I don’t mean to make light of times when stealing food, a la Jean Valjean or Darfur or countless other horrible examples, is a matter of life and death. I mean when you order something at a French restaurant and want to cart it off. I see this happening for numerous reasons.
I continually argue with American friends that portion sizes are simply too large in the US and “just right” here, (indeed I always forget my “first night” back in the States and order too much). However, a recent meal at Rich, that’s correct Rich, not Rech, demonstrated the exception to the rule – while my first course of fried gambas were “just right,” there was simply too much of my main of chicken breast to finish and I was determined to have the Corsican tomme to top off the meal. So while I left the chicken and wonderful jasmin-tea flavored rice on the plate, I spirited away half of the very generous portion of Marie-Anne Cantin’s best for another day; actually for that night.
Next example, at Rech, where they make a point of serving giant portions of desserts, especially their notable XL chocolate or café éclair. Last week, my very game guest and I struggled to finish even a half of it and could not, and so it sits in my frig – how long before staph sets in? Oh well.
So when you get too much what should you do?
Answer #1 – Ask for a “doggie bag.” Not! Also this month, at Les Fines Gueules, my pal the real French food critic wept seeing me leave half my jamon, chorizo, sausage, etc on my plate (that we had originally agreed to share before he was seduced by another platter of jamon and leeks). I started to tuck it away in my handy-dandy briefcase when he said “Why are you doing that? I’ll get you a doggie bag.” Me: “Are you kidding, they’ll laugh in your (French) face.” “No they won’t” said he. And so it went, back and forth – me expounding on the irony that drunk-driving clampdowns as a result of the Loi Evin led to doggie-bottle-bags but no such thing for food – he maintaining I didn’t know either custom or French well-enough to maneuver this deal. Guess who was correct? They promptly spirited away the platter of charcuterie, never to be seen again.
Answer #2 – Leave it. Not! Not unless you’re skilled enough to explain that it was delicious, the best you’ve ever had, that it was good product made just right, but you’d had a brief apero just before with some nems/tapas/etc with an old friend and have a state banquet this evening with Mme Sarkozy, whose chef takes offense whenever a morsel is returned to the kitchen.
Answer #3 –Take it. Yessssss! Ah but how; in a napkin? Nonsense, the cheese, chocolate, fat, etc., will ruin your business case. In a tupperware box? How gauche! In a ziplock bag kept in your bag for just such an occasion. Right again. There is almost nothing, short of a whole fowl or cote de boeuf, that cannot be safely spirited away thusly. And if you forget, your friendly TSA agent at the airline security line will give you one.
Then what do you do? Fine for you Talbott to advise these larcenous acts because you have a frigo and garde manger and counter space but we have a teeny hotel room. Fear not, your friendly hotel person, unless you’re in a Palace Hotel, in which case you wouldn’t be reading this, can help refrigerate it; after all why should new moms pumping their breast milk get all the cold space?
Then in the cool of the evening, instead of trekking off to some hot, smoky bistrot you really didn’t want to eat at after your satisfying lunch, you open the wine you remembered to buy, with the Screwpull© you remembered to pack, and you and your beloved sit on the teeny-tiny ledge across from the Gaudi House, Acropolis or Sacre Coeur and have the “remains of the day.”
My favorites this week are:
14, rue Cadet, 9th, (Metro: Cadet)
Menus at 25 and 30 € and menu-carte 35, a la carte up to 70 €.
62, ave des Ternes, 17th (Metro: Ternes)
Closed Saturday lunch and Sundays
Lunch menu at 34, a la carte 60-100 €.
Les Fines Gueules
43, rue Croix des Petits Champs, 1st (Metro: Palais de Louvre, Sentier)