Of oysters, Johnny, and a glass of champagne


Today I was craving oysters, and the idea of oysters teamed up with the traditional Bordeaux pairing of tiny spicy lamb sausages appealed to me even more. The only place in Paris I remembered having them was at the Art Deco Brasserie La Lorraine on the Place des Ternes,  just down from the Arc de Triomphe. So Walter and I headed over there for lunch and I confess that I heaved a big sigh of dissapointment when the menu featured NO SAUSAGES to go with the oysters! I assuaged myself with a glass of Quincy and moved forward. The waiter didn't remember the sausages ever being on the menu. He said he'd be there for five years and so, maybe it's been five years or so since we last visited.

The oysters --- a giant, plump, mildly milky variety from Utah Beach in Normandy, and tiny, mild, pleasing little ones from Gillardeau in Brittany -- hit the spot. But the highlight of the meal was actually Johnny Hallyday, the mildly alive French rocker who still manages to work, sing, perform, and draw crowds periodically. (Above photo, 1968, channeling Jim Morrison). Through January 9th the restaurant features  an exhibition of  photos of the star spanning his career, taken by photographer Tony Frank.  I am not a fan, and alway found him a bit of an Elvis copycat, but he's still alive and Elvis isn't. Or is. At any rate, I do applaud Johnny's ability to survive, which in this day and age is quite a feat.

So, to get to the point, as we were having coffee, the 2,600-euro photo of Johnny hanging above our heads fell BAM to the floor. Our waiter shouted "Johnny est mort! Apelles les pompiers! ("Johnny is dead! Call the rescue squad."). We all had a hearty laugh, and the waiter offered us each a glass of champagne to assuage frayed nerves. So we never got to sample the warm and spicy sausages, my favorite pairing with chilled, briny oysters,  but we had a look at Johnny, a good laugh, and a complimentary glass of champagne! Happy New Year!

Brasserie La Lorraine, 2, place des Ternes, Paris 8. Tel: 01 56 21 22 00. Metro: Place des Ternes.  www.brasserielalorraine.com