Sunday, June 07, 2009
Dinner with the Obamas in Paris
Barack Obama followed me to dinner last night. Seriously. Out of all of the restaurants in Paris, I chose to make a reservation on Saturday night at Les Fables de la Fontaine, a Christian Constant bistro on the rue Saint Dominique, restaurant-filled street in the 7th arrondissement. After arriving almost ½ hour late thanks to our deviated taxi route due to the fact that nearly every street was blocked off to traffic because of the Obamas’ arrival, we strolled up to the rue Saint Dominique only to be greeted by a huge crowd of people, US secret service men in suits with earphones and pins and what I imagine constituted at least 30% of the national French police force. Policemen yelled out orders and forced the curious Parisians and nearby tourists to move to the sidewalk to accommodate Obama’s arrival. With high security outside, Obama’s entourage of cars arrived in front of La Fontaine de Mars, a casual French bistro, as he was escorted inside. After waiting outside, unable to walk down the street to our restaurant for more than one hour, I finally began to start intense negotiations with every Secret Service man and French policeman I could find, and was constantly calling the restaurant to figure out how we might be able to get inside to dine. Finally, the restaurant manager calls to tell me “There are American Secret Service men on their way to get you.” I laughed – “yeah right, of course they are.” Then, all of a sudden, a French policeman in full body armor, comes running towards us, points to me, pulls me out of the crowd and under the barricade with the two friends I was with (shout out to Judy and Karen, the adventuresome duo in question) and escorted us personally to the restaurant, as the crowd watched in awe. We sat down in the cute bistro – it was like we’d entered the Twilight Zone, everything was calm, we sat and had a very delicious, enjoyable meal, while the Obamas ate next door and police and soldiers lined the streets as the helicopter circled above. You’d think that since I not only voted for him, but also pay US taxes which took the Obama family to France, he’d call and say “hey, come on over and join us for dessert” right ? In fact, Obama wanted desperately to come and speak to me, but, with all of the Secret Service men and French police guarding me, he wasn’t able to (poor guy). Don’t worry, Barack, just be sure to call me next time you’re here. And please, can you perhaps just accept Sarkozy’s invitation and dine with Carla and him someplace private? Your “laid-back intimate family dinner” turned the entire city upside down! However, Mr. O, I’d like to thank you. For the first time in quite some time, I was very proud to be an American. I even sang the star-spangled banner as your entourage of cars rode by. As one American woman nearby said of the swarms of people waiting outside, “If it were Bush eating in there, nobody would be here.” I especially enjoyed when everyone in Les Fables walked outside to try and catch a glimpse of the Obamas leaving dinner and a French police officer came over and said “Monsieur, Le Président would like you to please go back inside.” Amazing. How often do I get asked to do something by “Monsieur, le Président” ? (not often, contrary to popular belief). So I’d like to thank my President, the US Secret Service, the French Police Nationale, the lovely staff of Les Fables de la Fontaine … and the (very cute, mind you) French police officer that pulled me out of the crowd and escorted us to our table. G-d Bless America ! (Land that I sometimes forget I love.)
In honor of last night, I’ve composed my own version of the US national anthem.
The Star-Spangled Dinner
Oh, say! can you see by the Obama’s early light
What so annoying we waited for while his 400-car entourage swept through the city so he and Michelle and his kids could catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower gleaming…
Whose broad Secret Service men and bright bodyguards, made us perilously fight
To walk down the street to our restaurant, while the crowds outside were so gallantly screaming,
And the mean old French manager of the restaurant next door’s red glare,
the Obama-copter circling in the air,
Gave proof through the night that I still do care (about America): Oh, say! does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the French and the home of the Rebecca Leffler…
In Les Fables de la Fontaine, dimly seen through the mists of the deep rue Saint Dominique,
Where the fish is cooked deliciously,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep of la Fontaine de Mars,
'Tis the Obamas ! Oh, long may they wave (to me from across the street)
O'er the land of the French and the home of the Rebecca Leffler… And this be our motto: "In Obama is our trust": And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the French and the home of the Rebecca Leffler….
The Restaurant of the day award goes not to la Fontaine de Mars (I don’t think they’ll be needing my publicity anymore seeing as the President of the United States just had dinner there, that’s definitely a better ad than paying thousands for Superbowl spot, way to go Fontaine), but to Les Fables de la Fontaine. Owned by Christian Constant, the French chef who pretty much runs every restaurant on the rue Saint Dominique – from his famed, more fancy and pricey le Violon d’Ingres to the more casual Café Constant or even more casual Les Cocottes (my favorite steak and potatoes meal on the left bank – eat that, l’Entrecôte!), Constant has a restaurant for everyone. Les Fables is a tiny place – I think the room can fit a maximum of 22 people – with a big heart. The staff are all warm and welcoming and one literally feels like one is dining in someone’s home (on a typical night that is, I can’t say the secret service and helicopters typically encircle my Parisian apartment on the average night). Les Fables specializes in seafood and offers a mostly fish-based menu, with a few options for pure carnivores as well. We started with an amuse-bouche of a parmesan cream with a red pepper coulis and croutons – divine. Since it was late (see: waiting outside for more than an hour just to walk down the street, merci Obama and co.), we skipped right to the main courses, though I must say the crispy Langoustines I had the last time I was there, still on the menu, are delicious. I had a grilled sea bass in a cream of pea sauce with grilled artichokes, a tuna sauce and parmesan cheese – incredible, especially wiped clean with the amazing mini-baguettes served to accompany the meal. Dessert was a vanilla cream custard crème-brûlée style on top of sugar biscuits with a pistachio sauce, followed by a fabulous hazelnut macaron. While I hesitate to share this spot (make sure you don’t take my seat if I want a reservation!), it is definitely one of the better and reasonably priced restaurants in Paris. Bon appétit !