Paris has the formidable reputation of being one of the best cities in which to eat. At least that is what many Americans think (myself included until I went there for the first time in 1981 as a lunk head 8th grader on a school trip).
While it is absolutely true that some of the best cooking takes place in Paris, it is often not found in restaurants, certainly not in restaurants catering to tourists. The best dinners I have had while visiting the City of Light have always been in a Parisian’s home. The dinners and lunches I have been lucky enough to enjoy have been surprisingly simple, and always utilized the best, seasonal ingredients.
Last Sunday, our family was finishing up our vacation, having traveled from England, down through Normandy (OMG– beautiful) and ending in Paris. An Italian work colleague of my husband lives in Paris with his gorgeous, Welsh wife and sweet, little daughter and they graciously invited us over for ‘lunch’…
Anytime you you are invited to an Italian man’s house in Paris for lunch, accept the offer without hesitation and under any condition. Katherine laid out the spread you see here of fresh, Italian charcuterie, preserved vegetables, followed by a ridiculously fabulous array of French and Italian cheeses and a gorgeous salad Caprese with Buffalo mozzarella and basil leaves (this was of great concern to Corrado– that we had water buffalo mozzarella, not cow mozzarella). This was just to start. To follow was raviolli stuffed with piccante ricotta and lightly dressed with a tomato sauce (that Corrado whipped up in between courses) and a salad of summer lettuces and ripe tomatoes, and finally espressos with a side of dark chocolate shards. Of course, there was also champagne and a gorgeous, chilled, dry rosé to accompany the courses and after it all that, a digestif of Lemoncello (southern Italian lemon liquor that is like some sort of fabulous jet fuel) and Calvados (the apple brandy haling from Normandy).
We sat, ate and laughed from 2pm until 7pm.
It was perfect.
And it was the best lunch I have ever had in Paris.
Jeff took the children on the Metro to the flat we were renting for the week, while I walked back in the sunny, summer evening. From the 14th arrondissesment, through city streets, opening up to the leafy-green Jardin des Luxembourg, into Saint Germain des Pres, across the picturesque Seine, through Jardin des Tuileries and past Le Louvre, to our cozy flat in the 2nd.
It was the perfect Paris experience and although it cost not one euro, will always be a priceless memory.