1950s Archive

Food Flashes

Originally Published August 1951

Hearing the cheering from the birthday party across the Atlantic, we decided to go. France holds celebration for beloved Paris, two thousand years old, Europe's oldest capital after Athens and Rome. Too much fun to be missing.

Paris is fun-crazy, holding fairs and fireworks; fountains play evenings with lighting effects, famous buildings are Spotlighted to show off the architectural details. But we went to visit the restaurants, to look in on the markets, to shelf-browse among groceries.

The French claim to be experts in three things: love, food, and wine. In the food and wine category we can swear now by their talents. This eating pilgrimage started on the evening of June first when we boarded Air France's super de luxe, nonstop New York to Paris plane, the Parisian. The take-off nine o'clock, the sky still washed in the lingering pinks of sunset. Our flying altitude of 18, 000 feet attained, dinner was served, it was ten o'clock, but not loo late for dining in the French manner.

Dining on Air France is a capital D occasion and has been since the inaugural flight, which we were fortunate enough to make in late June, 1946. Those French are a canny lot; they know where they shine! They have made their air cuisine representative of the best one can find in the gastronomical temples of Old Lady Paris herself. So it was we went French at the table before we touched France.

Welcome the steward with a tray load of bottles offering apéritifs. French passengers favored vermouth, the sweet, served very well chilled with a twist of lemon's bright peel. Two sips and old earth and old problems slip into obscurity; we are flying the ocean on a light cloud of French hospitality. The first course, hors-d'oeuvre, included the Romanoff caviar de beluga on Melba toast, foie gras prepared in putt pastry by Edouard Artzner. There was heart of artichoke with a tomato quarter neatly poised as for take-off.

Even aboard the plane the French consider nothing more important than the arrival of the entree. Here, as at the theater, a second's delay comprises the success of the whole entertainment. The main dish, poularde bimillénaire de Paris, was hurried down the aisle, each guest served quickly from a sizzling casserole. This was chicken in a rich dark sauce made with the nippings of truffle. Surely, the French know about the human treatment of the bird. There was a helping of rice, those little French peas, miniature carrots, a European variety, and green beans slender as grass blades. The green salad, then, with a French dressing and cheese, a choice of three kinds. White or red wines to choose, wines of good years.

Champagne came with the dessert, the fresh fruits of the season: plums, peaches, cherries. For the sweet bite, crêpes dentilles de Bretagne, thin leaves of pastry rolled like the French pancake and baked to the crispness and color of a dried oak leaf in autumn. The flavor is of caramelized sugar blended with butter; one swift bite and a million flakes on the tongue! Coffee, piping hot; have it black with cognac.

The first evening in the birthday city, a home dinner with the Renaud Dolfis in avenue Victor-Hugo. A simple dinner beginning with an egg soup, followed by a cold roasted chicken, French fried potatoes fresh from the fat pot, and a green salad with a French dressing made into walnut oil, tossed and retossed until every leaf glistened. Dessert was the little French strawberry with Normandy cream so thick it had to be coaxed to drop from the spoon.

The French walnut oil is selling now in New York City, a golden-hued oil coming from Bourgueil in the valley of the Loire near Tours. This oil is a luxury even in France, where it is much liked combined with a wine and vinegar base in a dressing for field salad. The oil has more aroma than the oil of olive. Is more nutty in flavor. Pricc $4.50 a quart, sold in New York City by Charles and Company, 340 Madison Avenue; Vendomc Table Delicacies, 415 Madison Avenue; Hammacher Schlemmer, 145 hast Fifty-seventh Street; and Maison Glass, 15 East Forty-seventh Street.

Coffee in the living room with a choice of two brandies made by the Dolfi Brothers and a Framberry liqueur, this last available here in the States. A dry white brandy penetrated by the flavor of raspberry, delicate and yet potent, the Dolfi Framboise d'Alsace is imported by Bellows, 67 East Fifty-second Street, New York City; the price, $12.42 for 25.6 ounces.

Our first Sunday in France, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Vaudable, owners of the famous Maxim's, invited us for lunch at the Auberge de la Moutiere in Montfort l'Amaury, thirty miles out of Paris. There isn't space here to tell about this unique restaurant; once a country bistro, now a smart dining place where the Parisians like gathering on week ends, whether winter or summer. Lunchcon was served under a pear tree in the luxuriant garden enclosed at the rear.

A cheese omelette for the first course; broiled lamb chop, plain with crisp water cress. A ton of calories in the dessert Louis Vaudable urged us to try. This is a creation he introduced at Maxim's and gave permission for its use to his friend, Maurice Carrére, owner of this country inn. A fresh cream cheese, coeur à la crème, is formed in individual heart shapes, one to a portion. Over this a dip of the thick Normandy cream; and now for the novelty: A little bowl of finely ground dark roast coffee is passed to sprinkle spoonful by spoonful over the cream; then granulated sugar to taste.

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