Sunday, August 29, 2010

Chartier...mon Chartier...

In 1983, I got off a plane in Paris, at Orly airport, to be exact...about to embark on studying for my Master's Degree in French Literature. I had been to Paris before and had lived and studied in the south of France, but now I was to live in Paris. My very Parisian friend, Marianne, met me at the airport. Jet-lagged and hungry, she whisked me off in her Deux CV to a restaurant with an entrance on a courtyard, huge heavy deep red velour curtains and double high ceilings. She ordered for us: rognons a la moutarde...I ate without a question...kidneys in mustard sauce. This was my first introduction to my beloved restaurant "Chartier".

It's a Bouillion, a working man's restaurant - well over a hundred years old. The serveurs wear traditional French "rondins" in black & white and act rushed and impatient - but they'll crack a smile as they scribble your bill on your piece of white paper serving as your table cover. The ceilings dangle beautiful round pendant lights and the walls are lined with mirrors. There are sections of tiny drawers serving as dividers in the huge room, where "regulars" many years ago, could store their "couverts" - their napkins and utensils. The food is cheap and "correcte", as they say...nothing fancy. I  never miss a chance to go there when I am in Paris. It's my husband's favorite place to eat, not a culinary experience but filled with history, soul and a stories that resonate throughout. Inevitably, whatever the size of your group, you will be seated sharing a table with others. I have oh so many anecdotes about conversations had with strangers over various dinners. And speaking of dinner, there will most likely be a line. Wait behind others in the courtyard and hold up the number of fingers so the maitre'd can shuttle you in quickly and seat you in the tiny wooden chairs and hand you a paper menu with its memorable red ink printed fresh every day.

Travelers to Paris always ask for my favorite places to go, there are so many and don't get me wrong: I adore the gastronomic delights of my second home...but, don't miss must not miss it...

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