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There’s a debate in the blogging community, that some of you may not be privy to—or more likely, give a hoot about—concerning gifts from companies. I’m always reading these things on bulletin boards, such as…“I’m really conflicted. Mercedes-Benz would like to upgrade the S-class sedan they gave me last year with a convertible, but if I accept it, does that compromise my integrity?”

Caviar Tasting

And I’m, like, “Dude, take the upgrade!…and kill the blog!”


Not that I’d want to be apart from you for too long. But if it was me, I’d take the car, go on a very long trip, and when I came back, donate the car to charity and start a new blog.

(Reality Check Time: Figure out which of those previous statements isn’t true.)

Plus the exchange rate is killing me and I can no longer subsist on bread, cheese, wine, and chocolate anymore. And let’s face it: how many of you haven’t taken a free piece of the nut-coated cheese ball at Hickory Farm’s at the mall and told your friends about it? Heck, a guy’s gotta eat. I’m nothing but skin & bones, and my waistline is looking just like it did when I was a teenager.

(If only that were true…)

Actually, no one ever offers me anything.

Well, that’s not really true.

Someone sent me some coconut-flavored sugar that smelled so icky-sweet that I dumped it in the garbage. Then, like a rotten egg, I had to empty the garbage because my apartment stunk so bad of phony coconut. There was also a purple-tinted apéritif that looked like air-freshener and tasted what I could only image air-freshener would taste like.

And why don’t I get any offers from spas? Don’t I look like I deserve some treatments around here? Heck, I’d even change the name of the blog to, for a few comped facials and massages.

So I was nervous, confused, excited, anxious, and eager when I got an invitation along with a group of French bloggers, from the famed House of Petrossian to come for a caviar-tasting.

(Once again: Choose one that isn’t true from the above.)

Salmon Eggs

Hence in the name of international understanding, and to promote foreign relations and repair some of the damage done between our two countries over the last few years (which I seem to do more than my share of…btw) I agreed to attend. I was thinking I could just say I was doing it for you, my readers, but I didn’t want you to feel too guilty.

Aren’t I nice?

Eating With French Bloggers

The first time I ‘got’ caviar was at Chez Panisse and it was gift our favorite customer, Jean Flaum. (Another freebie!) Jean used to come a couple of nights a week for dinner and didn’t like being in the dining room so we set up a special table in the kitchen for her. Which is where that whole crazy ‘chef’s table’ business started, I’m sorry to say. Who wants to eat in a restaurant kitchen? If I want to eat in a kitchen, I’ll stay home and eat over my sink like I usually do.

Jean was well-off and would take a cab from San Francisco round-trip, and treat her driver to dinner upstairs in the café while we took care of her downstairs. She often brought us lavish gifts and once she arrived with a huge tin of Iranian caviar. And I mean, HUGE. I’d never been faced with so much and, of course, it was the best quality. But instead of preparing toast points, chopped chives, and all that crap that gets in the way of caviar, we simply at it by the spoonful.

And it was heaven!

Spoonful o' Caviar

I have a friend who used to go to their Manhattan branch and since they had mink-covered seats, she wear a mini-skirt and…uh…did a Britney, savoring every moment, enjoying the seat and the caviar. (Lordy, I hope they cleaned those seats regularly.)

Here in their Paris restaurant, Le 144, I was seated next to Armen Petrossian himself. The seats weren’t mink, and I didn’t think he’d take to kindly to me checking out if he was wearing undies, nor would his wife, who was sitting a few seats away.

Being a social nerd, I was a bit scared, feeling like the guest of honor and wanting to be on my best behavior. In spite of all the vodka they kept pouring as soon as I took the tiniest sip. I’m not a big vodka drinker, but when it’s excellent quality and so icy-cold your fingers stick to the glass, it goes down a little too easily.

Iced Vodka

But what a great guy M. Petrossian was! Wearing a bright-red bow-tie and a waxed mustache, he was a fantastic dinner companion and I got to pester him with all sorts of questions. Even better, he kept up pretty well in the vodka department, too. Although his Armenian roots probably gave him a leg-up on me. (Speaking of legs up, don’t you think anyone who would wear a bow tie would be a boxer-guy too?)

We started with a little taste of tarama, a smooth paste of smoked fish eggs. Normally I don’t care for tarama as it often tastes like old fish, but this was really elegant. There were three kinds of black and grey sturgeon caviar, each was chair-squirmingly delicious. Undies or not.

4 Kinds of Salmon

I would’ve been happy right there, but out came plates with four kinds of smoked salmon, including one that was ‘à la Caucasienne’, an eyebrow-raising name, that means it was smoked with a mélange of ground pepper and spices. Not that it was smoked over white people.

