Living in France for two years ultimately offered great culinary awakenings not just for me, but also for my kids, and they now look back fondly on all of the culinary “firsts” they enjoyed while living there. That said, I am fairly certain that I was the most hated person on the planet in the days just following our expatriation (remember, we were moving there so that I could go to culinary school), because the culture shock for them was immediate and intense. The kids’ first few weeks in-country were predictably awful (gastronomically speaking), as they were forced to change their diets literally overnight. Gone were chicken fingers and Velveeta Mac and Cheese, american burgers and dogs, and most breakfast cereals they were accustomed to.
We had lived there only a couple of days when Arthas hit the wall. We were buying lunch from a little concession at the entrance to the famed “Catacombs” of Paris. He ordered a hamburger, expecting no doubt, “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun. Instead, he was handed a fairly suspect patty served on a day old baguette, topped with some WICKED STINKY cheese, and a runny fried egg. I can still see the poor kid banging his head on the side of the kiosk while fighting back his tears.
Thankfully, within just a few weeks, things started looking up for Arthas on the food front. It all began turning around for him when we dined at “Le Relais de l’Entrecote” just off of Boulevard Saint-Germain. “Le Relais” is a restaurant that serves just one dish, but they do it exceedingly well. If you happen to be in Paris, and are in the mood for Steak-Frites, then “Le Relais” is your place. The meal there is served in two stages, each filling your plate with perfectly cooked, sliced steak slathered in a fabulous butter-herb sauce (the subject of endless chat-room banter, and the recipe for which appears to be a more closely held secret than that for Coca-Cola!), and a huge pile of golden, crispy fries. Arthas had just cleaned his plate when the waitress came back around with seconds of everything, the fries fresh from the kitchen, and his fate was sealed. He was so smitten with the frites, that from that day forward, he would devote considerable energies to searching out the best potato dishes on the planet, a quest that keeps him busy to this day.
Our time in Paris would present him with two more contenders for the title.