What a day! I met the indefatigable Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry for lunch today at Le Quincy, an old-style country French restaurant near the Gare de Lyon, very much off the tourist path. Jonah Goldberg was kind enough to recommend the place, and if I have been done a kinder turn by anyone, I can’t remember when it was. After checking out the menu online, and seeing it filled with rich French country fare, I asked PEG if he wanted to meet me there for a farewell-to-Paris lunch. After seeing this mouth-watering video last night in which the Quincy chef showed how he makes chou farci (stuffed cabbage), I knew what I was bound to order. Read on for an illustrated account of one of the best meals of my life.
I arrived first, and was shown to our table to await my dining companion. Le Quincy is a cozy place. Here’s the view from my table while waiting for PEG:
Don’t you want to eat there? I’ll answer that for you: yes, you certainly do. PEG arrived, and shortly thereafter, so did a basket of sausages:
PEG ordered a bowl of sliced cow snout. The waiter mistakenly also brought some fantastic homemade terrine, as well as tangy cabbage salad, and mustardy lentils. He also brought some hogshead cheese, which I’d never had before, but which was delicious. PEG uttered a series of words that had never been said in my presence: “You can tell it’s good head cheese because there’s a lot more nose than ear.”
And then came the massive chou farci, which was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Here is a clip of the waiter slicing and serving it:
The waiter departed with the happiest six words in any language: “Eat as much as you like.” Inasmuch as the thing was literally as big as a soccer ball, there was no chance we were going to eat more than two slices each. Lord knows we tried, washing down each succulent, porky bite. Look at this man below; does he look grateful to be alive?
After lunch — two slices each — we had to turn down the offer of a cheese plate. We finished our wine (Brouilly), and ordered the Vieille Prune de Bobosse, in which the eccentric and jolly owner, Bobosse, emerges to ritually warm enormous glasses of aged plum brandy over a candle perched on the table, while reciting some sort of poem he made up. He began by denouncing this “socialist-communist government” for forcing them to use smaller glasses than they would like. The glasses were massive. Bobosse poured them dramatically, sloshing one into the other, back and forth, and rolling them over a candle flame to cheer the spirits in the glass. And then he handed them over to us.
A wonderful taste, this! It’s a lot like cognac, but has a dimension of oaked fruit that is extraordinary. PEG and I were in paradise, drinking our warm vieille prune, and talking, talking, talking. We talked politics, we talked education, we talked the French Revolution, and America, and the Church, and … well, what didn’t we talk about? Bobosse came back to check on us, and to tell us goodbye, because lunch was over, and he was going home to rest before dinner. He agreed to have his photo taken with Your Working Boy.
And he showed me the bottle of delicious plum brandy we’d been drinking:
On the way to the bathroom, I had to pass through the galley kitchen, and got to speak to the chef, the same genius who was in the video I posted yesterday. He was so cheerful. We talked about the crawfish he had in the tank just out the back door; he said he thought Louisiana crawfish were bigger.
We saw Bobosse off, but not before he dosed us with even more vieille prune, gratis. By the time we polished the second helping off, it was 3:30pm. We were the last ones left in the place. We spent three and a half hours at lunch. Three and a half hours! And, given the quality of the food and the company, it was one of the most memorable meals of my life. I’m going back to Louisiana at week’s end a happy, happy man. Vive le Bobosse! Vive Le Quincy! Vive la France!
Seriously, dear people, if you are ever in Paris, and you fancy an authentic country French restaurant, I cannot recommend Le Quincy to you highly enough. I suspect you could get out of there in only two hours — but why on earth would you want to?