What seems like a lifetime ago, I spent a week in Paris (France, just in case some of you Texans were wondering). And in that week, my fellow art-minded, financially strapped compatriots and I drank in all the culture that a 19-year-old’s budget could manage.
Hours at the Louvre, a trip to Versailles, an evening cruise along the Seine, a morning at the Notre Dame Cathedral, admiring the Eiffel Tower. For the wide-eyed girls putting their passports to use for the first time, the obligatory tourist sites were more than enough to convince us that we were, in fact, experiencing all the City of Light could offer.
But after reading Wine Spectator magazine‘s June 30, 2010, article titled “Savoring the Past: Classic Dining on Paris’ Left Bank,” I suddenly realized that we had missed out on one of the city’s greatest assets–its food.
Sure, we ate when we were hungry, but, we reasoned, why waste precious time or funds on fine dining when we could spend it appreciating the Venus de Milo at the Louvre? Or taking in an opera?
A “pricey” dinner at a vivacious little Greek place, complete with singing, dancing and broken plates, in the Latin Quarter–about $50 a person sans wine and with free dessert–was as close to the world of haute cuisine that we could afford.
Though had Wine Spectator’s article been published before our travels, I’m not sure it would have mattered. The author set out to unearth traditional French cuisine from among the many tourist traps that apparently cater to the teenage-American-English-major-studying-abroad set.
We might have been able to afford breakfast at the Café de la Mairie, a corner café getting more attention thanks to its position near the church of St-Sulpice, which was made famous by the best-seller The Da Vinci Code. Or splurged instead on a meal at Allard, a turn-of-the-20th-century bistro whose menu is derived from the cuisine of commoners rather than kings.
I suppose we could have cashed in our return plane tickets to treat ourselves to La Tour d’Argent’s centuries-plus old staple, Duck Tour d’Argent, a medium-rare breast served in a reduction of its juices and blood in wine and seasonings that are finished at the table. That, along with scallops, truffles and a $100 bottle of wine, Wine Spectator says, would set a party of three back about $1,200. Can you say, “Mom, please send money!?”
Even now I wouldn’t trade my first Parisian experience, though frugal, for anything. But the extravagant glimpse by comparison afforded by fine dining-meets-travel articles like these in Wine Spectator will help me take a new perspective and a healthy appetite when I return.