Dinner in Joel’s Workshop

We just got back home. What a wonderful time in the City of Light. I’ve got so many callouses, my feet look like a moonscape.

Last night The Frenchman and I celebrated two years since we first met. We had a terrific time at a highly rated restaurant called L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Paris. The chefs refer to it simply as The Workshop. It was this crazy sort of setting where everyone sits at a very elegant black bar that surrounds three sides of the kitchen. You can see everything being prepared, every tasty stroke of artistry as it hits the plate if you care to watch. We didn’t. We smooched and drank kyr royal followed by an amazing St. Joseph’s wine from 2005 that reminded me a lot of the Ruilly wine we had in Burgundy back in mid December. The food was insanely delicious and enormously attractive on the plate. The menu is a little different in that half of it is devoted to things the size of starters, but you can choose as many as you wish and not even have any of the entrées (although, they’re not much bigger than the “starters”). They don’t care. And they all have a terrific sense of humor.

Especially the Managing Chef at this location, Phillipe. Feeling nostalgic, The Frenchman and one of the junior chefs decided to change the ice cream in one of the dessert recipes from pistachio to some crazy flavor they had whipped up that day that all French kids have loved since time began. When Phillipe found out, apparently he hung his head is despair, as if he’d heard the worst blasphemy, closed his eyes and uttered “Quand-même.” (In this context, that’s French for, “Oh dear god, give me a fucking break!”) As the junior chef told us this, we all laughed hard. I had only seen the guy once and I could picture it perfectly.

There was an older American woman sitting to my right with her mother. From listening to them talk about her business travel, you’d think they were quite sophisticated. But even though they’d eaten at this same restaurant in London last week, the American woman actually said to the female chef, “Can you recommend something…you know…fishy?” I thought The Frenchman was going to spew laughing as I dug my elbow into him. He leaned over to my ear and whispered, “I bet she’ll ask for cheesecake.” When the women had finished their meal, Phillipe came by. The woman said proudly, “The dinner was very good!” A smile exploded on Phillipe’s face and he said, “REEEally?” It was some kind of cocktail of sarcasm and amusement, slightly stirred with teasing. The sort of response you’d expect from Mozart in response to Emporer Joseph II declaring his opera was “quality work.” I found it hilarious. (But then, I’d had a lot of that St. Joseph’s wine, too.)

Anyway, they gave us free sorbets, too, along with a small dish of something The Frenchman called “fizzling sugar.” I put some “fizzling sugar” in my mouth and said, “That’s Pop Rocks!” I then proceeded to make myself sick on fizzling sugar. I even stole what was left in the little bowl and managed to secret it in Trog in a caramel wrapper that came with my fresh thyme tea.

I nearly fainted when I saw the bill. The Frenchman kissed me and said, “For important meals like this, money doesn’t matter.”

I started reading Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island and it kicks ass on Mystic River. I am frightened for the two main characters like I’ve not been frightened for any character in a long time. It seems Lehane’s using an economy of words in this one that reminds me so much of Michael Marshall Smith. Maybe not quite as brilliant, but the content makes up for it. It’s tough to work with this book still in progress. Damn! But try I must…

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