dimanche, février 26, 2006

Can't Cheat a Bottle Unbroke

There's a great little restaurant next to the Marché St. Germain that Dear Wife and I used to eat at often. It's called Bergamote, and if you visit us here we will probably take you there.

It isn't fancy, and the menu is simple. The concept behind the restaurant, (which makes it a little different than most French eateries for having a "concept" behind it at all), is to showcase the herbs used in each and every one of their dishes (including the deserts). When you read the menu, you'll see the dominant herb denoted in bold type-face. This is for emphasis, stressing Bergamte's herb-o-centric raison-d'étre. But the herbs are never excessive, and the fare is pretty standard for a mid-priced French restaurant, (a magret de canard, an agneau, a cassolette, etc.); it is neither a bistro nor a fine dining establishment. This makes it comfortable for everyone, esp. foreigners trying to find their footing in the Paris dinning scene, (which is vast and intimidating); it's casual, and the staff is friendly. There is no pretension in the ambiance, which is instead sprightly, but gently so. The place appears to be run by a woman who is not old, yet already wears that matronly mantle, and she is enthusiastic and kind. They always provide a fine meal.

We hadn't eaten there since we'd taken Dear Pal Pete, which was well before our January holiday, way back in November of last year. On the Thursday of this week passed, the day we moved back into the Bonapartment, I kept myself motivated while hauling our bags up the stairs with thoughts of a return to Bergamote. Let's go tonight, I decided while sweating and heaving—we deserve it! So that's just what we did once our legs had stopped trembling. We walked (slowly, gingerly) to our dinner, which we justified as a celebration of our return to the old apartment and to our old neighborhood, and so too, a celebration of our moving success, (no luggage had been lost, and no one had died). I remembered the last time I'd been there, and how the kind lady overseeer had been clearing off the table next to us and in doing so, upset an empty bottle of Pellegrino, and sent it tumbling toward the floor. I just happened to see it in time to catch it, not my best save but pretty good, and words of thanks and appreciation had been spoken to me by Dear Wife and the young matron. I felt good remembering that.

And the staff remembered us, which was nice because we haven't always received the warm welcome back we'd hoped for at all of our former haunts. OK, expecting the impassive cashiers at the Champion grocer to smile and welcome us "home" is just wrong. It's a cold capital, afterall. But we took a remarkably smoke-free table in Bergamote, and once we'd made ourselves cozy and decided on a couple of apéritifs, we relaxed over the menu and looked for new dishes. It had been a rough day, and we'd been snippy for too long now, so in the vague spirit of all alcoholic rationales, I suggested we get some wine. Y'know, sort of whoop it up. Well, we're light-weights, barely above bantam I'd say, and accordingly ordered just a half-bottle of rosé, which is amateurish in the extreme if the point is to do some real drinking, but is well into our bleary spots if the point is to get into those bleary spots.

Dinner was very good; for our entrées, Dear Wife had the brick of goat's cheese with a tasty accompanying salad, and I had the curried mussle soup (for my muscles)—for our main course, the breast of duck, or magret de canard was ordered by both of us; then orange and chocolate tart with mint for my desert, apple and pear crumble with violet ice cream for D.W.; all really good. This meal cost about 80 Euros, with drinks, etc. We'd polished off two apéritifs, a (half) bottle of wine, and a full litre of sparkling water. I was feeling a little sloppy, which on my scale is probably where most people would be getting to a good "buzz." We'd settled the main bill, but found ourselves without cash for a tip. This is one of the maddening things in the restaurants here for us American types: they take credit cards, but they don't have a line for you to add a tip; the bill comes pre-totalled. Since the French State decrees a 15% gratuity be included automatically in your bill, (I think), there is no chance for you to tack a little extra onto your charge card as a tip. This means you need to have a little cash with you at all times. If you are just flying through the city on a one week "touristic" jag, you could probably skip tipping in most places (I wouldn't), but when you plan to revisit these places, and you are unsure of the proper French custom for tiping, (as we remain), you feel compelled to errr on the side of generosity. "Afterall, we have so much, and they..."

But after two taxi rides and various unexpected moving expenses that day, I was without anything but a 2 Euro coin, and we didn't feel good about leaving the friendly folk of Bergamote like that. So after paying the main bill, I pulled out the table and helped Dear Wife to her feet, promising Lady Matron that we would be right back, we were shy of money... All this was very confusingly explained, or half explained, in fake French and quick English spoken with a fake French accent and a couple of authentic french words, probably incorrect (Dear Wife rarely extricates me from this sort of thing). My rambling excuse about not having money raised the eyebrows on many of the faces of our fellow diners nearby. It sounded like we were leaving without paying the bill, but were promising to come back and pay later! This was seen as bad form on a variety of counts. But I pushed on ahead, and pushed our table back in so we could scoot out to the ATM, and that's when the table legs got hung-up in one of the deep seams between the wide stone tiles of the flooring. The table then jerked, and the half-dozen glasses upon it shivered one way, and then another as I sought to calm them—they steadied, but the movement that pulled them back to equillibrium was too much for the tall glass bottle of sparkling water, which heaved the opposite direction. I knew it was going to fall, and though it was falling very slowly, taking its time bobbling on the table edge, I knew I couldn't catch it, not without upsetting every glass on the table, not in the state I was in.

In this woeful moment of suspension, without too many people other than myself paying attention, but knowing fully that the bottle was going to crash onto the floor, I could not stop myself from letting out a long, dreadful, anticipatory, "Shhhit!"

But what was heard by Dear Wife, and indeed the rest of the room, was just my drawn-out introduction of the curse, "Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh...!"

As though I was shushing them!

So everyone shushed.

And turned to see why I was shushing them.

And we all got to watch the bottle finally tumble from the table and hit the stone tile and explode with a satisfying F-WHAP! Which was superbly audible because the room was absolutely silent at the moment of impact.

Then I said, "Shit!"

It took everyone a moment to recover, a stunned pause which I took advantage of to say, "Desolé! I'll be right back!" and dashed out the door.

Visit Bergamote.org for menus and other glassware anecdotes.


At lundi, février 27, 2006, Blogger Skribbl said...

Haha ! Vous Américain idiot ! ! Chacun sait que vous hurlez hors d'"MAIRDE!" au lieu de l'"SHIT!" Services vous droit pour être ainsi... ainsi... AMERICAN ! !

At lundi, février 27, 2006, Blogger Skribbl said...

En outre, je nous espère que vous avez reçu ma invitation de e-mail au groupe Blog d'art de mardi et joins.

Chatons et Unicorns,



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