We’ve been eating out a lot more than usual lately. Perhaps it’s because of the holidays? Don’t you always feel that it’s fun to meet friends and loved ones at restaurants for memorable meals when it’s getting colder and the days are shorter? I always do. I’m a bit worried about the potential adverse effect on my waistline that this could cause, but perhaps I need to simply re-embrace the French Women Don’t Get Fat philosophy, and enjoy life sensibly but fully.
French is on my mind today while thinking about our recent trip to Chez Papa Bistrot. Hegui took me there for my birthday last week. It’s a fairly small, romantic restaurant on 18th Street in Potrero Hill. We’ve been and enjoyed ourselves several times in the past. The food is classic bistro-style French. They’ve got an interesting selection of wines from which to choose. A couple years ago we discovered the 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape Saint Dominique Secrets de Pignan; the wine that made Hegui a lifetime lover of Châteauneuf du Pape. Happening across that luscious wine was just dumb luck. This visit we tried a Chinon as I’d recently read an article in Wine Spectator suggesting that the Loire region of France produces wonderful though often overlooked wines. It was good but not amazing.
We ordered the Mussels Niçoise with a side of pommes frites to start. It was slow to come, so we sipped wine and chatted over bread and French butter. The wait was worth it when the scrumptious mussels in a delightful white wine sauce finally arrived. For our “grandes assiettes” Hegui tried the Grilled ahi tuna with potatoes Salardaise, frisee salad & bordelaise sauce. I had the Sautéed branzini with braised fennel, chanterelles, Brussels sprouts and sherry burre blanc. Both dishes tasted great and the sauces that they were in were divine. It came as a rude shock to discover hidden between Hegui’s potatoes bits of bacon! I guess we naively thought that a fish dish would be meat-free. We should have asked as it spoiled the night for Hegui. Too bad! I’ve subsequently looked at on-line recipes for pommes Salardaise. The meat or animal fat seems optional if I’m reading right. I guess the French work in mysterious ways.
So except for the slow service and the bacon bits, the dinner at Chez Papa Bistrot was marvelous. The maitre d’ knew that service had been slow so offered us complementary dessert drinks at the end. We skipped dessert itself and instead went to John’s for homemade carrot cake without the pineapple (I’m still allergic). What a great day!