It’s taken me a few days to get back into the groove – somewhat… after returning from a week visiting family in Boston before jettisoning off to Paris. All business for The Don when in Paris, but we did manage to celebrate his birthday in true Parisienne fashion with a night at the Opera Bastille followed by dinner at the très chic hour of 11:00 p.m. at L’encrier, an über popular, charming family-owned restaurant a short walk from the opera along narrow, nearly deserted streets in the heart of La Bastille.
Usually I’m the official researcher of places to dine – not as easy as it sounds since we have special dietary considerations, and Don was noticeably prod to have “discovered” this tiny bastion of traditional French cuisine himself through online surfing and perusing reviews. Lonely Planet describes L’encrier as, “Always heaving but especially at lunch, the ‘Inkwell’ draws them in with generously sized dishes, ranging from steak with Roquefort sauce or delicate pig’s cheeks with spices to simple veggie lasagne. The open kitchen, large picture window and great-value prices make it a winner.”
When we arrived at 11 p.m. a jovial party of four enjoying the last of their digestifs, a couple deeply involved with each other, one gentleman wrapping up his reading and email replies. The owner greeted us by name as we were the only reservation for 11 p.m. and waved us to indicate we had our pick of tables. Smiling and accommodating he didn’t seem to mind at all our late arrival and breezed through the chalkboard selections in what he described as his little English, which was actually very good. Of course, we could not order the same thing, desiring to taste as many of the dishes as possible – from start to finish, not a single dish disappointed. There are two 3-course set menus to choose from and, at 22.90 or 25.90 euro (lunch or dinner) both offer great value. We shared bites of the large artichoke hearts with mushrooms in a light cream sauce and foie gras and pressed duck breast with tender greens. His duck confit had me wishing we never agreed to ordering different entrees, not to take away from the steak with mushroom sauce!
I know you’re eyeing the profiterole! Literally, the best we’ve had. L’encrier, Paris
by Mary Hamrick
Autumn is like an old book:
Marred spines turn mean yellow,
staples rust red-orange.
Every stained page is stressed
by a splat of color. Rough-red,
like an old tavern,
we become hungry birds
and prepare for fall.
Shape and shadow are candied citron
as lanterns turn bitter yellow. Autumn
is a red fox, a goblet filled with dark wine,
a hot chilli pepper with smoky eyes.
Pressed leaves take in the colors
of seafood paella and saffron; these leaves
are like death, climaxing with a smile.
Autumn: Her dress is a net of mussels;
dark shelled, it covers up
summer’s weatherbeaten body.
So pull out your boots
and stand on an aged, wood floor
like an evergreen.
Reclining on a bench in the Place des Vosges
Ahhh, autumn, how I miss your blustery days and riotous palette of color blanketing the hillsides. For me, October is the premium time to travel – satisfying this yearning and enjoying a modicum of peacefulness that isn’t possible among the crowds of warm summer months. Even though temps were still in the 80’s at the beach, our taste buds were begging for fall fare and anticipating classic French country cuisine (vs. haute French). And what could be more comforting and rustic than French Puy lentils. Having had far too many boring earthy brown lentil soups – this one is brightened with sweet potatoes lending their brilliant orange and ribbons of lively green Swiss chard for a bowl brimming with pleasing textures and flavor. The added nutrition factor is yet another brilliant aspect that needn’t be mentioned if your loved ones cringe at the word “healthy”.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 carrots diced
- 1 celery stalk diced
- 2-3 medium sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
- 1 14.5 ounce can No Salt Tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger minced*
- 1 teaspoon Savory Spice Shop Moroccan Blend
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon ground Harissa or cayenne pepper*
- 7 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 cup French Puy green lentils
- 1 cup Swiss chard cut into ribbons*
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic, cook for one minute. Add the carrots, celery, and sweet potatoes, along with the spices and cook until the vegetables soften, 5-7 minutes.
Stir in the lentils, tomatoes and broth. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat and cover, simmer for about 30 minutes.
Add Swiss chard, cover and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Serve warm and enjoy!
*Cayenne pepper can be substituted for the harissa.
*Spinach can be substituted for Swiss chard, but chard holds up better in soup. I also added more chard the next day as the greens lose their brightness after a while.
Enjoy! And there’s more adventures in Paris to come 🙂