19 November 2005

La fête de Beaujolais Nouveau

As a child of the midwestern United States, I've definitely been to my share of fall festivals. My hometown of Mexico, MO, for example, hosts the annual Soybean Festival each fall, complete with a parade, a craft show, and various games involving soybeans. Laugh if you want, but these seemingly goofy events are what give small towns their true character. Besides, where else can you get free candy tossed at you from the top of a combine?

Paris has its own festival, though as you might expect, it's a bit more high-brow than soybeans. Instead, it celebrates the first day that the new cases of Beaujolais Nouveau wine are available. This lovely red wine has a uniquely speedy fermentation process, so the grape-to-bottle process is a mere matter of weeks. By French law, however, it is illegal to release the new batch before the third Thursday of November. As we discovered this past Thursday, the mandated release day is a cause for true celebration across the city. (If you want to read more about la fête itself, click on the title of this blog posting to open a webpage with more details.)

With Dave and Rebecca in town, Colin and I wanted to find a good French restaurant anyway -- the wine celebration was just an unplanned bonus. We selected a place in the 7th, close to their hotel near the Eiffel Tower, called Le Chevert. It serves cuisine from Franche-Comté, a region in eastern France in the Jura mountains.

Le Chevert is a teeny little restaurant that your average tourist wouldn't pick out as a unique place to go. Au contraire, mes amies -- this place is a treasure! We instantly took a liking to the place as our waiter seated us and apprehensively asked if we spoke French. (Of course we do: we have Colin!) With a look of relief, he explained the special of the evening to Colin, throwing in what little English he knew with a sheepish grin. He was delightfully pleasant and kind, and we felt right at home.

Things only improved from there, as we watched the restaurant fill to the brim with "regulars" who all exchanged bisses (kisses on the cheeks) with the staff. That's when I noticed why the waiter was in such a good mood: he was doing shots of beaujolais nouveau! The wine definitely made for a festive atmosphere, and I felt like we were actually at party at someone's home. To top off the celebratory mood, the background music was all polka. (Franche-Comté is, after all, on the Swiss border!) At one point, we nearly had Rebecca dancing with the waiter, though I think it would have taken a few more glasses of wine to convince her that this was a good idea...

Colin, Dave, and I ordered the special, which was a five-course dinner with charcuterie (an appetizer of thinly sliced meat), salad, a main dish, cheese, and dessert. OH! And of course, a bottle of beaujolais nouveau! I am quite pleased to say that it lived up to its hype. It complemented every course of our meal, from the sausage and potatos to the camembert cheese, exceedingly well. The last course was tarte aux pommes (apple pie). What more can I say? YUM!!

The only drawback to the place was that it lacked a non-smoking section. After two and a half hours, my eyes were on fire. Colin asked for the bill, and the waiter said, "Already?" seeming genuinely sad to see us go. We were sad to go, too, but given that it was nearly 11 pm on a "school night," we knew we needed to leave.

Rebecca, Dave, and I went outside while Colin stopped at the restroom. On his way out, the waiter called after him, "Monsieur, monsieur!" and asked where we were from. When Colin told him, a woman seated nearby made a noise and pointed to the waiter as if to say, "HA! I told you so!" As it turned out, the entire restaurant was making bets on where we were from!

OK, so we stuck out like sore thumbs. I still took the bet as a compliment -- at least they didn't all seem to think that we were a bunch of loud, obnoxious Americans!


At 21/11/05 18:24, Blogger JODSTER said...

I remember going through Paris the first time. It was a taxi ride fromthe train station to the airport. But i had a note that asked the driver to take me by the sights.

At each one, he would try to explain it in English. Tour Eiffel... err, Eiffel Tow-errr.

I thought he was hilarious. It would have been funnier if I hadn't spent eight hours overnight in a train car with two snoring Sri-Lankins. Not that the Sri Lankin part had anything to do with it. I was just trying to be accurate.

Anyway.. back to YOUR blog .. sorry for rambling! I'll have to post about this myself sometime.. Your waiter just reminded me of the story.


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