On the way out, each of us was presented with a nifty bag that was my kinda gift bag—they heavy kind. There was a beautiful tray of smoked salmon, more tarama, and a bottle of pure jus de granade, unsweetened pomegranate juice.

There was also a nice bottle of vodka weighing it down, which would have been terrific with the smoked salmon the next day at home. Except, unfortunately, on the way home, I decided to pop the top on the Mercedes, shift that baby into high hear, and polish it off on the way as I cruised home in style.

So instead of vodka with my saumon fumé, I headed over to Thanksgiving the next day and bought some H&H bagels from New York, whose price made the caviar seem like a bargain.

Bagel & Cream Cheese

And no, they didn’t comp the bagels.

But I think I should work on that next.

French Bloggers At Petrossian

C’est moi qui l’ai fait!

Ron l’Infirmier






Resse? Pire..encore

Dubuc’s blog

Sois belle et parle

Gonzague Dambricourt

Méenagères de moins de 50 ans




    • Lucy Vanel

    What a great opportunity to talk to the owner himself. That frozen vodka glass really does look amazing. I wonder if they have a boutique in Lyon?

    Definitely worth a look. I would love to try the honey smoked salmon.

    • Nat

    “gave” a Mercedes-Benz??? Free gifts are always great. Being common folk, I really feel loved when the waiter brings me something and says “on the house!” Even if it’s just like a scoop of ice cream in a bowl that costs them 10 cents and they actually give it to everyone “on the house.” That said, and having never experienced it before, I’d sure love it if someone “gave” me spoonfuls of caviar. Loving the blog. T____T crying with envy.

    • Rebecca Hatcher

    Oh Dave. You life must be SO hard. What with living in Paris and eating French bread and cheese and chocolate and caviar and being thin all day long, you must be exhausted by it all ;)

    Please share some of that hardship with me. :p

    • lagramiere

    The Petrossian store used to be just a short walk from our apartment in Paris, well I guess it still is, but we don’t live there anymore. Whenever we had something to celebrate, it was Petrossian smoked salmon and Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noirs. Not vodka, but I think Champagne is a pretty good substitute!

    I’d be happy to send you a sample of La Gramiere, it goes quite well with chocolate, super spicy kimchee too! :-)

    • rebecca

    I once paid $8 for a box of Kraft mac n’ cheese at Thanksgiving! And it was worth every penny. I bet those bagels were, too! There’s nothing better with some good lox than a “real” New York bagel!

    • nyc/caribbean ragazza

    What a great opportunity…excellent food and a chance to hang out with your fellow Parisian bloggers.

    • Susan at Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy

    David- This post totally cracked me up! It looks like the tasting was a lot of fun. That salmon looks fantastic.

    I’ve often wondered about the whole “gift” and “paid review” issues. Even though, I am just a little blogger fish, I have been approached for these things a few times, and I honestly don’t know what to do. One one hand, it is nice to feel like what you do has value. On the other, is it selling out?

    • Alexandra

    Note to self:stop reading this blog before lunch!
    Now all i can think about is smoked salmon and I so do not want to have my lentil salad ( particularly frustrating since I had been looking forward to that lentil salad all morning!)

    • Joanna in the kitchen

    Oh it must have been a very nice event chez Petrossian. Great food, lots of interesting parisian bloggers and sitting next to Mr. Petrossian himself. Wow. This is called the most perfect evening. And somehow I don’t believe you’re such a social nerd, yourself ;-). You’re playing game with us, arent’t you. I have always imagined you as a very sociable person.

    BTW, you must have had great way home on the Mercedes, hihihihi.

    • Kitt

    Why can’t I be you?

    • Steve

    Why can’t I be that taxi driver?!

    • David

    Steve: If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll be reincarnated in your next life as a mink banquette at Petrossian in New York!

    Rebecca: You’re right. I’m only thin all day long. At night, I get really wide. ; )

    SGCC: I don’t really do restaurant reviews; my intention is just to point out places I go to here on the site.

    On my spa site, though, I will certainly be more thorough in my investigations. I want to try every spa treatment possible so I can be as fair and balanced as possible.

    Joanna: I am a nerd. Although a few flutes of vodka never hurts to break down those pesky social barriers.

    Rebecca: 8 bucks for Kraft Mac and Cheese? Aside from the price, what are all those “Eat Local” people going to have to say about that?

    (You do know the secret of Kraft Mac and Cheese, right? Double the cheese packets and use heavy cream instead of milk. For next time…)

    • J. Bo


    • French Laundry at Home

    David: would you like to have your new spa site forge a strategic partnership with my new site? I think there’s great potential there.

    • Bob Spencer

    David, I forgot to ask on the blog about the citrus oil; do you buy it locally in Paris or buy it online?

