07 December 2012

a village called paris : cave fervèré, 75011

One indication I've been doing this blog too long is that certain restaurants and wine bars I've written about have since been sold, or closed down, or been completely revamped. When I last mentioned my restaurateur friend Olivier Aubert, he had, in the space of about a year, opened three restaurants: La Bodeguita du IVeme, la Bodeguita du IXeme, and Les Trois Seaux in the 11ème.

Aubert is presently selling La Bodeguita du IVeme, having shed the weirdly-shaped and generally unsuccessful la Bodeguita du IXeme long ago. Les Trois Seaux is still operational, still a solid wine bistrot where the respectable food and service are undercut by clumsy décor and a silly name. ("The Three Buckets." I have never understood why they use white tablecloths in a space like that.)

Now on rue des Trois Bornes, one street away from Les Trois Seaux, Aubert is at it again: he's opened a pichet-sized wine bistrot called Cave Fervèré, its name a reference to the iron grillwork on the windows. It's another two-man operation, just him and a chef, with a slim menu of provincial staples, and a shelf of solid natural wines at generous prices. What's to get excited about? you might ask. Why follow Aubert's bantering roadshow of openings and closures to yet another address? Because Aubert's restaurants, in their simplicity and utter lack of pretense, represent all that's best about living in Paris, which is to say they feel like the countryside. Also, he is serving a really killer andouillette right now.

Aubert formerly had restaurants in La Rochelle, a clean coastal destination in the center west that also serves as a hub for transport to the Ile de Ré and the Ile d'Oléron. My theory is he hasn't updated many of his formulas since arriving in Paris a few years ago.

One still sees odd countrified dishes on his menus, blasts from the 1990's like a mizuma salad with chicken bits and actual sun-dried tomatoes.

But stylistic misfires aren't uncommon in Paris bistrots, either, and I can at least say that Aubert's are all done in earnest. The salad was tasty. To enjoy such a dish, all one has to do is renounce all shame. I assume same goes for the organic salmon tempura, though I somehow passed on that one.

Far more successful was a fava bean soup, something I adore ordering at restaurants because fava beans are such a costly fussy bitch to prepare at home. (Step 3: After blanching, shell damn beans again.) Aubert's soup was soulful, clean-toned, and rich, smoothed out with just a touch of cream.

On that first visit to Cave Fervèré I happened to be dining with my good friend and ex-high school sweetheart K, who was visiting from San Francisco.

For lack of decent pics from this meal, here's one of K and me at 11ème créperie West Country Girl the previous week.

There's really nothing like re-encountering old cohorts to remind oneself how inordinately one's capacity for drinking has expanded. K gamely kept up as I took the occasion, during our meal, to revisit the marvelous output of Auvergnat estate Domaine du Picatier: their Chardonnay "Le Blanc," Gamay "Cuvée 100%," and their Pinot Noir "Auver-Nat Noir."

My first experience with their Chardonnay "Le Blanc" was several vintages ago, when it left me cold.

Last year's vintage was an improvement, and this years' an improvement on that ; one can literally taste the terroir coming into focus. In the hands of winemakers Géraldine and Christophe Pialoux, Chardonnay from Auverge is showing more and more like good Mâcon: appley, tangy, athletic and trim.

The Pialoux's red production was always solid, particularly their brightly floral Gamay "Cuvée 100%." But here too, starting from a position of strength, the wines keep improving. In 2011 their "Auver-Nat Noir" finally came into its own, briary and agile and immensely quaffable. These wines all range from just under to just over 10€, prix caviste, placing them among the best values of entire genre of French natural wine.

I'd made sure to verify that K was OK with andouillettes before ordering our plats that evening. But she had perhaps been expecting a different sort of andouillette. Aubert's comes on a string (tirée à la ficelle) and is sourced from Josselin, in Brittany, rather than from one of the various putative traditional homes of the andouillette, e.g. Troyes.

Qualitatively, this Josselin andouillette is longer, skinnier, and less crispy, with just a fine lattice of fry surrounding the suggestively pliant rolled flesh. There's also an unappetising nub of beastly string piercing one side, like a Prince Albert of twine. I would nevertheless rate this andouillette well above two other andouillettes I consume regularly at natural wine destinations: that served at Le Vin Au Vert (a bit dull and overfried, last time) and that served at Le Verre Volé (incomprehensibly inconsistent, given that it's been on the menu over a decade).

K took one bite of the Josselin andouillette and blanched like a fava bean, leaving me the rest. In her defense, she had just flown in that same evening from Florence, and a meal chez Aubert is usually a slightly overwhelming experience. He belongs to a thunderously welcoming school of hospitality that is sadly absent in most new restaurants. The dining floor is his stage, and he fills it like Springsteen.

It's not really an intimate setting. The best thing to do is drink up and sing along.

Cave Fervèré
16, rue des Trois Bornes
75011 PARIS
Métro: Parmentier
Tel: 01 84 06 10 52

Related Links:

Les Trois Seaux, 75011
Another post on Les Trois Seaux
The Opening of Les Trois Seaux

La Bodeguita du IVème
Another visit to la Bodeguita du IVème
The short-lived Bodeguita du IXème

A bizarre video of someone pulling the string out of a raw Josselin andouillette

Tasting through the Domaine du Picatier wines with the Pialoux's at Quedubon, 75019
A profile of Domaine du Picatier @ RichardKelley

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