Thursday, October 8, 2009

Almost vegan in Paris

On the first day of the actual tour, I met my (awesome!) traveling companions and we set out for France. We took a ferry from Dover, in England, across the Channel to Calais, and made our first foreign "services" (gas station) stop. French gas stations are more like little malls, with multiple shops, cafés, and restaurants—super-impressive. This one had a huge buffet with hot and cold food. Check out the salad bar:

And this is just PART of the dessert bar:

Insanity! After lunch, we were off again, and a couple hours later, we drove into Paris. Paris...
You’ve probably heard people say it’s the most beautiful/romantic/stunning/inspiring/breathtaking city in the world. They’re right.

Our first-night dinner destination was Au Bistrot de la Montagne.

The dining room was downstairs, in a sort of cave. What ambience!

Not to mention, what nutty Parisian musicians.

Seasoned peanuts, marinated olives, and glasses of kir awaited us at our tables. Kir is an apéritif (pre-meal cocktail) made of crème-de-cassis and champagne or white wine.

For my appetizer, I had French onion soup, sans fromage (though sadly, that turned out to also mean sans crouton). I actually don’t care for French onion soup, but I figured France would be the place to try it. It was alright—not bad, but I wouldn’t order it again. Others who ate it enjoyed it immensely, though.

Though nothing on the menu was vegetarian, they accommodated me nicely (as did almost every subsequent city on this trip). I received a huge plate of stewed vegetables (mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, et al.) and rice. Had it not contained so many mushrooms, I would have liked it better, but I did eat most of it.

Choosing a dessert was difficult. I should warn you now that most desserts on this trip were decidedly not vegan. I knew this ahead of time, accepted it, and enjoyed it. It was important to me to not deprive myself of delicious regional desserts just because they were made with egg or dairy. This one here, ordered by Derek, is a prime example—it’s called a floating island, and it’s basically soft meringue atop a thin custard, drizzled with caramel sauce. I tried a bite—it was sweet and light as air.

Sharleen ordered profiteroles—cream puffs filled with ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce and slivered almonds, mmm.

And for me? A classic apple tart.

Add to that countless bottles of red and white wine and a strong cognac digestif, and you have one massive and satisfying meal. And what better follow-up could there be than a night cruise up and down the Seine?

Dazzling. Magical. Spectacular. No adjectives can do it justice. It was a Tuesday night, and yet the city buzzed and pulsed with energy and vitality. We passed such landmarks as the Louvre and Notre Dame as we gazed at the lucky Parisians lounging on the banks of the river—groups of people dancing, students on blankets sharing bottles of wine, couples kissing, everyone simply reveling in the quiet beauty of a mild night.

Our cruise began and ended at the very symbol of Paris—the magnificent Eiffel Tower itself. Lit up like a lamp, it emanated grace and splendor, and every hour on the hour, it sparkled like a big bubbly bottle of champagne for five marvelous minutes. It was a perfect evening in the most perfect city I have ever had the privilege to visit.

Next up: more Paris, and then we head south to Bordeaux!

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  1. This looks amazing! I'm going.

  2. I'm definitely not sold on the food, but the atmosphere looks absolutely amazing!

  3. It was! I know what you mean about the food; root vegetables and "hearty" stuff aren't really my thing, so I knew French food (excluding the bread and pastries!) wouldn't be my favorite. But just you wait, it only gets tastier!...

  4. Amber - I am thrilled you were able to experience this. And knowing it's just the beginning of a 5 week journey, wow, what lies ahead? How does it get any better than your night on the town (PARIS, NO LESS). cjlf

  5. ...than your FIRST night on the town, that is. cf

  6. Oh my gosh...fantastic blog.....great pics and interestin descriptions of the food. Honestly, Amber, you should write a book! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Oh WOW! Kir sounds amazing, as did that marvolous meringue dessert! And the Eiffel Tower must have been beautiful...


  8. It looks like you ate a ton of good food on your trip. I am jealous. We should have a dinner party sometime soon!

  9. Oh, and the profiteroles look absolutely yummy!

  10. The scenery looks amazing....especially the restaurant in a cave. I surprised you went for the French onion soup, given it's beef broth base, but I agree that if you must try that soup, France is the place to do it.

    The meringue dessert looks ridiculously amazing.

    And now I want to go to France and use my rusty French to order kir.

  11. Yeah, it was a had-to-take-the-opportunity-to-try-it thing. If I liked it, I would have come home and tried to replicate it using vegetable broth, but it was not meant to be.

    The meringue was like a cloud...totally melt-in-your-mouth. Mmm. And I became verrry fond of kir—perhaps we should make a poor man's kir for the next party...

  12. I love it...I've read it all. You are a wonderful writer as I was totally captured by your blog. Thanks for sharing!

    The Vegan in the Air with the pictures made me hungry!!

  13. Very proud. Very proud of you.

  14. I love french onion soup and the word kir. I'm going to use it next time I have a pre-meal drink. Very interesting.