January 2004 Archives




I'm getting a fresh perspective on the state of French-American relations from a bar stool in Belltown.

Pro wrestling is on TV. The villain wears a beret and a Jean-Claude Van Damm sneer. He taunts the crowd by unfurling the French tricolor. When he gets roundly trounced by good guys in Desert Storm fatigues, the emcee shouts, "What a great time to be an American!" Deafening cheers.

The faux Frenchie's nom-de-ring is Rob Van Damm, from Battle Creek, Mich., no less, who's managed to turn his Muscles from Brussels character into a pitiful Pirate of Paris. The audience may have little sense of geography, but even here at the tavern they need someone to boo and hate, non? Mais oui. "Fuck the French," the guy to my left growls into his Fat Tire.

Time warp to Rover's and free-flowing champagne two days later...

A Bad Meal In Paris

Why now ? After all, Cornichon is supposed to tell you what's good and why. But here we are ... a rant about a bad meal in Paris.
Scene: the Place des Vosges, one of the most harmonious squares in Paris, in the heart of the Marais, a newly fashionable place to live. And popular with tourists.
Place des Vosges 2.jpg Pot au feu w Arcades.jpg.JPG

Time: lunch hour. Place: a restaurant called Guirlande de Julie, where I'd eaten twice before. Specialty is that hearty cold-weather dish, pot-au-feu. A simple boiled dinner. Beef brisket, broth, fresh winter vegetables [carrots, leeks, onions, potatoes]. With mustard & cornichons. Cornichons in a little crockpot, with wooden tongs to extract them. Ah yes, except that there were no cornichons.

Still, looked great when served. Looked OK on the plate, too. [The French say "in" the plate, perhaps because their plates are more concave than American dishes.]

But yikes, the meat ! Supposed to be meltingly tender. Barely need to approach with knife, it falls apart. Not this time. Tough as a straw mattress. Felt glued together. Almost inedible.

Complained to waitress, Nathalie, who'd already let me know she was a student in economics. Wants to work in tourism, could I help ? Not a chance, sweetheart.

After all, you didn't even remember to bring the cornichons !

Soif Quenches a Thirst in Santa Cruz

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Thirsty again, I'm clomping awkwardly along the streets of downtown Santa Cruz on Saturday afternoon in a pair of mark-down sandals from Long's Drugs, having trashed my tennies in the surf. Fortunately, beachwear was on clearance, so they let me walk off in these for 35 cents a toe. I round the corner at Pacific and Webster and find, in my path, a Sign. Heaven-sent, it seems, to slake my parched palate: Soif.

Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something to deserve this.

In I go and hop onto a stool facing the four-cell, sixteen-bottle WineKeeper. My toes feel better already.

My senses tell me this is a real wine bar for real people. They've just finished a tasting of half a dozen rieslings, any one of which I could still try for $2 a taste. Or a flight of four whites from north-central Italy for $11, or five Tuscan reds for $20.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

February 2004 is the next archive.

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