It was an evening in Paris. Sultry jazz with piano and accordion playing to the crooning of Juliet Dunn. In a softly lit room with posters of the Toulleries and Moulin Rouge, we ate foie gras, escargot, Bouillabaisse, and profiteroles. All around us were silhouettes of diners enjoying their meal to the contrasting noises of clanking silverware and toasting wine glasses. The only thing missing was the cigarette smoke wafting through the air. If you’ve ever been to Paris, you were there.
I think you know the place. Downtown Niagara Falls there’s a giant Eiffel Tower on the front of a restaurant. It’s called Paris Crêpes Café and it’s here French chef, owner and master crêpier Thierry bring the flavours and experiences of Paris to the other side of the world – Niagara.
On this special evening we were all celebrating April in Paris. It’s one of the many Parisian special events Thierry loves offer. The restaurant holds approximately 50 people and on this night it was full to capacity except for one lone table for 2. It sat in the middle of the room, empty and eerie and everyone wondered what couple decided they had something better to do than celebrate the most romantic city in the world. Surely they were not worth knowing.
On the tables were bulbous glasses of red wine, slender glasses of white, tall champagne flutes and a few martinis. Jon and I started off with a bottle of cremant de Loire. The 5-course Parisian meal began with Escargots Bourguignons. Contrary to the Canadian version of snails in a pitted plate covered in a thick layer of cheap cheese, this dish was truely Parisian. Each snail bubbling in a lightly garliced herb butter. The way to eat it is to dip torn pieces of crispy French baguette into the butter and lay an escargot on top. Close your eyes and chew. Wow, the rich buttery parsley and garlic play on the palate while the warm, meaty escargot, like a piece of tender beef pampers the soul. It took me back to the little café across from the Comédie Française in the heart of Paris. It was my favourite place to eat escargot in all of Paris.
I sip on more cremant while listing to Juliet Dunn dedicating La Vie En Rose to a couple in the audience. I don’t know when I first met Juliet but I do remember the first time I saw her. She was singing vineyard-side at Stratus Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Juliet is a stunning woman, tall, slender, dressed to accentuate her length with fabric flowing down her body as casually as the event itself. I love the way she wears a choker to show off her long, graceful neck. Her voice is warm and low with a raspiness that is seductively hypnotic. She moves to the music and croons the words making the women in the audience lean on their partners for closeness. I was hooked, doomed to be a Juliet Dunn devotee for the rest of my life.
Next course was Foie Gras au Torchon Maison. This house-made duck foie gras was soft and rich. I spread it on thick brioche points toasted to perfectly just-warm and topped it off with some sweet champagne gelée. Once again, close your eyes. Each bite luxuriously succumbed to the pressure of your tongue pressing it up to the top of your mouth. Pure and simple, it was a glorious mouthfeel that pleasured far reaches of your body. I’m taken back to Au Petie Sud Ouest in the 7th Arrondissement of Paris. They specialize in foie gras and it’s a weekly haunt whenever in Paris. Here they serve entire lobes of foie gras with roasted apple chunks. On the tables are individual toasters and a basket of bread. The perfect level of warmth and toastiness are crucial to bring out the best of foie gras so each customer controls their own experience.
Juliet comes to sit with us during intermission. Her energy is exciting and I so enjoy her company. We talk about trips to Paris, past and future. Jon and I are planning a 3-month trip to Paris and she gets excited, promising to join us. Any reason to go back to the city she spent a decade as a jazz singer. We’re so lucky to have her level of talent in Niagara and appreciate that she finds any and all excuses to bring here beloved sounds of Paris to Niagara. I guess you could say this was our present trip to Paris.
A few more sips of my cremant and I’m looking face to face with my Pintade Farcie au foie gras et Pruneaux avec Lentilles Du Puy. It’s a rolled Guinea fowl stuffed with foie gras on a bed of savoury lentils stewed with prunes. The flavours of each savoury mouthful warmed the palate with love and in total relaxation, allowed it to take me wherever it wanted. Now I’m inside the dimely lit Le Fumoir restaurant across from the Louvre. Out the side window I stare at the stunningly beautiful, ancient church with the giant rose window and imposing towers. Funny thing, I feel both insignificant and simultaneously beautiful, Paris is magic.
Next of the special five-course Parisian menu is a romantically, savoury plate of mixed greens, with chunks of rich Blue Benedictine cheese and walnuts. No oily salad dressing here, just pure flavours to indulge the palate with a monotone of pure pleasures.
Chef Thierry comes by to chat and in the distance I hear Juliet dedicating J’ai Deux Amores to Jon and I. We all stop and listen as she promises a private performance for us when we’re in Paris for 3-months. Woah!!
With cremant almost done I get my Profiteroles au Chocolat. I love the puff pastry filled with rich vanilla ice cream and topped with a luscious sauce. It’s both warming and refreshing in a comforting way. Like a mouthful of love and life at the same time. When I’m all done, I wipe the chocolate from the plate with my fingers the same way I wiped the chocolate mousse from the bowl at Pane au Chocolat Cafe in Paris.
If you would like a quick trip to Paris, the Paris Crêpes Café in Niagara Falls is a delicious way to get there. After all, isn’t Paris all about food? Join me at Paris Crepes Café on June 21 for Fête de la Musique. Known as World Music Day, it started in Paris and now cities around the world join in with celebrations of the annual event. Meet me at the Paris/Niagara Fête de la Musique.