Friday, March 16, 2007


At the end of the long thick plank of a wooden bar, I sat in the shadows by myself. A glass of ’03 Pineraie Cahors on my left, White Haven New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on my right. I took alternate sips of each as I savored every bite of my tasty little dinner.

I stopped into Noble Rot last tonight because my friend was working. Late in the afternoon, I took one of the last open seats at the bar, all the way down, where the food comes from the kitchen. In front of me stood two huge jars: one full of marcona almonds, the other of house-marinated olives. It wasn’t even six o’clock yet, but the room was sufficiently low-lit to urge on the start of an evening of solid wine drinking.

“The Rot” divides their wines by the glass into flights based on themes or regions, which is always entertaining. For my first glass I debated between that Cahors, from a flight of such, and a Barbera. As mentioned, I decided on the former, which was slightly stronger and more to the point than the slippery, cool Barbera. A little bit more, shall we say, “saturday night.” Glass in hand, I studied the specials board up on the wall to my left, and my gaze immediately got caught on the first item: Rabbit Cassoulet (for only $13). Slightly weary of rich food (as French cuisine is prepared in the restaurant in which I work), I ordered it anyway. The last time I sat down to a dinner of laupin was when I was actually in Paris, over a year ago.

I asked for a little wedge of some type of triple-cream cheese that looked a like camembert, and I spread it all over little rounds of soft artisan bread. The restaurant was busy, and I enjoyed sitting there, planted in my little spot in the corner, legs a bit road-weary from exploring the neighborhood all afternoon. I browsed through the first few pages of the Wine Spectator, perfectly content listening to music and the orders being called to the kitchen.

That cassoulet was divine. It turned out to be quite delicate for a traditional dish like that. The rabbit was first prepared confit-style, imbuing a fantastic smoky flavor in the meat. It was shredded, slightly crispy, and set amongst beans and vegetables (cubes of turnip, celeriac, and arugula) in what was more like a broth than a roux based sauce. I ate it slowly and deliberately, stretching out the dish’s deliciousness with my little pieces of bread. And wine.

When I finished, definitely satisfied, the chef, an acquaintance, came over and asked me about my meal, followed by the question, “is there anything you DON’T eat?” I paused for a second, and answered, “not really, except maybe sweatbreads, tripe...offal.” “All meat?” “Yep.” He approved, and walked away, returning about ten minutes later with a gift of short-rib ravioli with two sauces—creamy blue cheese and a bordelaise. Topped with crispy shallots. I felt lucky. But overly stuffed. Like a goose on a fois gras farm. My friend brought me a glass of dessert wine (a Tokaji, I believe). I sipped the golden liquid from a tiny antique glass. When it was finally all gone, and I felt at the height of my most cosmopolitan, most Parisian, I said my goodbyes and stepped out into the night. Then I walked to catch the bus.

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