29 April 2013

despite the name: la pointe du groin, 75010

I might as well start off by explaining that La Pointe du Groin is an alternate spelling for La Pointe du Grouin, a rocky outcropping on the bay of Mont Saint Michel in Brittany. It's also where renowned chef-restaurateur Thierry Breton hails from. Breton, like many of his countrymen, enjoys a good meaningless pun. For his multifarious, rather groundbreaking new wine bar project, Breton has chosen the emblem of a grinning pig - for in French, groin means the snout, and not some other part of pig anatomy.

One may nonetheless presume that the English signification is not entirely lost on Breton. The bar's name is just one of several baffling features of the project, which include, but are not limited to, outlandishly bad décor and an incomprehensible payment scheme in which guests will be expected to exchange their euros for fake money - Groin coins ? - accepted only at La Pointe du Groin.

Despite these obstacles, La Pointe du Groin is primed for succcess. It's spacious, rangey, and weird, offering magnums of natural wine and simple small plates at a price-quality ratio approaching the one achieved when Manhattan was bought for beads. It's a Paris wine bar that explodes the traditional Parisian opposition between egalité and haute-qualité: a place where many can drink well for very little.

22 April 2013

the great american sandwich: verjus, 75001

The other day at lunchtime my colleague R and I announced to our high-pitched and highly amusing senior colleague L that we were going out to get sandwiches. As is her wont, she asked us to pick up one for her. I said no problem, I'd text her a pic of the menu.

No no no, she said, just get me jambon à l'os, with cantal...

At which point I was obliged to explain we were not going to any old interchangeable French sandwich place. R and I were going to Restaurant Verjus*, whose newly launched lunchtime sandwich program is essentially a Great American Road Trip of sandwich nostalgia. There's a slim menu of sandwiches, each named after its culinary inspiration: a pork belly homage to Momofuku's David Chang, fried chicken ode to Bakesale Betty in Oakland... It's like owners Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian wanted to adapt the Proustian madeleine to the American palate, and give their numerous expat fans something to make their hearts melt and their mouths water.

18 April 2013

beyond compare : le mary celeste, 75003

Most comparisons of cities are offered as a way for the speaker - usually an inhabitant of the smaller or less lively of the two cities being compared - to make a display of worldliness and, in doing so, reassure him or herself of the wisdom of winding up in the smaller or less lively city. It's a human phenomenon, as common in Paris as in Boston and San Diego. One also hears it constantly from any New Yorker who has ever chosen to settle elsewhere.*

But, as Italo Calvino hints in his book Invisible Cities, in which narrator Marco Polo describes a seeming infinity of exotic metropolises that all turn out to be Venice, cities might more accurately be considered closed system unto themselves, incomprehensible to outsiders. Narrator Marco Polo's descriptions exceed the imagination his interpellator Kublai Khan, and indeed of the reader. It's impossible to accurately judge one city by the scale of another.

So far, the greatest benefit I've derived from this way of thinking is that it has permitted me to love Le Mary Celeste, an oyster bar some good friends recently opened in the Marais.

14 April 2013

not dead

I'm still alive. As of now I still intend to continue the blog. I'm sort of husbanding writerly resources at the moment, sketching out drafts of what might one day (if I'm lucky) become a Not Drinking Poison In Paris book.

Not a Paris guide book, nor a comprehensive fact-driven wine book. Some other kind of book. That's my elevator pitch.

There's also been a bit of travel. To my embarrassingly long list of trips awaiting thorough blog coverage - Florence, Bordeaux, Hydra, Bilbao, Avize, Troyes, London, New York, Los Angeles - I can now add Tokyo, where the other evening at a stand near Ometesando station a colleague introduced me to takoyaki, or octopus balls.