Thursday, December 2, 2010

My self-indulgent trip to Paris - Part 3

I woke up Saturday morning in Paris and discovered it was a beautiful sunny day, a little unusual for late November in Paris and opposite from what the taxi driver had told me to expect as we drove into Paris from the airport the day before.

When cousin Matthias and I separated after dinner at A la Biche au Bois the night before, he to his apartment near Place de la Bastille and me back to my hotel near Boulevard du Montparnasse, we agreed to meet up for lunch.

He was going to sleep in and I was going to take a walk and shop for children's clothes. Daughters Tricia and Stephanie love French children's clothing stores, especially Le Petit Bateau, and I had promised to bring love-gifts for Avery, Dylan, Caedon and baby Madison.

Based on Alexander Lobrano's article in the November issue of Saveur Magazine entitled The 23 Best Bistros in Paris, I decided we were going to eat lunch at La Fontaine de Mars in the 7th arrondisesement not too far from the Eiffel Tower. I Googled and found that there was a Le Petit Bateau located on the way to the restaurant. So off I went.

My walk to the area where the restaurant is located took me past Les Invalides. The Les Invalides buildings house the Musée de l'Armée, the military museum of the French Army, a couple of other museums, as well as the burial site for some of France's war heroes, notably Napoleon Bonaparte. You can see what a beautiful day it was in this picture of Les Invalides.

I was headed towards the Eiffel Tower located on the Champ de Mars. For those who don't know, the Eiffel Tower is the tallest building in Paris and it is the most-visited paid monument in the world. Named for its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, the tower was built as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair.

I was in no hurry, it was sunny and warm and it was several hours yet before I was to meet Matthias for lunch. So I took my time, looking through windows and wandering in and out of stores that looked interesting including La Grande Epicerie du Bon Marché.

Not living in Paris, I have no idea if there are better food emporiums. I am quite sure there are less expensive places to shop for food but La Grande Epicerie du Bon Marché seems like foodie heaven to me. I would be happy to have a store like that within a 100 miles of where we live.

I found Le Petit Bateau store and walked-in. I buy clothes to bring back for our grand kids every time I am in France but I swear it is such an intimidating experience to walk into stores like Le Petit Bateau or Catimini. Invariably, I am the only man in the store and it seems like every eye is on me wondering what I am up to.

As I said, my daughters love the clothes from Le Petit Bateau but they are, especially Stephanie, very picky about what clothes their children wear. So not being sure of what tops and bottoms coordinated together or sizes, I was happy when a friendly young lady came over and offered her assistance.

With her help, I found cute outfits for all four kids including the outfits being modeled by Avery 4 and Caedon 2 in the picture below. Hey, I did quite well, don't you think?

I arrived at La Fontaine de Mars which is located at the intersection of Rue Saint-Dominique and Rue de l'Exposition, right on time. As I was walking in, Matthias called and said he had overslept but was on his way and would be there as soon as he could. I should have planned for this because Matthias is notorious for being late. Oh well, c'est la vie.

La Fontaine de Mars has been in this spot since 1908. The Bistro was operated by three families in succession until the current owners took over in 1991.

I was seated at a table in one of several small dining rooms near the open kitchen and bar and asked if I would like an aperitif to enjoy while I looked over the menu. Since I had to wait for Matthias, I ordered a glass of sparkling rosé.

Since there were not many diners in the Bistro, a server struck up a conversation with me. When he found out I was an American, he pointed to the sign and offered that President Obama had eaten in the Bistro with his daughters; he got the gigot d'agneau - leg of lamb.

The sign was actually a reprint from La Dépêche, a daily newspaper from Southwest France which said "Obama A Dîner Chez Une Tarbaise". I asked the waiter if that meant the owner was from Tarbes, the area where Tarbais beans are cultivated. He said yes, and with that I knew I was going to order the cassoulet.

Matthias arrived and the waiter took our orders. He started with a deep fried poached egg served over spinach with a saffron sauce. He let me have a taste; I had never eaten or seen an egg preparation like this but it was really good and I want to try it at our Bistro Des Copains.

I ordered the house made duck foie gras. As you would expect from a restaurant whose roots are in Southwest France, the foie gras was delicious.

The server brought out a large cassole filled with steaming cassoulet and ladled out a large serving on my plate. It was rich, aromatic with a big piece of sausage, duck and those wonderful Tarbais white beans. It was so delicious that I gladly took a second helping of this wonderful dish.

It was the best cassoulet I have eaten since Le Languedoc in Carcassonne several years ago. The thing missing from both of these cassoulets was well-browned crust on top because they were ladled out on plates. But I digress.

For his plat - main course, Matthias chose the Poisson du Jour à l'Ardoise - fish of the day as listed on the blackboard which on this day was monk fish in a bourride type sauce.

We were quite full after our meals so we decided to share a rich dark chocolate cake with mandarin sorbet. It was a perfect way to finish.

I highly recommend dining at La Fontaine de Mars if you are in Paris; I will definitely return. Check back to read the final installment about my self-indulgent trip to Paris.


  1. Now I'm even more jealous...thank you for sharing all those wonderful adresses!

  2. I adore cassoulet, but I have to admit I'm most intrigued about that deep-fried egg! It sounds amazing.

  3. Barbara - La Fontaine de Mars is definitely worth a visit. Really wonderful food.

    Camille - The egg was really good. I love the way the French feature eggs on menus more than just at breakfast.