Charmed again: my dinner with Agnes

I find our evenings with friends in Paris especially charming.  Could it be the views? 


Tour Eiffel lights up at night, flashes at us, and the top light spins
A lovely wine
Brie, camembert, morbier (the one with the dark line down the middle), chevre, butter

Tonight, yes, with a balcony facing the Tour Eiffel at night when the weather permits an open window to the balcony.  The Tour flashes at night and the searchlight on top spins 360 degrees.


Could it be the wine?  Well, there is that.   The French often start with champagne, although in this case it was a white wine.  

Perhaps the cheese?  (The French usually serve butter with the cheese, this was an especially rich butter.)  I am forever shocked when the cheese comes out.  I’ve already had enough to eat, what with the snacks while we wait for the wine to age, the night to darken, the dinner to finish its oven time, the conversation to get past the what’s new stage.

The conversation never lags, in part because of the catch up conversations, the latest news about children and friends, and the news about the news.     Joining us:  the Romanian boyfriend, offering another perspective on things, shall we say, with a story about a disappearing ship.   

We have been to Romania twice, once in 1998 and again in 2004.  In 1998 the country was dirt poor.  There were few goods in the stores, and they had trouble making change for lack of currency.  We had a wonderful dinner in an Intercontinental hotel, with a live band.  It cost a mere $20, an amount then far beyond the means of the locals.  We were the only ones in the place for most of the evening.   It was so intimate that Peg sang with the band.  She has a lovely voice which I rarely get to hear.  By 2004 things had improved some and things are perhaps a bit better now but still some emigrate.  

We’ve met quite a few Romanians in our travels in Europe.  They look for better opportunities.  Most seem to struggle in the west though.  The next day we met another, the husband of a consultant, one of the few we have met who makes a good living in financial tech.  We know two restaurateurs in Valencia, both succeeding but working endless hours.   The consultant was born in Venezuela, whose disintegration goes far beyond even what happened to Eastern Europe during the transition to a market economy. 


Another evening was just with Americans, with equally charming views.


View from Mark’s Window


Mark is an exceptional cook with a neat apartment on’Ile Saint-Louis.  During the summer on the right bank there is music every night, lovely if you are me and there for an evening, but for those residents who can not tune it out it’s another matter.  Likewise with the lights from the tourist boats, and for metro riders who hear Have Naguila and Those Were the Days over and over again. 


I might tire of a tian if I had one every night, but never having the experience, it was highly rewarding.  I shall quote Mark on the serious matter of French cooking:  “The tian is the name of the round baking dish. Anything that’s made in it, then, is a tian. This one was a tian méridionale, basically the same veggies as a ratatouille… No browning; the veggies cooked slowly with olive oil and their own sugars until they caramelized.”  


A tian


The wines were superb.  Mark’s friend is a delight, someone whom we’d not met.   Here as at chez Agnes the conversations just flows.  Other Americans friends were there, whom we’ve known for going on 20 years.  They have spent far more than that in Paris for about 6 months at a time.  She in particular likes warm winters so they return to Florida.  She is a trained and very fine chef, about which I could go on and on.   

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