Soaking in French cuisine's classical side. A La Pomponnette, Paris





I pointed out to K this evening that I have not blogged every day during our current trip to France. And not at all in Paris so far. This is unlike our holiday in Italy last year when I blogged regularly while there.

I wondered why this was so. 
She said that I was carrying the iPad last time and blogged with that.
Well, I am carrying it this time too.

I feel that this could be because we return late most nights in Paris. Dog tired after a day of walking.

Or, could be because I have done detailed daily posts on each of our meals on Instagram (@thefinelychopped) and felt that I have kept you posted through that. I thought that I would go back to India and write more comprehensive posts rather than diary like ones on the blog.

Then we had dinner tonight and I felt that it was worth blogging about. So here I am. Blogging late into the night.




This was at a restaurant called A La Pomponnette at Montamartre, close to the Moulin Rouge, and our hotel, the Joke Hotel. It was recommended to us by Monsieur Oliver, the manager of the hotel, who has given us quite a few good food recommendations so far in the trip and I trust his judgement by now.


We got the hotel reception to book us in and walked down at 10 pm A La Pomponnete. The restaurant was fairly crowded. The mood serene. The family cat walked by and got on top of a table. A large, possibly pregnant, dog walked by lazily and settled down by the cat on the floor.





An elderly gentleman came and shook my hand. And K's. Then realised we were not part of a French group that had just arrived who were the ones he had actually come to greet
. They got pecks on both cheeks from him. Men and women both. We got a smile nevertheless.


He then seated us. Then disappeared. By now we have spent enough time in Paris to know that clocks stand still in its cafes. Meals are not meant to be hurried here. Don't come to a Frencj cafe if you are very hungry. Eat something and then go.


Sometime later the elderly gentleman came to our table. 
I read some of the literature placed around and found out that Pomponnette was founded in 1909. That the paintings on the wall were by local artists who had eaten here. One guessed that the elderly gentleman was the fifth generation owner.


He doesn't speak any English apparently and said "I will call my sister for English" when I told him 'anglaiz'. That's just about all the French I know.



A little later, an elderly lady arrived. Her knowledge of English was rudimentary. Limited to identifying the meat against dishes mentioned in the menu...meat, fish, beef. Yet, for her brother, she is the one turn to when foreigners come in.
The menu is in French so pray to the heavens and hope for the best and you will be looked after.


The service was warm despite the language barrier. When I wanted my steak medium rare, the lady warned warned me with a look of concern that it will have blood. 'Pink'. She exclaimed. Later, when K's fork fell on the floor, the lady came over with another fork as she had spotted what happened while taking the order at another table.




Her brother was kind too. On my request, he came and showed me how to eat my plate of snails. 


Later, on seeing that K had not finished her fish, he came and asked if she hadn't like it. The fish had a taste we weren't comfortable with but K just smiled and pointed at her tummy to indicate she was full. She didn't want to hurt the grandfather-like person. He playfully patted his own tummy as if to say, 'if someone like me can eat, so can you'.
The fish tasted a bit bitter and didn't work for us. The fried did. Reminded me of McDonalds!


He did clap his hands on seeing that I had wiped my plate of steak clean. Barring the aubergine.
We haven't been to the Louvre yet. K wants to go there to see the Mona Lisa. I've seen it there when I was 6 months old. For me a trip is about the people at a place I meet than the museums I visit.



People like 
the smiling French couple sitting beside us at A La Pomponnette today for example. The gentleman made up for the communication limitations of the owners of the restaurant. He showed me how to eat the snails.
I couldn't manage the metal tweezer meant for holding the snails and the tiny fork for taking out the meat together. So I held the hot snails with my hands and twisted out the meat.
The gentleman at the next table explained how the
snails were cooked. 'In butter, garlic, parsley. In the olden days, they were poor and would eat anything. Snails, frogs.' 
He explained that snails
are bottom feeders and that a lot of time went in 'evacuating' the dirt inside before the snails were fit for consumption.


He showed us pictures on his mobile of live snails that he had seen being sold on the markets of Greece. 
Explained to me how the bone marrow,  that we had ordered, was cooked. That he preferred them grilled without the bread crumbs on top that they add at Pomponnette.
His wife told us that they had five children of which, one daughter had been to India. They wanted to know if beef was indeed banned in India. 
On the way out she whispered something to her husband, who then looked at us and said with a smile, 'enjoy the rest of your stay in Paris'.

We smiled back. A bit sad that we have only two more dinners left here in this trip.

And how was the food?

Loved my first taste of the French classic escaragot or land snails. The meat reminded me of the clam meat of Mumbai. Elastic, yet juicy. The butter, parsley, garlic sauce was intoxicating. I had wanted to try this since I landed in Paris. Not sure if I will go for the frog legs here though.


The bone marrow dish consisted of cow's marrow bone. It had been split into half, and grilled in the oven with some bread crumbs on top as our neighbour from the next table 
explained.



I just loved the fatty pleasures of the marrow. K, felt she could have done with a bit more flavour. I was happy scooping it out with the marrow spoon and taking hedonistic bites of the marrow. Anyone growing up in a Parsi (as Kainaz told me) and a Bengali household knew the value of bone marrow.
This was like hitting the jackpot. You could just scoop out the marrow unlike sucking desperately at goat marrow bones that we do back home.



Neither of us took to the grilled fish that we ordered and that was a waste.

I was a bit disappointed by the steak that I had had earlier in a cafe in Paris the day we landed. I wanted to have a good steak before heading back home to a land where beef is banned. That's why the Gods of food sent me to Pomponnette I guess.


The beef in Pomponnette was recommended by Oliver and I went in for it. Medium rare. The meat was brilliantly juicy and well seasoned. Just the sort of meat high I was looking for. This was good quality meat.

It was served with bearnaise sauce. I remember James Bond had asked for a steak with sauce bearnaise in 
one of the Bond books I had read when in school.
 The sauce was buttery, intense, mildly tangy and elevated the great steak to further greatness. I later googled the recipe for bearnaise - butter, egg yolks and white vinegar which gave the tanginess.

I was so so happy with our dinner. 

Breads were on the house, we didn't have a drink or dessert. I would rather spend money on food. The dinner came to 72 euros. Our most expensive meal of the trip so far.

I saw it as a celebratory meal for what has been a year which has had lots to be grateful for. 
I felt like Bond. James Bong.



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