That, my dears, is what you call a Grand Marnier soufflé. Julie and I split it tonight after dinner (and don’t get huffy with me; Lent doesn’t start for us Orthodoxes until Monday).

Julie and I had a late lunch of galettes and Breton cidre, then daundered around the city this afternoon. We stopped at my favorite secular shrine for a birthday shot (I’ll go have a dozen oysters there tomorrow):

Then we went into the church of St. Germain des Prés to admire and to pray. I love this statue of St. Benedict in an austere side chapel:

Afterward, we strolled through the Latin Quarter, and ended up at Mariage Frères to buy tea for ourselves and our daughter, who loves tea from this special place. How did a fathead like me end up with a wife so beautiful? It is a mystery:

Then, under grey skies, in a drizzle, we made our way to the church of St. Etienne du Mont, where what is left of the relics of St. Geneviève of Paris remain, along with the slab that was her tomb. I have a special devotion to this great 5th century saint, the patroness of Paris. During the French Revolution, a mob broke into her tomb, stole her body (which had been venerated there for over a thousand years), carried it down to a square by the Seine, burned it, and threw the ashes in the Seine. Parts of her bones were spared, though, and the stone on which her body lay from the fifth to the ninth centuries is still in the church. It’s inside the structure on the left of this photo. In the center, I do believe that is a shard of the saint’s bone, inside the glass cylinder. I lit candles for friends who asked me to remember them in prayer:

I prayed a litany before the saint’s grave. Then we went back to the hotel to rest before dinner.

We dined at a classic French bistro near the Boulevard Montparnasse (sad news, by the way: Le Bec Rouge, the neighborhood Alsatian joint where I first tried choucroute garni, has permanently closed). That’s where we shared the transcendent Grand Marnier soufflé. Before, though, I ate stuffed morel mushrooms. Look at these beauties:

As we started our meal, a wonderfully wacky French couple came in and took the table next to ours. They were in late middle age, full of zest, and regulars at this place, given the reception they received. He looked like a beanpole Woody Allen, with a corona of fluffy curls framing his gaunt face. He looked like a tofu eater who teaches sociology at NYU. His wife was the Belle of the Boca Raton Ball, wearing sparkly clothes that were not appropriate for her age, her hair bottle-blonde, her lips pouty from injections, and mascara like fondant spackling her Botox-paralyzed face. If Charo were a cake left out in the rain, she would have been this woman.

I loved her instantly. She spoke rapid French, impossible for me to understand. When my morels arrived, she looked at them and squealed, “Formidable!

The couple ordered a big bowl of some kind of creamy soup with shaved black truffles on top to share. They clinked their spoons as a kind of chin-chin before diving in. No kidding, they were really cute, clearly still very much in love with each other. I wouldn’t even bother telling you about them except for this one thing, this very, very impressive thing, this thing that will make them live forever in my memory.

The waiter brought their entrée out, and my jaw hit the floor. It was a massive cut of beef, at least four pounds of meat. The waiter sliced it tableside, and served each one a large platter of beef scarlet red with blood. They were beside themselves with delight. Formidable, indeed.

How on earth is that woman going to eat all that beef? I thought. I couldn’t have done it myself. And Tofu Man, can he really put all that bloody meat away? With the fried potatoes too?

I sat there and watch Charo eat every slice of her steak. Not only did she eat it, she ate it lustily. It was something to behold. Tofu Man at every last morsel of his beef too, but she, she is an Amazon who among us walks. These two oddball French folks clearly have an appetite for life.

As we stood to leave, we bid them farewell. I asked her if she had ordered the Grand Marnier soufflé for dessert.

Mais bien sûr!” she squealed. But of course!

Cuchi-cuchi, mes amis. Happy Valentine’s Day from Paris.