Five Paris Bistros - Chez L'Ami Jean, Chez Michel, L'Os à Moelle, Repaire de Cartouche, L'Entredgeu
I was having lunch at Chez Georges, not the one near the Port Maillot but the one just off the Place des Victoires in the 2nd, and the place was full and absolutely buzzing. I had just finished doing some damage to a large pot of very tasty pork rilletes, and now a plate with three deftly grilled rib lamb chops were placed in front of me. Sitting beside the chops was a small pile of haricots verts. You know the French kind. Thin as toothpicks with ends that wither into threads so thin you could use them to sew buttons. The lamb was done just the way I liked it—charred on the outside and rosy in the center. A sprinkle of fleur de sel to finish it off and you had a classic bistro dish. But then I tasted the haircots verts. Before I say anything further I should tell you that I'm pretty much a meat guy and I usually view the vegetables as being perfunctory. But I don't dismiss them to the point of not trying them, so after a couple of forks of lamb I tasted the haricots vert. Surprisingly they had a superior flavor. In fact they were so good that I actually took a second, and then a third forkfull.
It was at that point that I noticed the owner of the restaurant rushing past my table. I called out to him, "Monsieur Bernard" (Bernard, whom I know for many years is the son of George the original owner of the bistro), "the haricots vert are especially delicious today." Now the typical protocol when you compliment a restaurant owner on the quality of his ingredients is his offer of thanks, combined with a slightly prolongued smile and the offer of a slight nod of the head as a way to accent the thanks. Sort of like a living accent égout. But Bernard missed his cue and instead a serious look came upon his face. After pausing for a second he looked at me with a slight frown and said, "They come from Kenya, that's the business today". The irony of the situation wasn't lost on either of us. We looked at each other for a moment while I struggled to find the words to respond. Before I could utter a sound he shrugged and that freed us from being tied to further conversation. We nodded at each other as a way of acknowledging our mutual disappointment. Then in a flash Bernard was off to tend to another table.