    • Polly

    Jeez, David, all I get for my blog are a few free books to review, and the occasional free ticket/press pass. Mercedes? Spa? Sign me up! How about Or

    I’m sooo there.

    Seriously, the caviar looks incredible. There’s caviar and then there’s CAVIAR. Yum.

    • Michelle @ Us vs. Food

    i think the mac n’ cheese tip is my favorite piece of information in this post. not that i would ever eat that. but, you know, if i *were* going to…

    i just need to move to paris, and that’s that.

    • Heidi

    I just caught a smidge of the Badoit bottle peeking out in one of the pics. I love that stuff! When I lived in France a bajillion years ago I drank lakes of it. And it was the best hangover quencher with a Supradyne tossed in for extra fizz.

    • ParisBreakfasts

    Very swell event and I wouldn’t have missed it for a few scruples…
    Bring on the rubles of caviar
    I used to “get” caviar from distant Iranian relatives (by marriage) right to my door in the old ole days…sigh

    • Heidi

    Glimpsing that smidge of the Badoit brought back memories of when I lived in France a bajillion years back. I loved that stuff! It made a perfect hangover quencher with a Supradyne tossed in for some flavor and extra fizz. French Orange Crush.

    • rtcaro

    Hilarious, as always! Why can’t someone gift you a new oven unit? Well, caviar’s not a bad second! Beautiful photos-I can almost taste the vodka. Back when I was working out in the real world, the only way to get me to attend a meeting was if they were serving free food. I say TAKE the GOODIES, but make no promises.

    • Helen

    If that were me at that tasting, I think I would crumble in a pool of insecurity and inadequacy and probably end up making my excuses for fear of saying something stupid or not recognising the subtle nuances in the caviar…..

    • Babeth

    You’re a lucky guy!
    Haven’t you had a “pretty woman” moment in front of the silverware ? I’m only kidding :-)
    BTW David I’m coming to Paris this Saturday, if you’re available for a coffee I would delighted. My email: cuisinedebabeth[at]gmail[dot]com

    • Fatemeh

    D, when I worked for a Russian-based importer/retailer a few years back, we actually sold some Petrossian stuff.

    One of the smoked salmon products we bought from them was their Tsar Cut salmon. A big, glistening, orange jewel of lightly smokey, meaty goodness.

    I’ve never enjoyed smoked salmon since… Your photo of those salmons looks a lot like that cut.

    • Kharina

    I looking out for furry seats next time out. :D

    • FlaNboyantEats

    hmm. i may need to work my magic and get some freebies or comp’d meals… though as a real freelance writer, those things come as perks… i’d like to get them on the merit of my blog alone :)

    Great salmon… can’t wait to get to France in April!

    • elise

    Mercedes? Hell no. I’m holding out for the kitchen remodel with Viking appliances.

    But caviar would be fine too. LUV the stuff.

    • Judith inUmbria

    How do you do that? How do you guzzle vodka and still take photos? (Not envious of the caviar)

    • caroline

    Aww, poor David. I’d send you a cupcake from the bakery I work at, but I don’t think it would ship overseas that well. Right now I’m at my other (non-food-related) job and I’m craving caviar and smoked salmon and crusty breads because of you, and a million other foods because I’m listening to the audiobook version of Kim Sunee’s Trail of Crumbs. Suddenly the Pink Lady apple and whole milk yogurt I got from the farmer’s market is seeming like a VERY inadequate lunch.

    • mary

    So, I have a friend who’s a doctor at the spa in Banyuls – the best kind of friend, right? Other than that, I don’t usually get free anything. Though I do have a brother who loves to buy caviar, I usually have to promise to make the blini though.

    About the mac and cheese – I used to so get in trouble when I was a kid for using two cheese packs for one box of macaroni.

    • lisa

    Is it just me wondering if it was the bottle of vodka or the smoked salmon that you finished off in the car on the way home…?!
    I think someone’s yanking my chain.

    • Belle

    Holy cream cheese! $70 *plus shipping* for two dozen bagels? That’s a bit much for this bagel loving Gotham girl to swallow; for that price, they’d better be encrusted with something that sparkles a lot more than sesame seeds!

    • Randi

    I’m curious what the bagel cost? I dearly miss NY bagels,if I could get a decent one here, I might be tempted to pay for it!!

    • Ms. Glaze

    Wait what? Thanksgiving has bagels? I didn’t know that. As for caviar, I wish I liked it because I work with three different varieties daily and they’re all VERY expensive. I know that’s terrible to say. Probably for the better or I’d eat myself silly. You know, you deserve lots of free presents. Your cookbooks, your blog, and your international relations are worthy of free caviar and souped up mercedes.


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