It could have been the overcast sky that greeted me. Or, maybe the fact that after more than 24 hours on a plane with three different stopovers, I was told that the airline had lost my luggage… or having to spend my first two days on my own… Something, in Paris, was off.
I had my first meal at Aux Lyonnais which has become somewhat of a tradition to begin any trip to Paris at this Alain Docasse run Bistro. The lady who had been greeting me for the last four years, I found out, had left and new staff had taken over the floor. While the new waitstaff were knowledgeable and efficient, there was no “Hello! How are you? So good to see you back” to greet me. To start I had an egg cocotte with black truffles and morrels and for main I had the pollack (which I was told was only in season every April) a la meuniere. Again, while the food was cooked well, I left the restaurant thinking that I might have to change traditions next year.
Day two was dinner at Le Chateaubriand which has been named the 9th best restaurant in the world. Two years earlier we had eaten in this restaurant and was blown away with the food (and, okay, maybe the chefs and waiters too), so I was excited to come back. I guess I was expecting too much but the food didn’t seem as inventive or exciting as before (okay, the waiters and chefs were still as good looking).
Things weren’t looking too good.
And then my husband came and things started to pick up.
“I’m bored.” I told him. “Paris doesn’t seem the same to me.” So that night we went to Hotel Costes, a boutique hotel located on the First Arrondisement. By day you can sit by the open courtyard and people watch. At night the whole place transforms into a trendy restaurant/bar. This is where we met Ali – mixologist extraordinaire. I explained to him that I didn’t normally drink but my fate that night was in his hands. To please make me a cocktail that was fruity but where I couldn’t taste the alcohol.
“Leave it to me, I am an expert” Ali said.
Two drinks later, my head was spinning and anything anyone said seemed very funny to me. My husband was holding me back from ordering a third drink. “I think that’s enough. Let’s close the tab.” he said. “Wait a minute! I said to Ali, “I need to know the name of this so I can make sure to order it next time.”
“It has no name, this one I just invented.” said Ali.
“We can’t not have a name for this drink!” I replied.
“Okay, let’s name it after you, Teresa” Ali said.
“Okay, tomorrow, you and me, we’ll have a showdown!” I shouted back at Ali, giggling uncontrollably.
“Yes, of course!” He smiled.
You have to realize, I never drink. Ever. So as embarrassing as it sounds, I got wasted after two drinks. A few hours later things got messy, my head pounding, I was crying and cursing Ali like there was no tomorrow.
The day after was no different. Every time I stood up I felt like my world would turn upside down. When my husband joked about the proposed showdown with Ali I gave him dagger looks. The thought of going back to Hotel Costes made me woozy.
Easter Sunday was different. I could finally laugh about the “Ali” incident! The sun was shining and after a whole day wasted, I was hoping for a little back of the Paris that I loved. So of course I headed to the 7th Arrondisement which is my favourite. The markets were opened and we were welcomed by a Frenchman playing music on an old punch tape winding music box!
One thing I’ve found, is that my tried and tested bistro in Paris is still 100% reliable. Lunch at Cafe Constant was just as I remembered it. Homey, well executed and affordable cooking.
Then to top it all of, was the most delicious apple tart. Layers of caramelized apples over the flakiest puff pastry, served with a side of vanilla ice cream. It’s times like these that you realize, you don’t need to be in the fanciest, trendiest or most expensive restaurant, you could be in a cramped corner of a Paris cafe enjoying a simple meal, or even laying flat on the bathroom floor cursing the bartender that gave you one cocktail too many, it’s who you’re with that makes the story worthwhile telling.
I was with my husband and I finally had my Paris back.
Cafe Constant Apple Tart
The day after my planned “showdown” with Ali, I went back to Hotel Costes to try and get the recipe for the cocktail he had invented for me. Unfortunately, Ali was not around that night… and the waitress told me that he would not be around the night after as well, which meant that I wouldn’t get the chance to ask him for the recipe before I left. So instead, let me share with you Christian Constant’s simple Apple Tart recipe… however, if you do find yourself on Rue St Honore one day, make sure to pass by the Bar at Hotel Costes and ask for Ali. Tell him you want to order the “Teresa”.
- 7 “pink” golden apples
- 45 grams butter
- 1 roll best quality puff pastry (i.e. I would use Careme brand)
- 35 grams caster sugar
- Pre heat the oven to 180c. Roll out the puff pastry and place it in a round or oblong tart. Using a fork, prink the bottom and sides of the pastry to prevent it from puffing up during cooking. Place in the oven and cook for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, peel the apples, cut in half, remove the cores and sees and slice very thinly.
- Arrange the apple slices on the pre-cooked pastry shell, overlapping and fanning them out evenly. Sprinkle with half of the sugar and add a knob of butter.
- Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Midway through the cooking time, sprinkle with the remaining sugar, and turn the tart from time to time so that it browns evenly. Cool before serving.