Oh 2013, where did you go? They always say that time passes by faster when you are having fun. I had a great 2013. The year of the “Yes!” has brought on many new adventures and revived some old connections.
It’s been awhile and all it took to get me to finally sort out all my notes from my trip last summer was a giant wind and rain storm here on the westcoast. A little inspiration from MFK Fisher and David Sedaris certainly helped too … more on that in another post.
One of the first “Yes” moments of the year was a semi-solo trip to Europe. I know – you don’t really need to twist my arm for that one. I have been eager and excited for this foodventure and it was finally happening. I must say that I was slightly nervous at first, simply because it’s been awhile since I’ve last traveled.
After my renewed love of bread, cheeses, and fabulous wine, I knew I MUST return to Paris. The last time I was there, I was young and everything was just “go go go!” Whoever thought that you can do Paris in 3 days is an absolute fool. I have to admit though – I never thought that I would develop this yearning to visit and re-visit and most likely grow to love this city. The people, the pace, and the gastronomical adventures have stolen my tummy. I vowed to take this trip in as slowly as I can – to literally stop and smell the polluted air mixed in with the wonderous waves of fresh baked bread and strongly brewed espresso.
One of the things on my “must-do” list was to wander the streets, find a café and just sit. Sit and write and watch and absorb. Café Le Papillon is nestled in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Rue Mouffetard is a sweet honest open market in one of Paris’ oldest and most vibrant areas. This market is packed with vendors selling fresh fruits, cheeses, meats, and breads and is loaded with cafes and restaurants. Café Le Papillon does not have all the bells and whistles as most of the other places in the hood and can easily be missed due to the nonchalantness of the owners. No one passing flyers, no one ringing bells, no one offering promotions – just simple honest food.
I actually came to Rue Mouffetard specifically for this place due to an episode of Tony Bourdain’s No Reservations – Paris. A place recommended by Tony and Joel – how can I NOT go???
The restaurant seems like it is run by a husband and wife team and only fits about 20 people inside while the “patio” tables are squeezed about 5 inches apart from each other. It was a gorgeous weekday afternoon in Paris and there was no way that I was going to sit indoors so I sat and made myself some new friends (they just didn’t know it).
The menu is updated daily on an old chalk board which the owner brings out for you. With her not speaking much English and me not speaking much French, we worked out a system of Frenglish mixed in with gestures and pointing.
My steak tartar came with a healthy amount of potatoes and salad. The potatoes were so creamy and well seasoned. Surprisingly, the potatoes did not taste too rich or heavy as I am sure they had used copious amounts of butter and cream to make this so melt in your mouth!
Though not chopped and mixed table-side – the steak tartare was well prepared and well seasoned. It came with a variety of tasty treats and pickled goodness. I’m not usually a fan of things in the “onion family” but the finely minced shallots mixed in with the giant capers and fresh steak made me almost clear the plate. Also adored the sundried tomato and fresh and generous slabs of parm – but that’s a given for me.
This typical bistro dish was quite large compared to what I’ve seen in Vancouver – thank goodness the wife (?) highly advised me to just stick with one dish…I also wanted a cheese plate. All the items were fresh and purchased from the neighboring vendors. Loved the moment when I watched the owner head down the road and pick up some more cheeses for his night time service.
I absolutely adored how quaint this place is. Although the owners seem nonchalant about things, they are pretty attentive. Seeing that my eating was slowing down, the wife (?) came out to see if everything was to my liking. When a mom and son panhandler came and sat down on my tiny patio table refusing to leave, the husband (?) came out and shoed them away knowing that I was struggling with the language. I really wanted to give them a big hug and tell them that I was only slowing down due to my morning filled with croissants, pain au chocolat, and pain au raisin and that I had big plans to stuff my face with the rotisserie chicken from down the road and wash it all down with Laduree marcarons and creamy Dalloyau opera cake… but all I could do was manage a smile and a quiet “merci beaucoup”.
In no way am I saying that this was the fanciest of meals I have ever eaten, but it was one of the most “real” dining experiences that I have had. Rick Steeves noted that this was a “down-and-dirty local diner” and that was exactly what I craved. I traveled in search of an honest local foodventure and found it within the basket of crusty bread and cute owners here on this tiny “patio” on the corner of an old Parisian street.