We were both exhausted from a VERY long and somewhat stressful day if traveling the day before so we failed to wake up until 11, which did not matter too much. We had lunch reservations at 1 so we had about a half before we needed to commence readying ourselves for this meal. Before I even start into the description of the epicity (my made up word for epicness, which also happens to be made up) of this meal ai should give some background into what the Jules Verne is, how we managed to find ourselves there and for whom we have to thank for putting us there:
Courtney’s birthday is June 8th and I honestly had no idea what I was going to get for her. I also had the fall back of taking her to a nice meal but her parents were taking us out on her birthday so I figured that I should at least try to get her something else (for those who don’t know I’m a bit of a romantic. I guess it comes with the aura of an emotionally in tune person). My mind was generally blank except for chocolates which are a kind of cop out, but which I purchased for her. Suddenly it hit me, probably when her and I were musing over the at the time still distant semester abroad; I would take her to Paris and we would eat in the Jules Verne. The Jules Verne is the fancy shmancy restaurant in the south leg of the Eiffel Tower. It’s 132 meters off of the ground and provides diners with a spectacular view of the city. My dad had been several times and has never stopped raving about it. I figured that Court and I would go to Paris together and why not go there while in the city? But how to afford such a present? I had no job and no money of my own. Well, Dad had always told me that I, as a foodie, needed to eat there…Yea I asked him to pay. He considered it for a day before agreeing to bankroll the meal and, consequently, my trip to the city. I’m living a spoiled life right now. I know. Thank you Dad and Chris!
Courtney and I made it to the tower right at 1 and were escorted up a private elevator to the restaurant. We only had a brief time to appreciate the beauty of the tower before venturing up, but I was immediately struck by it’s immensity. I never imagined it to be that large! We looked up at it and I was overcome with thankfulness and excitement. Courtney and I were about to eat IN the tower! We both quivered at the idea and at the romanticism of being at the Eiffel Tower, but decided to really view it later after we had eaten.
Once up the elevator we stepped out into an elegant, modern fully windowed restaurant where we were immediately escorted to our seats by proper waiters and hostesses (meaning they were dressed in very formal attire). There seemed to be as many waiters as diners. Classic French restaurant. Lucky us, and likely because we had made reservations months in advance, we were given a window seat overlooking the Seine, which appeared to be the best view from any of the dining rooms. Not only that, but we were directly in the middle of the room so that Courtney’s view was completely unobstructed by and part of the tower. This view trumps any other view of any city I have ever seen. We could see for miles. I never realized how big Paris was! I didn’t even realize there was a section of the city with skyscrapers, to which we did not venture. It was a sea of white buildings broken by parks, occasional churches and the Seine. To the right we could see the Louvre and the Notre Dame. In the distance was the Sacre-Coeur chapel. We were speechless. What is there to say except wow? Neither of us said much. We were too in awe. Already Paris was turning into the most beautiful city which I had ever seen.
Our daze was broken by the waiter who asked us if we would like cocktails. Neither of us had even opened the menu so we were a bit caught off guard. Our amazingly helpful and friendly waiter suggested a mamosa type drink for Courtney (I think it was champagne mixed with passion fruit and mango), while I got some sort of mixed fruity thing (I should have gotten something more simple but I know very little about cocktails). Then, finally, we opened our menus and began to deliberate. We were each getting the prefixe menu without wine which meant that we had a choice between three appetizers, three dinners and likely three deserts. The two appetizers which jumped at us were preserved foie gras plate with fig jam and a veloute of mushrooms and shellfish. A veloute, to my new knowledge, is a kind of soup. It’s not creamy and is not thick. I generally try to order soups when in a French establishment so I got that while Courtney ordered the foie gras. It really makes me happy that she’s an adventurous eater. We can go anywhere and eat almost anything and she’ll be game. It make s our meals together that much more amazing. Go you, Court!
For the main course Courtney ordered the monkfish en papillote (meaning cooked in an ‘envelope,’) while I ordered the calf’s liver with mustard cream sauce and kalamata olive mashed potatoes. Organ meat again. My excitement was rising. We then had a five minute conversation about whether or not to order a bottle of wine. It was lunch and we each had cocktails, but hell it was lunch at the Eiffel Tower. How often does that happen? We got the cheapest bottle of white on the menu, which was still delicious. Then our amus bouche (spelling? Which are taste teasers or little plates from the chef before appetizers) arrived and I swear to God my life changed.
I am drooling thinking of this little, perhaps two-spoonful nibble of food. It could very well have been the greatest piece of food I have ever given my mount the pleasure of tasting. It was foie gras mousse with pieces of lardon (little cubes of bacon) and nuts topped with creamy pumpkin soup. At the description by the waiter my taste buds tingled with excitement and then I took my first bite. I can only imagine the look on my face, but I’m sure it was one of pure ambrosial bliss. The indescribably deep, rich, fatty, smooth foie gras plus the delicately sweet and rich pumpkin soup cohabited in my mouth to produce some super offspring; some super food child. And to even improve on this miracle the crunch of the nuts and salty fat of the lardon broke the intoxicating richness of the soup mousse, giving your tongue a needed relaxation from the overwhelming intensity if this flavor combination. Court and I were nearly brought to tears. It took us five minutes to finish. I never wanted that bite of food to disappear.
