Friday, September 29, 2006

compare and contrast

I have said this before – I miss the café life of France and especially of Paris.

I’ve been asked if I long for French food when I am back here. But I am (basically) okay with food in the Midwest.

For example, on my last evening in Paris I ate in a terrific, hidden little gem, L’Ourcine.

France Sep 06 830

The chef is one of several dozen up-and-coming chefs in France, much adored and fussed over for his talents. The food is excellent. The price of the menu – 30 Euro. For this I had crabmeat smothered by avocado mouse with diced green apples on top, a grilled filet of St. Pierre over Asian greens and a sublime pots de crème.

France Sep 06 838

The next evening I ate in downtown Chicago at an equally wonderful gem, Crofton on Wells. Ms. Crofton has been cooking up a storm here for nine years now, at very decent-to-your pocketbook prices, quite comparable to l'Ourcine. My heirloom tomato gazpacho with rock shrimp rocked with the zest of house-smoked tomatoes, and the scallops, bathed in a red-curry mussel reduction could not be more perfect. I ended with a quad of icecreams: sour cherry, apricot, honey and dark chocolate.

France Sep 06 888

The wine prices at Crofton were a little silly, but hey, the Midwest isn’t as rich in wine as is France.

And so I have been forced to admit that I can eat well on this side of the ocean.

But the café life. Give me a break.

On Tuesday in Paris, again and again I would come across scenes like this:

France Sep 06 828

Now granted, the skies were a touch friendlier and temps a few numbers warmer, but that shouldn’t matter. Wisconsinites are hardy types: they freeze their eating spaces year round with overworked air conditioning and underutilized heating systems. So how do you explain today’s café scene on State Street? Walking home, again and again I would come across scenes like this:

september 06 268

And in case you do not buy the fact that the temps were not sufficiently low to drive away café moments, I’ll note that right next to an empty café I saw these two, sitting on a bench, clearly enjoying this very unwarm dish:

september 06 270

Have I mentioned that I miss the café scene of Paris?