Paris’s Champs Elysees, home of Louis Vuitton, Sepphora and Swarovski flagship stores, is an avenue that prides itself on excising as much capital from tourists as possible.
Fiscally speaking, we are diametrically opposed to this, so we would not have been surprised if when we first stepped onto the Champs, a black hole had torn open and swallowed up the whole of France. Seriously, we are that cheap.
But even the cheap have to eat, especially after the grueling march down the Champs that is filled with one amazing scene after another – and all of these being of towering women teetering on five-inch stilettos, their upright state only ensured by keeping their designer shopping bags equally weighted.
We stumbled from one sidewalk cafe to another, holding back our gasps at the posted menu prices of 50-Euro ($70 Cdn.) prices.
We settled on the L’Alsace restaurant, which boasted a steal-of-a-deal tourist special at about $20/person. It seemed too good to be true and we braced ourselves to be fed horse or goat meat. Inside, the waiters waved their menus and delivered subtle scowls at any suggestion we were of such low-class as to dine on so humble a meal as their lunch special, but we happily took our place at the bottom of Pari’s culinary totem pole and ordered the special anyway.
- Dave had the mashed duck liver, more appealingly tagged Pate’ de Foie Gras, which arrived looking like it had been sliced right out of a can of Klik. Were the French punishing us for our fiscal frugality? Mais non! It turned out the pate’ was quite good.
- I had the sautéed goat cheese, which was a meal in itself. It came folded in phyllo, lightly turned in a pan of butter with a splash of sweet sauce – delicious. The main course – roast chicken breast on rice was plain in appearance, but tender and nicely seasoned. For the poor-man’s dinner on the sidewalks of the Champs Elysees, it was pretty good.
- On or off the Champs, Parisian cafes are a delight, although sometimes the scene of cultural clashes.
This is because European waiters are not only the bringers-of-food; they are also the guardians of cuisine culture.
At lunch outside Napoleon’s tomb, I ordered a croissant “avec buerre,” causing our waiter’s nostrils to flare and his brow to furrow. He corrected my faux pas by bringing only the croissant. Having dueled with European waiters on points of dining etiquette before (eg. never order coffee at the beginning of a meal in Spain), I shrugged and ate the croissant sans butter.
It was just as well. It was gossamer-light, free of the slippery butter texture of its North American cousins, not that there’s anything wrong with buttery croissants.