Averna and Bitter Lemon (and Paris) (May 7-14, 2012)

Last week I finally got around to going to Paris.

I was excited to go but hadn’t really thought about it much about it before I went. I had heard so many people rave about the city and just as many complain about how it wasn’t all that great, and I didn’t know what to make of all the info and opinions. Paris, unlike Berlin, is so mythologized in the minds of Americans that you’re almost guaranteed to be let down in one way or another if you fixate on having a certain experience. So I decided to spend a mere afternoon [ reading a few blogs on the subject ], and limited the information flow to a few suggestions from friends. As it turns out, this was a good plan. I really liked Paris.

I loved the tiled and brightly-lit métro stations. I didn’t care for the cost and hassle of buying tickets (Berlin as a city is much cheaper and easier than Paris in many ways) but I found myself riding around more than I probably had too because it was just fun.

I also was impressed with the density of parks and monuments, and the supreme sense of order that pervaded these. I suppose Paris was a pioneer in the whole urban planning thing and it shows. I really was taken aback by the extent to which its parks were manicured, even more so than the garden squares and parks of London. I only went into one museum during my time there, since the city itself felt a bit like a museum.

I liked how, in front of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, lines made of stone slabs radiated outward from a single point toward the city as if to envelop the whole thing in a net.

And, yes, there was food. I don’t have a great deal of cash and I wasn’t there for long, but I did make it a point to make the most of it. The first night I had the good fortune to overlap with a [ friend from Chicago ] who was on her way out. We went to a wine bar, had a planche de charcuterie and wines from the Languedoc and she told me amazing stories about her journeys through France. It was a great way to begin the trip.

Thanks to a handy set of recommendations from David Lebovitz’s blog, I also had [ a sort-list of places to try ] saved to my iPad. The two places that I tried (A la biche au bois and Breizh Café) were both recommended on his list, and were both winners.

I am not the right person to discuss Parisian cuisine, but I will share one memorable dinner that I had: A cold wine-based aperitif, which was delicious but whose name I forget. A salade perigourdine, served in this case with foie gras instead of the more traditional gesier de canard (confit of duck gizzards). Then there was roast duck with wild mushrooms followed by a cheese course and a chocolate mousse drenched in Grand Marnier. That night I drank Côtes du Rhône.

I didn’t do much food photography. I was eating alone most of the time and just thought it would be weird to whip out a camera. I did take a picture of the one felafel sandwich I had. I’ve got to say that I found it mediocre. The eggplant was oily and flavorless and the bread was tough. And it cost 5 euros.

So, I think I’ll be going back to Paris. Maybe with a friend or two instead of solo next time. I didn’t even see a fraction of the sights and there’s much more eating to be done I’m sure. I’ll budget a few more euros for the next trip and make sure that I don’t get Orly Sud mixed up with Orly Ouest, a mistake that almost made me miss my flight back to Berlin.

Finally, I have a drink recipe to post. There’s nothing particularly Parisian about it but I feel like the Parisians would enjoy it. It’s sophisticated and delicious and oh so easy to make. As will become clear on this blog, I have a “thing” for slightly-obscure Italian before- and after-dinner drinks. If I could afford it, I’d have the whole lot, from Aperol to vin santo, in my apartment at all times. Unfortunately, the current budget situation means that I have to limit myself to buying one new specialty liquor at a time and so I end up drinking a lot of the same thing for a couple of weeks. Fortunately, Averna (a type of amaro) is delicious and I haven’t gotten sick of mixing it with bitter lemon and a few ice cubes. It’s technically a digestif, but I drink it before dinner, in the late afternoon, with snacks.

Note: I usually make mine half the size of the following recipe, as my glassware is small. This makes for a nice, light drink.

Averna with Bitter Lemon

Ingredients (For one drink)

2 oz Averna

4 oz bitter lemon soda (I like Schwepps), or slightly more to taste

Lemon slice for garnish


Put 3-4 ice cubes in a highball glass (8-10 oz). Pour the Averna over the ice, then top off with bitter lemon. Garnish with the slice of lemon.

Serve with salty snacks, e.g. peanuts.

1 comment
  1. Br0aT said:

    Sing to us, o saladeer, o raconteur of salads,
    sing to us of salty snacks and solo sojurns
    in the city of light.

    Sing to us, too, of inversions and reversions,
    of salty sojurns and solo snacks,
    because the combinations and permutations
    that travel brings
    can be such sweet surprises.

    Then stroll the Champs Elysees, a tourist, and say
    that this is what our sustenance hath wrought.
    For it is this food that fueled the armies
    which passed ‘neath the ‘Arc.

    And it is
    those travels, far and wide,
    which brought and brings the victories,
    the defeats.

    And it is this food
    that fed and feeds the masses,
    the bricklayers, the stonemasons,
    and the grand dames of demitasses
    and delicacies.

    O saladeer, you cannot guarantee
    perfection. The eggplant is not always
    robust, nor the bread always supple.

    But does he not also glimpse greatness,
    he who sees greatness–
    in cuisine and travels and travails–
    turn its back?

    For the aperitif is not always sweet,
    it can be bitter.

    But sip it and say,
    that this, too, is an answer.
    Sip it and say,
    that there is solace, too,
    in these depths.

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