13 May 2013

good works: l'épicerie du 104, 75019

The Native Companion has lately succeeded in dragging me to more museums. Each time in the ticket line I confront my reason for usually staying home : a bedraggled queue of hat-haired tourists with their hands full of waffles and soda, whacking me with their overstuffed backbacks. Public art ! But we were lucky the other day on our visit to the Keith Haring exhibition presently on view at Le 104, the 19ème arrondissement's echoing, perpetually under-filled municipal art space. We arrived just before the afternoon rush and took in Haring's brilliant, trumpeting tarpaulin work in relative peace, before we departed to our respective workplaces.

On my way out, I noticed that a little épicerie bio had opened right by the glass doors of Le 104's rue Curial entrance, in a space resembling one of those tollbooths lodged in support columns. I popped my head in and was delighted to discover a slim, affordable selection of natural wines on offer, including, among others, Saone organic vigneron Guy Bussière's marvelous flinty Melon de Bourgogne cuvée, "Phénix."

L'Epicerie du 104 opened February 2nd, I learned. Our late-coming, tentative springtime this year means that the shop is only just now attaining relevance as a perfect pit-stop before a visit to Le 104's exhibit and a picnic in the Jardin d'Eole, the overlooked strip of public greenery wedged between Le 104 and the twisting river of train tracks leading to Gare de l'Est.

A 2010 picnic in the jardin d'Eole, predating the opening of the Epicerie du 104. We contented ourselves with Pop Ice. 

Bottles of water are 60 centimes and an array of vegetables, juices, pastries, jams, chocolate, and cheeses are for sale.

I hadn't planned a picnic on the day I visited, so contented myself with a German date-nut bar and a bottle of the "Phénix," the saline, almondy flavors of which were a perfect accompaniment to a band practice the following day.

The wine is a curiosity - Melon de Bourgogne from its ampelographical ancestral home near the Saone river in Burgundy, rather than from its present home in the western Loire. (Bertrand Celce at WineTerroirs has a great piece citing the numerous historical efforts to limit, displace, and / or uproot cultivation of the Melon variety in Burgundy.) In itself it's neither expensive nor exceptionally profound - just flinty and pure. But tasting outlier versions of otherwise familiar grapes is always educational for what it can imply about the effects of regional terroir. I've only ever tasted two examples of Burgundian Melon - the "Phénix," and Jean Montanet's spiffing, small-production Melon cuvée. So I remain eager to taste whatever other Burgundian Melon I come across, even as I don't often leap out of my seat for Muscadet.

My appreciation for Haring's work and for L'Epicerie du 104 is also largely dependent upon context. Keith Haring's imagery aimed to be so universal that total commercial co-option was welcomed as an aid to its dissemination; one side effect of its success is that the works barely register in our consciousness when we see them outside of major retrospectives like the one presently on view at Le 104 and the Musée de l'Art Moderne.

A tiny organic food shop, similarly, has almost no impact when we pass it in a neighborhood overserved by similar endeavors - be it le Marais, Brick Lane, Williamsburg, or Daikanyama - where "organic" has become the prevailing consumer ideology. Whereas to find an organic food shop proposing natural wine amid the housing blocks and chicken shacks of Métro Riquet and the avenue de Flandres is a semi-revelatory experience, distantly akin to what NYC subway bystanders might have felt watching young Haring chalking out his dancing, loving figures on the walls.

L'Epicerie du 104
5 rue Curial
75019 PARIS
Métro: Riquet
Tél: 01 53 35 50 00

Related Links: 

More museum dining:

Mini Palais, 75008

A great 2011 piece on Guy Bussière by Bertrand Celce at WineTerroirs

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