Sunday, April 06, 2008

When in Paris, act like the Parisians!

A little touch of Paris

This was our first choice for celebrating this night.

Last month, my husband, and I quietly celebrated our thirty-first wedding anniversary by spending time alone together, enjoying a lovely dinner at a new restaurant called "Cafe de Paris" in a different city than where we resided. It was a strange co-incidence that I suddenly remembered an advertisement I'd seen for this same restaurant quite a while ago, and wondered if it was perhaps similar to another Café de Paris in Vancouver, B.C. I’d been enchanted with for so many years and was never able to visit.

Oh, but a woman can dream can’t she?

I actually saved the full-page glossy-papered article for several years about the Vancouver location, the one I'd torn from an older copy of a Fairmont Hotel magazine, presenting that particular location in the west, and by the time we had already moved east, I had not given it another thought, until this exact night.

Our son’s hockey team made it into the hockey playoffs, and was scheduled to play a game in the same city this particular restaurant was located this night, thus the reason why we chose to eat there. We were not exactly suited up for a fine dining establishment, but we would attempt to have a nice dinner there while our son prepared and practiced in advance of his game's start time.

After a quick drive by the "Cafe de Paris", and quickly glancing through the windows, we noticed many empty tables with very few patrons dining inside. We couldn’t help but admire the older remodeled building itself as it seemed to compliment and offer a unique and fun Parisian flair to the vicinity, additionally it had perfect colors to get one dreaming of Paris; black, red and white.

As we walked up the snowy sidewalk towards the restaurant doorway, the black and white stripped awning which led the evening's patrons directly to the red wooden front doors welcomed us forward into the building. Once stepping through the entryway, a large red carpet before us beckoned us inside, and in its center was an image in black of the Eiffel Tower”. The carpet led directly towards the welcome desk, where a myriad of “Café de Paris” souvenirs were on display for purchase.

A woman appeared within seconds after we'd entered through the front doorway, her cheery voice resonating with ; “Bonjour Madame et Monsieur.”

Sheepishly we inquired whether or not there was a standing dress code expectation for the restaurant. Immediately following, a genuinely warm and welcoming smile came across the woman's face and she told us if it were the weekend, perhaps more so than during a week night. With one brisk motion, she ushered us towards the entrance's red curtain overhang attached high above the doorway, near the glass brick block wall, adorned with gold braided cording and matching tassels to tie them back out of the way on each side. In no time at all, we were seated at a lovely table near an arched window.

As we were led to our table, I found myself becoming completely absorbed with many other fine details of the French styled décor surrounding us, plunging both my husband and I into a momentary feeling of sheer opulence and extravagance. Everything was all so "chic" and so “french.”

Naturally we were not going to be walking on a yellow brick road here (wink), rather along typically “Parisian” black and white checkered tiled flooring flowing from the initial foyer greeting area, mixed in with a wooden floor, throughout the rest of the restaurant.

Typical Parisian chic decor greeted us everywhere.

Almost as if in sync, and feeling slightly surreal over finally being here live and in person (Remember, a girl can dream can't she, as I'd done for several years already.), my hubby and I both turned towards one another at the same time, making a quick bit of eye contact as only a married couple of many years can, as if to both concur in agreement with a slight nod, this will likely become a “new” favorite restaurant for the future. I even almost heard myself whistling out a faint cry of “Ooh-la-la!”

As with many fine dining establishments, the waiter began the evening with his speal, and we were intrigued to find this “Café de Paris” restaurant is actually a chain of sorts, with 189 of them throughout the world. The most famous is of course in France, and the next is in London, England, with others spread all over a world.

Their menu is simple, the food fresh, and the waiter noted all “Café de Paris Restaurants” are famous for their sauces. He encouraged my husband to preside as host to his dinner companion (moi) by participating in praiseworthy male chivalry, firstly when he offered my husband his menu and making note only the monsieur’s copy included the meal fees. Then he politely informed him, when the time came for the main entrée, the restaurant placed a silver warming server in the center of the table, along with other covered dishes and the "Monsieur" was expected to serve the "Madame" her meal, not the waiter, once it was all set up for him on the table.

Their menu consists of classic French cuisine utilizing local seasonal ingredients only. The standard norm is to indulge in a choice of meat, fish or a vegetarian meal included in their standard four or five course meals. You read that right! Four or five courses!

From an appetizer to begin with, and a dessert selection included, each course serving became a feast with continued elegant presentations, all creating within me a sudden grand desire to drool over everything. Plenty of “oohs and ahhhs” escaped from my mouth over the course of the evening, and every little moment became a sensational experience to behold. “C’est manifique!” I thought. “Ooh-la-la!”

I loved this place already and thought I would just allow the ongoing moments to fill me up with the ambiance of the evening; everything from the soft glow of candlelight, to the culinary experience about to unfold ahead, and the additional flair of traditional french music filling the air with its sound.

Beginning with the visit from the fresh
baguette cart, fresh pieces of warm steamy
bread were placed into a cloth-lined basket.

An appetizer was too pretty to eat!

What's a Parisian meal without French Onion soup?

"A bit of sorbet to cleanse the palette Madame?"

(lousy pic, sorry)

My "Monsieur" is now responsible to serve his longtime bride.

Lovely stemware graced the table, our glasses refreshed often with fresh scented lemon water, to compliment our glasses of wine nearby. After all, we were in France, oui, oui? However, it was the cute (!) little white duck we wondered about, a knife settee so the butter would not touch the tablecloth, a signature item available for purchase in their glass-cased boutique at the entryway.

Dessert menu

The dessert selections were presented on tiny cards, laced together with a small white tassel for our eventual selection for the evening’s dinner fare ending.

Trifle with berries...yum!

And, just when we couldn’t imagine eating any more, as I settled back in my chair surrendering to a full belly, slowly sipping on my delicately decorated latte, I spotted the waiter coming towards us again, tray in hand, carrying a red rose, and he began setting down something else!

First though, the rose he said was for the Madame. Ah, how sweet, apparently a little tradition at this restaurant. He also served us both an after dinner aperitif along with a small plate with two Eiffel Tower shaped chocolate on the side of the plate the tiny glass sat upon. Gee, we had already had one milk chocolate one served in the dessert, but two.

Oh yes, the French do love their sweets too, don’t they? I settled for only the chocolate and skipped the aperitif, feeling rather full from all the course servings we enjoyed so much throughout the evening. Sheer decadence is one way I would describe the evening for sure, however in the future I would settle for fewer courses myself. I had the feeling we might "roll" out of the restaurant or offered more food is we stayed too much longer...LOL

Yes, "mon amour" and I have decided this has to be a new favorite for us. How about next year then, same date, same time? Perhaps we can visit another location somewhere in the world, oui?

It’s a date!