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For Americans, near and far, Thanksgiving has come and gone. For those of you in the US, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with several helpings of scrumptious classic dishes, American football, and food comas. Whether you subjected yourself to the madness of Black Friday, or have already begun decorating your homes with Christmas cheer, there is no denying that the winter holiday season is officially in full swing.
Over the last two years, I have spent my Thanksgiving holiday in the UK. Since I’m the American minority in my circles of friends (who are all either British or European), nothing would be more appropriate than imposing this yearly American tradition upon our friends. For my first expat Thanksgiving, I had the luxury of a double oven in our last flat, which helped me cater to our 15 guests. Our second Thanksgiving Feast last year, we were in a different flat, which had a huge kitchen, but only one oven. However, our guest list grew by at least a handful. Both Thanksgivings were a one-woman show, which was a marathon baking and cooking session that lasted more than 12 hours over two days. My cooking and organisation skills were put to the test. I guess having a supply chain background also helps with the planning of such a massive meal. Or maybe it’s my OCD. Preparing the Thanksgiving Feasts (12+ dishes for 15-25 people) on both occasions was incredibly exhausting, but SO rewarding to hear the praises from our friends throughout the meal.
Leading up to Thanksgiving this year, I started planning what I wanted to do. However, since I rejoined the professional working world after grad school, free time has been a bit scarce. To make things more complicated, our tentative guest list had doubled, and then some. When I throw a party, I invite everyone I know, and I like to mix and mingle friends. Since I’m the inclusive “the more, the merrier” type, the thought of not including some people was not really an option. In addition to this quandary, I spent the majority of November travelling for work and play on both sides of the Atlantic (Chicago and Paris, to be exact). So by the time I got back from France last Monday, thinking about Thanksgiving plans nearly induced an anxiety attack, especially since I would still be working the whole day on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The Yank-Scot Annual Thanksgiving Spectacular was no more this year. Instead, I just relaxed and counted the blessings in my life.
Although it was a non-existent Thanksgiving for me in the UK this year, I had an AMAZING time in Paris. I am so fortunate to have been able to travel to France as often as I have. This was my sixth return to Paris, and all I wanted to do was experience the City of Light through the eyes of friends, who are also French and Paris residents. I was visiting my dear friend Claire, and meeting her very lovely friends Marie, Benoit and Honorine. They were my gracious hosts, who helped me indulge in the time-honoured French sport of eating good food and drinking good wine. On my first night in Paris, we made our way to a wee restaurant close to where Marie and Benoit live in Montmartre. If you weren’t paying attention, you would easily miss Chez Toinette. Don’t be fooled by its appearance, because this unsuspecting restaurant is bursting with so much charm and flavour.
Prior to my arrival in Paris, Claire had already taken care of dinner plans, and promised it would be truly French. We stepped into Chez Toinette, where red velvet curtains concealed an intimate and warmly lit dining room. The host/waiter greeted us and sat us at our table in the back corner.
The menu is short but sweet, featuring French classics such as snails, foie gras, duck, veal, and lamb. If you love meat, welcome to your sanctuary. However, vegetarians, you’ve been warned. It took our party a while to decide because everything on the menu looked amazing, especially when we spied neighbouring diners’ plates. After looking over Chez Toinette’s offerings, I knew I had to have the snails to start, and the duck for my main, which Claire recommended. What followed was a superb gastronomical feast – warm, succulent, rich, and savoury.
For starters, Benoit had the Saint Marcellin rôti aux raisins et pignons de pin (Roasted Saint Marcellin – cow’s milk cheese – with grapes and pine nuts), while Marie and Honorine shared the Salade de maret de canard fumé à l’orange (Smoked duck breast salade with orange). Claire and I both ordered the Cassolette d’escargots en persillade (Cassolette of snails with garlic and parsley).
Cassolette d’escargots en persillade (Cassolette of snails with garlic and parsley): If you’ve been following ever epicurious, you will probably know that I love snails drowned in parsley garlicky butter. I was so impatient that I managed to burn my mouth with these piping hot delicate parcels of goodness. After devouring the cassolette d’escargots, I mopped up the remaining parsley garlic butter with the torn pieces of proper baguette (yup, the proper stuff; none of the super doughy ones you normally get in any generic UK grocery store).
We definitely had no issues finishing any of our starters. Shortly after our plates were cleared, our mains arrived hot from the kitchen. Honorine had the Filet mignon de porc sauce à l’estragon (Pork tenderloin with tarragon), while both Benoit and Marie ordered the Souris d’agneau confite au basilic (Lamb shank stew with basil – pictured below left). Claire had the Rognon de veau persillade (Veal kidney with parsley and garlic – pictured below right), and the Magret de canard aux miel et thym (Duck breast with honey and thyme) was my dish of choice.
Magret de canard aux miel et thym (Duck breast with honey and thyme): An incredible combination of sweet and savoury on a plate. The duck was a perfect medium-rare with a bit of pink inside. The honey, red berries, and apple provided a lovely natural sweetness to the duck. Accompanied with an array of roasted vegetables, the duck was a perfect finish to my first night back in Paris.
While the food was heavenly, it was a tad richer than what I normally eat. So trying to finish my main was a struggle. The portions were generous, which I could have easily split my main with someone. As for dessert? We were all too full to even look at the dessert menu, let alone think about it. So next time, I know to split both a starter and a main to ensure there’s room in my wee belly for a sweet treat.
From the charming and attentive service, lovely wines, and gorgeous food, Chez Toinette was the perfect choice for an intimate dinner with friends. With starters around €10, and mains between €15-20, it was more than reasonable and stunningly good. Due to its cosy atmosphere, I’d highly recommend making a reservation at least a day or two in advance. So next time you’re in the City of Light and Love, find yourself cosying up to a bottle of wine and decadent French classics beneath the grandeur of the Sacré-Cœur.
20 rue Germain Pilon
18ème arr – Montmartre
Phone | 01 42 54 44 36
Click | http://cheztoinette.com