“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” ―Julia Child
The other day I was meandering around Vieux Nice, and lunch time was approaching. While passing the Bistro d’Antoine, a favorite restaurant of mine where I have eaten many times, I saw on le menu posted outside the restaurant, as is typically done all over France, that I could order une cuisse de canard sur grille for lunch. Basically, it is grilled duck with potatoes and other vegetables, depending on the restaurant.
The previous week I had ordered a similar dish at le Comptoir du Marché, a restaurant not far from Le Bistro d’Antoine that has a similar style.
I wanted to compare the preparations for this dish, which is a typical plat français. I wanted to know if the two dishes were correct, as my French tutor might say, that is, were they proper, accurate, right.
I made reservations for 12:15, even though the church tower clock over my shoulder said 11:45. From previous experiences with Le Bistro d’Antoine and other popular restaurants, I have learned that arriving at noon and asking for a table without having reserved one may result in being turned away because the restaurant est complet, is fully booked.
“Il faut manger pour vivre et non pas vivre pour manger.” –Molière, L’Avare
My table was ready when I arrived. After getting settled, the waiter asked if I wanted an aperitif or something else to drink, which could mean an aperitif, a glass of wine, or some water. Typically, I say, “no.” If I want to practice my French, I mention that I will order some wine once I have decided what I will eat. Why order a glass of red wine when the main dish will be a delicate fish in a cream sauce?
The first order of business then is choosing something to eat. Typically, that is a bit more complicated in France than in the United States. Will you choose la formule? Which might consist of one, two, or three dishes, and sometimes four dishes? Will you choose a combination of the three? Or, will you go with one of the many suggestions du chef? Or, will you look past those options and decide from the à la carte menu?
I decided easily enough, because I was going to order the cuisse de canard sur grille. My only hesitation was what I wanted for the entrée, the first course.
“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.” ―W.C. Fields
Grilled duck was to be the main course. Meat. Red wine.
In the United States one has generally two options when ordering wine during a meal–a glass or a 75cl bottle.
In France, depending on the restaurant, one can order a glass, un quart de vin (25cl), a half bottle (37.5cl), a half bottle (50cl), a bottle (75cl), or a liter (100cl).
Lately, and depending on the restaurant again, I have been ordering bottles of wine–37.5cl or 50cl. (The reasons are many and should be explained later.) At Le Bistro d’Antoine I opted for the 50cl of a Côtes du Rhône, a nice red wine that I know well. (I will never finish the bottle.)
In addition to the wine I might ask for a bottle of water or une carafe d’eau, a pitcher of water.
“One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters…But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you chose. But get drunk.” ―Charles Baudelaire But wait, there’s more!