A Simple Meal and A Simple Man: What a Difference

A Simple Meal and A Simple Man: What a Difference
The day before this was written, I saw the Coen Brothers’ new movie – A Simple Man – in a French movie house. I found it too, too Woody Allenesque, in that I laughed. I knew most of the German and Yiddish spoken (I was watching the VO, but a French version), understood most of the Jewish angst and religious rites, certainly knew the Manhattanite code words. However, when I left the theater, I wondered why I hadn’t walked out earlier. Simply put—it had only moments of humor, but hours of tsouris and years of pain. It was simple but more than anything, childlike, dim-witted and it lacked intelligence and common sense. The next day, I ate lunch with a fellow blogger who knows his stuff and has a way with (English) words and he said “You know, this is really simple stuff, it’s great,” or some such phrase. He meant something completely different than I did about the Coens’ effort; lunch wasn’t complex or complicated, but it was the work of a gifted artist, not a simpleton. We were eating at Michel Del Burgo’s new place in the 1st – Chez La Vieille – Adrienne. Now M. Del Burgo and I go back a bit; he doesn’t remember but I do. He was at Taillevent, then le Bristol and then Moscow (why?) and most recently at l’Orangerie. My last meal at the latter can most charitably be called banal, tasteless and so-what. But today, the genius in Del Burgo was at work and he was doing simple things. We had two interesting starters and saw some inviting fish being served. What we ordered, the lamb shoulder for two cooked rare, was simplicity itself. The sauce was simply the sauce of the roasted lamb, the potatoes were simply diced and roasted, as were the cloves of garlic. No butter, no wine, no flour, no salt, no pepper, no nuttin.’ (Oh, there was a sprig of rosemary!) I’ve written about simple food, honest food, comfort food before, contrasted with edgy, adventuresome, pushing if not busting the envelope stuff (think Aizpitarte, Choukroun, Nicolas Vagnon and Darroze at their worst). Another friend of mine in Paris, with whom I’ve eaten frequently over the last decade, usually chooses dishes I find closer to the edge and makes subtle fun of my old-boy, old-school tastes. Not that I don’t like it when William Ledeuil lets loose or Gilles Choukroun holds back a bit. That’s fun too and 75% on the edgy scale. But a lamb cooked like that today (sure your grandmother probably made one just like it) was a great product:well cooked and just the right thing for a rainy, grey, wintery Paris day. Not to drive a stake through this vampire’s heart but I certainly like the complexity in dishes like lièvre à la royale or pheasant stuffed with foie gras. However, a finely cooked rabbit or a simple roasted pintade – are pretty good too. So this week, I give you a non-simple man who cooks simple food at: Chez La Vieille – Adrienne 1, rue Bailleul in the 1st (Metro: Louvre Rivoli) T: Closed Saturday lunch and Sundays Lunch menu 29, a la carte 50-60 €. ©by John Talbott 2010 If you need a hotel room, Booking.com is the place to reserve.   Please post your comments or questions and let them flow. Register HERE to do so if you need a free Bonjour Paris user name and password.  

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