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Ah Paris. City of Light. Where American's go when they die, according to some, and a moveable feast to others. But regardless of how romantic you feel about it, leaving Las Vegas in the dead of winter to suffer the slings and arrows of the haughty French and the humorless Germans made perfect sense to me. Sure it was cold over there, and snowy and politically unfriendly. And the dollar has taken such a drubbing by the Euro that I half expected to see soup kitchens for destitute Americans lining the Champs-Elysee. But keeping up my street cred as a critic takes time, money and the occasional ten hour flight, so off I was.
The point of my excursion was basically to escape the porcine monotony of German food....a rigorously enforced diet that apparently loses major nutritional points if three kinds of sausage, two softball-sized dumplings and a mountain of spaetzle are not included on every plate. And don't even get me started on the strict German decorum that insists upon five liters of beer being consumed at every meal.
So after a week of this ....uhm....er....cuisine, I hopped a train for Gay Paree. Like a big game hunter I intended to stalk and capture as much Alsatian food as possible. The reason being that this easternmost French province serves the heartiest, most rib-stickin' fare in the country, and does so without the boring redundancy that German cooks can't seem to escape. Germans may serve- sauerkraut, but Alsatians make it sing by spicing it up with everything from juniper berries to Champagne. And Alsace is the capital of foie gras....goose foie gras to be precise, the silkiest and sexiest liver you'll ever gorge yourself on. Pair these up with a tarte flambee and a couple of bottles of Tokay Pinot Gris or Riesling, and you're talking about the perfect cold weather food.
And that pretty much describes the meal I had at Brasserie Flo, a one hundred an thiry year institution that opened-like many Parisian brasseries-after the Germans captured Alsace in 1871 and the French natives rebelled at having to live under so many consonants.
Amazingly, in spite of the dollar's decline in value, my brasserie meals were quite reasonable, so you can imagine the sticker shock I experienced when I cruised by a Michelin 3-star temple of gastronomy that I had eaten in five years ago on my quest to dine in all of the top restaurants of France. I expected a sharp rise in prices, but I wasn't expecting the appetizers to weigh in at 80 euros per....or around $100 for your first course. with Main courses checking in at 90 Euros and going up to 120....that's almost a hundred and fifty dollars for an entrée. With desserts costing a least 30 bucks a pop, you're talking a 300 dollar stroke, before you order a drop to drink.
After catching my breath, I decided to give those liver dumplings in Munich a second chance. But then I remembered the one about the bad German restaurant...... the spaetzle was cold, the sauerkraut wasn't....and the wurst was yet to come.