“You can fall in love at first sight with a place as well as a person.” — Alec Waugh.
When I was dreaming about Paris, I imagined a place like Au Port du Salut, a tiny restaurant that’s been around since the 1600’s. Most of the tables are nestled along the whitewashed stone walls under a timbered ceiling. Black and white photographs of French celebrities line the wall, and windows swing in to allow the evening breezes to flow through the room.
Our dark-eyed, dimpled young waiter seated us near the piano, and we ordered a bottle of Chateau La Tour de Mons. Dinner began with a frothy amuse-bouche, the chef’s secret combination of puréed vegetables and spices. Then the gazpacho mousse… delectable — followed by our gorgeous main courses — poulet for me, pollock for Mike. Each morsel was perfection.
The star of the evening was Dominique, a chanteuse accompanied by an English-speaking pianist/ MC. Dominique, a woman about sixty, had a tousled pouf of burgundy hair, and an ensemble to match. A crepey blouse — or was it a dress?— hung like an old curtain on her small frame. The sleeves drooped around her wrists; limp pleats sagged over her derrière; pantaloons puddled over her invisible feet. With her nasally French style, she charmed us all, including a lively table of young Brits and Americans who sang along with the refrains. Her repertoire, in French, of course, included “Autumn Leaves”, Billy Holiday’s torchy “My Man” and “La Boheme”. Then “C’est si Bonne” — what could be better?
In no rush to leave, Mike nursed a calvados while I lingered over the last of our wine, drinking in everything in the room. The owner with disheveled gray curls stood off in the corner, overseeing the room. Once in a while he’d chat with regulars, or clear a table. Dessert? Mai’s, oui! Mousse chocolat for me, an airy berry cheesecake for Mike.
After a while, Mike signaled for l’addition. Instead of the check, the waiter brought a bottle of a pear liqueur and poured us each a glass. Why rush off? We capped off the evening with this tasty, potent little extra.
Leaving the restaurant, I said, ” Tres bien!” to our host, whose “Merci beaucoup” included a kiss on each of cheek — mine as well as Mike’s.
C’est si bonne! C’est vraiment bonne!