January 14, 2011

A Perfect Meal, Without Chocolate...

Who would have thought that my favorite dessert in Paris would feature apples, not chocolate? But, I'm getting ahead of myself...

New Year's Eve 2010. Jonathan and I were in Paris. After much questioning and reading we had decided to make reservations dinner at Ratatouille, a family owned restaurant in the 2nd arrondissement.

On New Year's Eve we walked from our hotel in the Latin Quarter across the Seine, through Les Halles, and up Rue Montmartre. The air was cool and crisp, but not bad once you are bundled up.

On our way to dinner we stopped at a small bar, Le Coeur Fou, for a glass of wine. Inside was quiet and intimate - a perfect place for drinks on a date. We placed our order at the bar and then took a seat near the back at a small table with a candle. With our wine the bartender served a bowl of lovely spiced olives.

After relaxing a bit we continued down Rue Montmartre towards our dinner destination. When we arrived at Ratatouille we were warmly greeted and welcomed by Claude, whom I had corresponded with via email to make our reservation. We were seated at a table on the first floor and began reading the menu and wine list.

Dinner in France even at small cafes is like a ceremony - there is an order to the different elements. Everything is slow and paced. Food in France is an experience and it is meant to be enjoyed.

So on New Year's Eve we started with an aperitif (kir) and complimentary toasts with ratatouille tapenade. Then our bottle of wine arrived - a burgundy.

Soon our appetizers arrived. I had a thick pumpkin soup with cream and truffle on top and Jonathan had bone marrow and toasts. Of course the food came a basket of sliced baguette. So good! Bread, I think, tastes different. I'm not sure if it is the flour, the water, or perhaps the experience. But, regardless, it tastes better.

For the main course (or plat in French) I had a vegetable plate prepared by the chef. This is one thing I appreciated about this restaurant. When I emailed asking if they had vegetarian options on their menu Claude was very accommodating and said that they would be happy to prepare a plate for me. I received a dish of perfectly presented carrots, green beans, and potatoes. They were seasoned with salt, pepper, and (of course) butter. It was so simple - and so delicious.

Across the table from me, Jonathan had duck confit. He reported it to be crispy, salty, and greasy (in a good way) - and perfect with his glass of burgundy.

Now, it is time for me to return to the subject of dessert. Although I have an obsession for chocolate, and particularly chocolate in Europe, I decided to order an apple tarte for dessert. Jonathan ordered creme brûlée. These are both classic French desserts and perfect for New Year's Eve in Paris. My tart was served with creme fraiche and a drizzle of raspberry sauce - and I loved it! The crust was perfect, the apples were sweet, and it tasted fabulous. I thoroughly enjoyed and would rate is as one of my favorite sweets in Paris. Jonathan's creme brûlée was also amazing - creamy with a perfectly caramelized crust.

So, even without chocolate, dinner at Ratatouille was wonderful - and a perfect New Year's celebration! This is a restaurant I will definitely visit again on my next trip to Paris.

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