23 May 2011

neighborhood natural: chair de poule, 75011

There are a number of things wrong with my current living situation. I have no oven, for instance, just a cruddy little wall-mounted toaster thing that even a Barbie doll would decline to bake anything in. Another factor is the noise: the traffic, the hooting hordes of drunks at the bars below my bedroom window, the lone schizophrenic homeless hollerer who sleeps, or rather never sleeps, atop the air vent across the street...

I won't leave yet. Too much hassle, too little money, and I have too nice a rapport with my landlady as it stands. And there are some key benefits, one being a charming low-key natural wine bar that is practically on my doorstep, the unfortunately named Chair de Poule.*

It's been open going on two years', but as far as I'm concerned it became a very worthwhile afterwork apéro spot sometime around November, when nearby pokey natural wine bar Gustave et Jules shut its doors, and the two bars joined forces in the Chair de Poule space. One now finds the former bar's cheery, completely unpretentious staff and its low-priced pipsqueak natural wine list inhabiting a livelier space, with an earnest tapas menu, and - crucially - a decent swath of outside seating.

... Which, when I passed the other night with my friends R and J, was taken up almost in toto by a mob of knitting ladies, a knitting group. This isn't usually the scene, thankfully, but I mention it as illustrative of the key philosophical difference between a welcoming, pokey neighborhood place like Chair de Poule and a slightly more ambitious natural wine bar like nearby Aux Deux Amis, where a knitting group would (quite sensibly) be told where they could stuff their needles. (Also: their hours of sitting around chatting over the same round of sodas and half-pints).

For a splash of natural wine and a light bite after work, I generally lump for the more welcoming environment. Also, as my friend R has long enthused and I've recently confirmed, the food at Chair de Poule is really quite tasty, despite their not really having a full-time chef. It's also relatively underpriced.

Rillettes de poulet. 
Bulots (whelkes) with fava beans and aioli. 
Orrechiette with boudin noir

The wine list is essentially the same that was available at Gustave et Jules, in that bar's time: the screechier side of natural, light on body, heavy on sediment. It's not for everyone, I hear. Nevertheless, a few more professional selections are reliably available at Chair de Poule, including Mâcon-Villages from Gilles et Catherin Vergé, declassified Beaujolais from their son Jean-Marie, rich Rousillon wines from Frederick Rivaton, etc.

The other evening with R and J, I had a surprisingly delectable glass of Gilles Azzoni's 2009 "Nedjma," a blend of 70% Roussanne -30% Viognier from the vallée de l'Ibie in the Ardêche mountains. Azzoni's wines usually fall squarely into the aforementioned camp of screechy farmer wines, sulfur-free and wildly inconsistent.

The 2009 "Nedjma" I tasted, on the other hand, was notably propre, at least for Azzoni. It felt - intentional? Not entirely non-oxidative, as you might imagine for a very low-priced natural Rhône white from '09, but the oxidative flavors were integrated and positive. It was all apples, lily, and tequila, with perhaps a stray hammy note in there, related to the lily.

It reminded me of the more manic productions of English indie rock band British Sea Power, wherein the band - really a bunch of sentimental rock classicists - do their best to sound completely bonkers, despite the craft evident in their sound:

* Transl: "Goosebumps." I don't know why either. A really unforgiveably silly name.

** The punchline to all this is: you get better service at Chair de Poule, despite how chill they are about large parties of knitters. They're not, you know, professionals; it's just that the service at Aux Deux Amis is comedically awful.

Chair de Poule
141, rue Saint Maur
75011 PARIS
Metro: Parmentier
Tel: 01 48 07 21 61

Related Links:

Gustave et Jules, the previous (now closed) wine bar of the fellow who's now involved with Chair de Poule

A pretty simplistic endorsement one of Gilles Azzoni's reds @ DuMorgonDansLesVeines
An interview with Gilles Azzoni @ VinBioNaturel

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