My first week in Paris, I joined fellow blogger and good friend Sharon at her place for a fantastic lunch. A British expat, Neil, also joined us, as did my wife, who had just landed and courageously ignored the jet-lag trying to drag her down. After picking her up from the Air France shuttle, we dropped her bags at our apartment and walked through the Jardins du Luxembourg to Sharon's place.
Midway through the beautiful park, we came across a group of people standing in the path, watching something on the ground. As we approached, we realized they were all staring at a small hedgehog, who was meandering slowly in the warm sun, ignoring all the gawking stares. I whipped out the camera and caught him as he made his way home for lunch. Christening him Henri (make sure to pronounce it with a thick French accent, "Hunhreeeeeeeee") the Hedgehog, we wished him a bon apetit and continued on our own way.
Lunch was amazing, as Sharon is the consumate host and cook. We started with Champagne, of course, opening a NV Jacques Lassaigne Vignes de Montgueux, light on the palate with some lovely elegant notes of citrusy herbs on a steely frame. Super dry, just lovely to quench our thirst as we feasted on homemade gougères. Alongside this, there was a NV Henriot "Rose Noire", something I'd never tried. But being a fan of the house, I forced (wink, wink) myself to taste, only to find the wine slightly oxydized and I think flawed. There was some discussion as to whether it was, but in the end I believe it was and need to retaste it.
With the meal, we opened some more bottles, of course. A 2005 Frederic Mugnier Chambolle Musigny was sacrificed for scientific purposes (talk about infanticide!). Lovely but far too young, this was a shy puppy, revealing only some dark Pinot fruit on a powerful frame. Hmmm... need to come back to that in about 5 years! Next came a 1999 Daniel Rion Chambolle-Musigny "Les Beaux Bruns" which was just singing, a gorgeous Chambolle with some age on it and ready to drink now. God, I love Burgundy. Lastly, with a cheese platter that would make most cheese shops in NYC blush, we cracked a 2000 Domaine de l'Arlot Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru "Clos de l'Arlot" Blanc. Beautiful, just absolutely fresh and fruity and minerally, with a great mouthfeel that matched the cheeses.
A week passed and I went to ViniSud, the Rhone, then made my way back to Paris for one last night of debauchery. Who else to call but some friends who like wine and good food? So Sharon and her boyfriend Arnault ventured into the warm February night to join me and my friend Cybele at Restaurant Astier, in the 11th Arrondissement.
Wow, what a deal! For 31€ you can get a 4-course meal of classic French dishes in a welcoming, low-key, unpretentious environment. Just what I like! I ordered a bouillon de champignons (mushroom broth) for a starter, then went to a Charolais beef with potatoes drenched in cheese and cream. Yum! The cheese platter was a plate a meter wide that stank to high Heaven and was oh-so-delicious. Dessert was a Chocolat Parfait, but at this point all I could venture was a few bites before stalling.
Our first wine was a white, a 2004 J.-M. Boillot Puligny-Montrachet, from a year I like where the acidities were very high in Burgundy. This was fantastic, putting on weight throughout the meal as I saved a large glass for the cheese, which was the correct thing to do. Beautifully minerally, with laser-like precision, and fleshy fruit, this was redolent of lemony truffles. Powder this up and I'd do lines of this all night!
At the same time as the white, we decided to order a red, a 1998 Jacques Prieur Beaune 1er Cru "Clos de la Féguine" and have it decanted. While this is a year I enjoy, this wine was tough to wrap our palates around. Smelling beautifully of older red Burgundy, it refused to come out its shell despite being decanted for over an hour, only coming out to play at the very end of our main courses. Ah, well, such is the way of things sometimes...
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