The Daily Diary of a Wandering Restaurateur
Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today is our 28th wedding anniversary. Time sure flies! Is this a cute couple or what?

Since today is essentially a packing day, going out for lunch made a lot more sense to us than a typical French meal running late into the evening. We made an online reservation at A l'Echevin in the Hotel Le Maréchal a few blocks away from the apartment on one of the canals in the area known as Petit Venis (Little Venice). The hotel itself was all decked out for the holidays and our table was by a window next to the water. The whole place just had a warm and cozy feel to it ... and the kitchen definitely had its act together!

Lunch started with an amuse bouche of a salmon roulade with a fruit puree of pears, banana and fig. It's not a combination that would have occurred to me but it worked surprisingly well. I liked the way they handled it as a presentation for two. Note the salt and pepper grinders with a ramekin of shaped butter set into a thin slab of slate. Easy on, easy off.

We went for two courses. Margene started with Noix de St Jacques rôties, Châtaignes et truffe Melanosporum (roasted scallops, nutmeg and Melanosporum truffle) while I chose Ballotine de chevreuil au foie gras, Confit d’oignon parfumé aux baies de genièvre (deer ballotine, onion confit with Juniper berries). Ballotine means "bundle" in French and that's just what it is, a bundle of meat, nuts and other goodies, wrapped, cooked and sliced. In this case it included venison and foie gras.

For a main course, Margene went for Risotto carnaroli à la crème de truffe blanche (Carnaroli risotto with white truffle cream). Carnaroli is a medium-grain Italian rice traditionally used to make risotto. I liked the Carré de veau rôti au poivre de timut, sur une tarte fine de champignons d’automne (roasted veal steak with Timut pepper on a thin tart of autumn mushrooms). It came with a roasted beet, a broccoli floret and a small roasted potato. The size of the plate makes the serving look small, but the portion size was quite ample.

Margene finished with a double espresso but we both passed on dessert. Frankly their selection was small and nothing really jumped out at us ... except the 12 euro dessert prices! It was a $120 lunch, certainly not something we would do on a regular basis, but a worthwhile experience and a nice way to acknowledge another year in the great adventure.

After lunch we took the long way back to the apartment in the hope we would find a patisserie open so we could pick up some chaussons aux pomme (apple turnovers) for breakfast. All three of our immediate sources were closed so I guess I have my morning's work cut out for me. The big bird at a restaurant by the canal reminded me that if you have a statue like this, people will take pictures of it ... and of their friends standing next to it. If you go this route, make sure your restaurant's name will show up in the finished picture. The Christmas markets were still drawing crowds although we saw no evidence of post-Christmas markdowns. The little blue building in the last photo is Murphy's, a hole-in-the-wall cafe where we got a decent burger on an evening ramble a few nights ago. Yes, the burger craving is always there for Americans.

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