Sometimes I need to be reminded of why I am living in Paris. I talked yesterday (or was I complaining, I can’t recall) about traffic here and there are times when I am really at the end of my Parisian rope, but it happened that today after having my annual optical exam, I was drawn like a magnet to the monument that is La Tartine at 24, rue Rivoli in Paris. This wonderful institution is a little brasserie specializing in a good wine selection by the glass but more importantly, an impressive cheese collection sold on toast – “tartines” in French. If you didn’t already know, besides wine, cheese, and gastronomy, the French are also quite serious about their bread. There is, of course, the stereotypical baguette but you shouldn’t forget the pleasures of pain poilâne. I guess that the yeast for San Francisco sourdough bread may be the same strain in pain poilâne because of its rich taste and luscious texture. I am saying all of this because the “tartines” at La Tartine are legendary.
Now, I am dating myself a bit, but back in the 90’s I live about a block and a half away from La Tartine. I didn’t go all the time but sometimes would go there as a treat to myself. It was a bit rundown at the time and perhaps could have been described as shabby. That being said, I fell immediate in awe of the tartines. They had one called “fromage fort” (strong cheese) which I learned today was – and I am not kidding – outlawed in about 2000. This was fromage that made your nipples hard, your hair stand up, your nose nearly crumple off, and your taste buds howl in pain. But damn it was good! It was definitely a cheese to eat fast because otherwise, it would probably be out the door on its own. It was really THAT strong. Unfortunately, those days are now long gone and you are stuck with St Nectaire like I had with a glass of Crozes Hermitage which was actually quite pleasant. A guy at the bar got a sample of some roasted camembert with apricots which looked like ambrosia. He inquired the bartender about it and Fino the eavesdropper heard that the bartender had made it himself on his bbq. So, next time, you know which one I am going for!
So, next time you are at BHV and are wondering where to rest your shopping-weary feet and feast on something quick and scrumptious, head over to La Tartine. You will not be disappointed – unless you are, like I was, looking for the fromage fort 🙂