While not exactly Proust’s Madeleine, two things can immediately transport me to Paris: the thick anise-flavored aperitif Ricard and a seafood plat or tower. I often order a Ricard in New York but it doesn’t taste the same when it is not served in old-style French glassware like those above. They were on my to-buy list but I had to settle for some glasses designed by Picasso that are available in the Picasso museum store. The edges are rough but I still bought them. I just could not leave Paris without some souvenir even if the salesgirls were the ONLY rude employees I encountered during my entire visit..
This trip was not about museum visits . My Parisian friends insisted I not waste my time going to exhibitions since we have so many wonderful museums in New York and Paris is a living, private exhibit. I did have a short list of things I wanted to see (Monet’s private collection at the Marmottan, The Museum of Decorative Arts’ retrospective of Dior and other influential designers, and something else but only got to the Picasso’s 1932; a year of wonder aka as year of eroticism. in the Marais, the Jewish part of town.
In New York, I order the seafood platter at Balthazar and it is very good but it doesn’t have the sparkling, crisp, briny, freshness that the seafood in Paris does. And the variety there is mind-blowing. It doesn’t need anything– no lemon, mignonette, rouille, or anything. Well, I do love to dip crab claws into a creamy spicy sauce. (Sorry I cut the photograph like that but I am too short, and my arms not to long enough to hold the camera high enough to get a full picture and do it honor.)
Believe it or not just as Parisian is Moroccan food. There is a distinct North African flavor to Paris. everywhere I went I met Tunisians and Moroccans and the aromas of their dishes and their hookahs fill the air in certain neighborhoods assault the senses. When Lofti’s, a wonderful restaurant in the Theater District, closed, we lost our only really good Moroccan restaurant. I still miss their olive salad which I have not been able to replicate and they would not give me the recipe! (I don’t understand that attitude.They live in Morocco now!)
A friend recommended Mansourias and it was very good. I had never had a traditional bisteya stuffed with pigeon seasoned with aromatic spices. I am averse to sweet savory dishes and bisteya is totally covered with powdered sugar but somehow the spices neutralize the cloying sweetness and meld beautifully with the other seasonings in the pigeon..
I invited my Facebook friend, Robert Chidiac, tour guide and owner of Kristy’s Cars to dinner. He ordered the lamb and prune couscous and it was sublime. The most important lesson I learned on this trip is that couscous has to be steamed, not cooked in liquid like I do. The difference is incredible and I will do it this way now.
I have a history related to lemon-olive tagine and the one I ate there is the best I have ever had. I learned to make my version from Paula Wolfert’s, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco. I am proud of my interpretation. So much so that when the New York Times called to ask me what I would make for a man I wanted to seduce. I am sure that they thought I would say that I would make a mole or barbacoa. They were surprised when I put my preserved lemon-olive tagine at the center of the plate. I stand by my seduction meal menu but oh! how I wish that I could get the preserved lemons and olives from Paris. It makes all the difference. The picture I took there is not good so I’ll show you a picture of my tagine instead.