque region) served on a pile of lightly sautéed spinach.

"crazy" salad with smoked mozzarella tilework at Vivant

I don’t normally order sausage in restaurants because the portions are always so huge. And sometimes the sausages can be so rich, it’s hard to digest afterward. But the wonderful cast iron cocotte of vegetables lightly cooked in butter – radishes, turnips with their greens attached, and broccoli – were just the right accompaniment to the meaty andouillette, which French friends that I subsequently dined with, raved over.

And I’m a big fan of their pasta dishes, which are often deceptively simple. A bowl of wide tubes of pasta bathed in a tomato and eggplant sauce came with a scoop of herbed ricotta, that melted into the flavorful noodles. I didn’t want to share!

blackboard menu at Vivant chocolate ganache-meringue at Vivant

Since we had nearly three-quarters of a bottle of wine left after dinner (and it wasn’t our first), we did decide to share a plate of Italian cheeses; a wonderfully salty, crumbly pecorino, and a milky wedge of Tallegio, a cheese I haven’t had in a long time. The dessert menu changes daily but there is often Gâteau Zoe, a chocolate cake named after Pierre’s daughter, and you might find a Ricotta Tart with rhubarb compote, or chocolate ganache with salted butter caramel and a crunchy meringue resting on top.

wine at Vivant

Places like Vivant have replaced the old bistros, many of which have resigned themselves to serving dishes merely reminiscent of their glory days, rarely sourcing fresh ingredients, and disappointing diners that are hoping to get a taste of good French cooking. This is honest food, and very good cooking, and what people in Paris – and elsewhere – should be eating today.

ricotta tart with rhubarb compote

Happily, a younger generation is moving forward and places like Le Garde Robe and Spring, Frenchie, and Les Fines Gueules are part of this movement.

Vivant

Like a lot of the new places serving good, fresh food, in Paris, Vivant is small, intimate – and busy. So there’s no need to panic, but realize that the owners and chefs sometimes find themselves overwhelmed and are often working half in the kitchen and half in the dining room…and also juggling the reservations line.

On a whim, I unexpectedly picked up the phone shortly after my first meal here and made a reservation. My two French friends hadn’t dined there, and we had a great night, beginning with three glasses of (natural) sparkling white wine, then moving on to a plate of tissue-thin lardo served with nothing but flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper. Burrata, from the nearby Italian Coopérativa Latte Cisternino was amazing, doused in very good olive oil, which we devoured before we moved to our main course. If it’s on the menu, be sure to order it. Although it’s hard to go wrong with anything here.

Vivant
43, rue des Petites Ecuries (10th)
Tél: 01 42 46 43 55
Closed Saturday and Sunday


NOTES: I updated this post with pictures from a more recent dinner, so the descriptions in the article are from my first meal there. The pictures shown include browned white asparagus, cured pork belly with freshly ground black pepper, and an excellent pasta with eggplant and ricotta.

As of January 2014, Pierre Jancou is no longer the owner of the restaurant and there will likely be some changes to the concept. There is still the wine bar next door, Vivant Cave, that features small plates and does not take reservations.



Other Reviews of Vivant

Hungry for Paris

Paris By Mouth

John Talbott’s Paris

Barbra Austin

Wine Terroirs

Paris Notebook

Table à découverte (in French)

Ptipois (in French)

Nomiya @ Art Home

eiffel tower

I’m not much for trendy restaurants. And I don’t really care for chefs that are trying to show-off, especially when they don’t have les bourses to pull it off. I recall a particularly alarming meal…and the bill, at the end of it…at a very, very expensive restaurant where I was presented with half of a caramelized shallot which arrived in front of me with a blitz of fanfare, on a plate the size of a hula-hoop.

strawberries and caviar

I took a bite and it was good, but for what it cost, I wanted at least the other half. And look, I worked at a restaurant where nothing was held in higher esteem than a perfect, unblemished peach, so I don’t think it’s wrong to present food or ingredients simply. I just have a hard time swallowing a €55 bowl of tomato soup.

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