Soon enough, though, our appetizers had appeared in front of our eyes, and the sad loss of that perfect bite food did not hurt as much. Courtney’s foie gras sat in the corner of her plate covered in a thin layer of fig marmalade, surrounded by a stack of fig, prosciuttoesque ham and crackers with drops of fig syrup. On the side she was given toasted brioche. This could very well have been the best foie gras of my life. On it’s own there was almost no gaminess. The pate melted in the mouth releasing the salty, fatty, ducky flavor. Mixed with some of the fig marmalade one could access heaven through its flavor. Court could only close her eyes and sigh. My veloute, was strikingly simple in its composition. It seemed to be made of lobster stock and mushroom stock with perfectly cooked pieces of crawfish, sauteed cremini and black fungus mushrooms and some sort of foam. My first bite gave me a flavor profile I had never before considered. Why hadn’t i ever considered the magical combination of lobster, mushrooms and butter? The rich lobster and mushroom stocks did not battle for supremacy of flavor, but instead worked together to become divine. It was rich, it was subtle. The mushroom and lobster flavors were right up front but the finish of this soup provided so much more. There were herbs, spices, maybe a bit of nutmeg, the smoothness of butter to draw it all together. We ate slowly. We savored. I wanted it to be there forever, but of course it could not be so.
Then came the main dishes. Courtney’s monkish en papiote with coco beans was nothing like I had imagined. The fish was oily and soft, perfectly kept medium, resting on a bed of white coco beans in a tomatoey, vegetable sauce. It was hearty and delicious. It felt like home cooling but with the undeniable power of a master chef’s skills. My liver had the same sort of aura. The meat was perfectly tender. I barely needed a knife to cut through it. Again, like the kidney, this organ meat held onto its gamey roots but did not allow that flavor to be the only note. It was rich and somewhat meaty. Yes, it tasted like liver, but in such a wonderfully pleasant way. It tasted like a cow that had lived a happy, healthy life. It reminded me of a farm, especially when mixed with the mustard cream and olive mashed potatoes. Wondrous.
By this time we were veritably stuffed. I mean we were full, but only an insane person could forgo desert at a restaurant of this quality. Courtney went ahead and got herself an ode to coffee and chocolate, which I didn’t eat, but she seemed to love. I got a sponge cake with vanilla amaranth, vanilla cream and some sort of fruit surrounding it. It was delicious but beyond rich. I couldn’t finish it. Plus the amaranth made me feel like I was taking a shot and chasing it with sugar every bite. On top of these, though, we were given wonderful vanilla marshmallows, chocolate stuff and an assortment of cookies. So, with an ode to sugar we ended one of, if not the, most spectacular meal of my life.
We spent about the next half hour admiring the view of Paris from all sides of the Eiffel Tower (we got to walk around outside after the meal). We wanted to go to the top but it would have been a two hour wait. Not worth it. We already had a wonderful view. Once down from the tower we walked off the food and wine along the Seine, taking pictures and absorbing the reality of Paris. We were actually there, together. Every building struck another note of beauty, especially those along the Seine, which is by far the nicest river of any of the major rivers in the major cities in the world that I have seen. It’s actually clean and people can walk along it without feeling dirty or disgusted, unlike the Arno or Hudson. It speaks to the Parisians pride in their city that they keep it so beautiful. People said the city was dirty, but I saw no such evidence. It is a city full of parks, open spaces and trees. It enhances the nature around it and the nature in turn gives people a break from the onslaught of buildings. Astoundingly gorgeous.
We found ourselves at the Arc De Triomphe and it was more impressive than I had imagined. We walked around the giant roundabout that surrounds the Arc feeling a bit lost about how to cross over to actually get to the Arc. Finally we realized that we had to go under the roundabout where, on average, an accident occurs once every 7 minutes! This place is crazy with about 13 streets converging into this one roundabout…what the hell! Anyway, the Arc was very impressive but we were shooed out early because of some sort of military memorial going on. Still the thing was impressive. Go Napoleon!
After going home to rest we found out that my flight had been cancelled Tuesday. Apparently there was going to be a strike of the air traffic controllers. Great. More disruptions in my travel plans. It never seems that my travels can go smoothly; something always throws a wrench into the plans. I tried not to worry too much about it. EasyJet would pay for my new ticket, but from that moment on the worry of the strike on Tuesday, when both of us were leaving, nested itself in the back of my mind like a fly on the ceiling that constantly avoids your attempts to kill it.
We met up with Courtney’s friend Anushree from home. Her and her friends were having a picnic under the Eiffel Tower. It was beautiful! The tower is lit up at night and every hour on the hour there is a kind of lights show where lights flash on and off. It was a good time! We were entertained by some very drunk Australian travelers (a norm for Europe) and had some good wine. Court and I left early though to explore the nightlife of Odeon, one of the young vibrant parts of the city. We had drinks at a very crowded bar, which were very pricey. Still it was cool and it happened to be the first time that Court and had “gone out” by ourselves! Damn the 21 year old drinking age in America. We got a delicious crepe with eggs, mushrooms, ham and cheese on the way home because neither of us really ate dinner after the extravagant lunch. Yummy!