PARIS – My face fell when I opened the mail a month or so ago and discovered that some of my all-time favorite restaurateurs – the three Cousin brothers at the lively Petit Marguery – were hanging up their copper pots.
So imagine my surprise when I walked into the restaurant a few weeks ago to find two of the brothers – Michel and Jacques – at the stove. They are still there for the season to assure a smooth transition, while the majority of the long time staff, including the outgoing waiter Yannick, are standing faithful to their posts.
The evening also happened to open the season’s game menu, including a trio of hearty terrines, gorgeous venison, wild duck, and the Cousins’ famed mixture of no less than five wild mushrooms, carefully sautéed and showered with a generous dose of garlic. Let’s hope that this classic, traditional restaurant changes little, though it will be hard to imagine it without the Cousin brothers sparkle.
Le Petit Marguery,
9 boulevard du Port Royal
The fall season opens with a spectacular new menu at Alain Senderens’ Lucas Carton, celebrating 10 years of the chef’s detailed pairing of food and wine. But this time, instead of featuring food first it’s wine first, with a lineup that includes no less than a 1997 red Château de Beaucastel (the best of the Rhone Valley’s Chateauneuf du Pape) with roasted Limousin lamb; a most elegant pinot noir in the name of Clos Vougeot Château de la Tour teamed up with duck seasoned with a welcome touch of ginger and mango. But the best marriage of the moment is the aromatic, exuberantly rich “vin jaune” Château Chalon 1995, served with a generous portion of turbot cooked in butter, all perfumed with curry and fall-fresh walnuts. In my experience Senderens is the first chef to offer an aperitif menu, pairing wine and food, of course. Do try the incredible marriage of 1993 Dom Perignon with onions roasted in clay. The sweet onions are enhanced with a touch of Sicilian pistachios and, why not, a generous dollop of caviar.
9 Place de la Madeleine,
Tel: 01 42 65 22 90.
One could call it “eau de la terre”. Chef Guy Savoy amazed us the other day with a rich and outrageously fragrant mushroom soup and later confided that to enhance the perfume and the flavor or the soup, he made a broth of the wild mushroom peelings, earth and all, carefully filtering the liquid once it was highly reduced. I tried it my own kitchen and it’s clearly one of the most ingenious ways to recycle what otherwise would end up in the garbage. I can’t imagine a more dramatic way to boost the flavor of any mushroom dish.
18 rue Troyon,
Tel: 01 43 80 40 61.
Pierre Gagnaire continues to astonish palates with his delivery of food as edible art. Some recent combinations need to be tasted to be believed: current favorites include a brilliant combination of grilled eggplant topped with fresh figs and set off by a dollop of creamy polenta enriched with the ultra fresh herbal flavor of fragrant lemon verbena. End the meal with Gagnaire’s gorgeous chocolate dessert served in an oversized shot glass: The mousse-like chocolate is flavored with a touch of spicy red pepper, and topped with a bright-colored, intensely flavored pistachio cream.
6 rue Balzac,
Tel: 01 58 36 12 50.
Chocolate is on the minds of many a Parisian, and if the lines out the door of Pierre Hermé’s jewel-box boutique are any sign, we can’t get enough of his treats. Don’t leave the shop without sampling his “tablette” or bar of Java pure: This chocolate redefine chocolate for me, for it’s intense, rich, dark, and gratefully has a finish that lingers and lingers.
72 rue Bonaparte,
Tel: 01 43 54 47 77.