Every year, a spectacular Dionysian paradise takes place in Paris. It is known officially as a wine salon, where vendors from all over the country show off their wares and the viticulturists and vin-amoureux about town investigate their products through touch, smell and most importantly, taste. Unofficially, it's an opportunity to swim in sips of wine until you stumble home with as many bottles as you can carry. Stalls and stalls of wine sellers offer a goût of their nectar so that enthusiasts can decide what to purchase and how much. Because there are hundreds of vendors, the possibilities are endless... so are the drunkards. To be fair, most people attend with the very real agenda of buying wine and I'm sure that most French patrons conduct themselves much more professionally than I am depicting. Americans in Paris, however, do not.
I attended the event last year for the first time with my dear Hot Blonde Cousin. We flirted with vendors and got so tipsytastic that I left half of my bottles behind and was fortunate enough to have friends going the next day who could retrieve them for me. This year, I demanded that my brother and sister-in-law join me in this afternoon galavant. We had Grandpa and Step-Grandma take care of wee Nephew while the soon to be soused siblings enjoyed the salon. Just as last year, it took us a while to get going, partly because there are far too many options and partly because it can be intimidating to approach a vendor and not behave like an idiot American who is more interested in free booze than in carrying cases home. We soon found our gateway into the mix and proceeded with merriment to various stalls from various regions around France. Pleasantly buzzed and with about five bottles in hand, we managed to swim our way out of the wine glass we spent the afternoon treading.
Nephew was basically handed from one babysitter to another, as our evening plans were composed of an adult night out. A student of mine had helped me find a suitable chaperone for our dapper lad, so we set him up with books and his crazy brain to fascinate the French nanny at his beck and call. And off the adults went, walking up the hill of Montmartre to a café I had only just discovered when searching for a fun place to try in that neighborhood. As luck would have it, I had stumbled upon a restaurant called La Renaissance, which has apparently been the home to scenes in many French films. Most notably, however, a scene from the Quentin Tarantino film "Inglourious Basterds" was shot there. What with the aftermath of recent political events in the States pervading almost all of our thoughts these days, Sister-in-law specifically felt the location was appropriately symbolic in the extreme. Once the menu was vetted by my vegetarian brother, we made a reservation and looked forward with gusto.
The restaurant was all that one would wish for when thinking of a classic French café. There was an old piano in one corner, tarnished mirrors on the wall, and a perfect ambiance. The staff was wonderfully accommodating, and we took our time making way from appetizer to main dish to dessert, all accompanied by that continual current of wine. The dish we all collectively swooned over was called Oeufs Cocotte au Cantal. It was eggy. It was cheesy. It was bliss. After taking appropriately atmospheric photos and eating our delicious fare, we were treated to a round of shots on the house.
Lt. Archie Hicox: What shall we drink to, sir?
Gen. Ed Fenech: Well... down with Hitler.
Lt. Archie Hicox: All the way down, sir.
It was a cheers and a santé to another full day of indulgence.