Yesterday's NY Times article on La Tour d'Argent, the old school fancy restaurant in Paris that lives on generations down the line, triggered some memories for me.
According to this web site I found, this restaurant has been around since the dawn of time--truly, for hundreds of years in some form or other. So, when my parents brought me and my brother there, circa 1985, it was--how do you say?--quite well-established.
To say we had no money back then isn't entirely true, I guess, since there we were, a family of four in Paris, on vacation. But this trip was certainly a luxury, and one that I imagine my parents had to budget for very carefully. They understood that France is about food. So in between Louvre visits and Tour Eiffel climbings, they scheduled in two fancy dinners, one of which was at the Michelin-starred La Tour d'Argent.
I will not forget that plate of food for as long as I live; I had never seen food presented before. 3 small medallions of beef arranged in a circle, interspersed with little bundles of buttered, julienned carrots, each tied with a chive. And a small dome of potatoes in the center. Amazing! And 6 waiters circling around the table like synchronized swimming swans.
On the way out we stopped in the gift shop and my father scrounged together the remaining francs in his pocket to buy an insanely overpriced ashtray as a reminder of this decadent French evening.
P.S. The next day I insisted on being brought to McDonald's on the Champs Elysees, declaring myself "sick of French food." A Canadian TV station snagged us on the way out, interviewing us to find out why in god's name we would travel to France, the home of fine dining, and go to eat at McDonald's. My parents were mortified, but said nothing, my father no doubt fingering the porcelain ashtray in his pocket.