Sunday, July 09, 2006

French Breakfasts:

Well, I really threw in the towel on vegetarianism with leisurely breakfast dates with my girlfriends. It's that butter damnit! One sweltering morning, two friends and I headed from Chelsea to the Meatpacking district searching for a breakfast spot with three qualifications: 1. the place must have outside seating (although I never intended on eating without airconditioning, it's all about the ambiance) 2. fruit salad must be on the menu 3. they had to have tartine. And, I suppose there was one more, that they be serving breakfast, since it was after 11.

One of the girls with me was the same friend I'd traveled to Paris with last summer, with great taste but a temperamental digestive system and picky food habits. We woke up late in that mecca of culinary delights, and all she wanted was a tartine, but the French don't like to serve them after 11 or so. A tartine is simply a section of fresh baguette, halved lengthwise and lightly toasted, served with butter and preserves or jam. Thus, it seemed utterly ridiculous (and extremely frustrating to our hungry stomachs) that, since all French restaurants, large or small, always have baguettes on hand, that they would not serve one to us. Maybe they didn't want their lunch tables occupied by toast eaters, who knows (wait--that can't be, because a frenchman will sit leisurely for hours over a single bottle of perrier or a cup of coffee).

Back to New York--after perusing menus and venues, and actually sitting down in the back garden at Parador, until we found out that they had neither #2 or #3, we ended up accross the street at Pastis, always a reliable classic. (Pastis was actually the firs sceney NY restaurant I'd ever been too, a foody friend of my parents brought us there for breakfast on a college trip to the city, since it had just opened and only celebrities could get in for lunch or dinner. She's actually a friend of Mario Batali, and an absolutely fabulous woman). A world cup game (france v. italy?) was projected onto a huge screen that was pulled down behind the bar, and we watched the people watching it over our cappuccinos and lattes. We ate plates of ripe berries with fresh whipped cream along with our much awaited tartines (and the bread was perfect, crisp but soft, not the least bit chewy).

A few days later the same two friends and I met at Balthazar, where I'd wanted to go for a long time (I'd been there once for dinner a few years ago), because of their ajacent bakery. And it looks like Paris inside. I really do love it there. Actually, I think Balthazar and Pastis are owned by the same person. Anyway, we shared housemade granola (granola at those places really is the best--golden, perfectly separated oats, nuts, maybe a little coconut, maybe some raisins, organic plain yogurt), tartine of course, and eggs florentine--two poached eggs atop baked spinach and artichoke hearts, with a little hollandaise and crispy sprinkled cheese of some sort, really good.

All of this tartine talk, combined with my company that week (old friends from Kauai), brought me back to memories of a favorite high school snack--Safeway french bread freshly baked but 10 times the size of a french baguette (and it was only a dollar or something). We'd buy one along with some chocolate milk after school or on the way home from a party, and rip it apart or just dig out the soft white center if we weren't hungry enough to devour the whole loaf. At one friend's house I'd cut a piece off, put it in the toaster oven, and eat it with butter, and at another's we'd always make these sandwiches with cheddar cheese, sprouts and this one kind of bottled salad dressing. She was a vegetarian.

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