“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.” – Voltaire
I am a Francophile. This title is not self-given; my mother has often commented upon my enjoyment of all things français. I minored in French at Ole Miss (a decision that, right about mid-spring semester of my senior year, I questioned frequently) and even spent my senior trip after high school graduation in Paris. Paris, je t’aime.
My love for French things, especially French food, cannot be squashed even by logic itself. Upon return from my vacances en Paris, I was proud to show my mother my favorite souvenir from my journey.
Me: Look, Mama! I found the best spread ever in France! (Here, I brandished my brand spanking new jar of Nutella)
Mom: You know they sell that at Ingles, right?
Me: Details. My label’s in French!
This was probably another time that my mother wondered how she wound up with such a weird (I prefer ‘eccentric,’ or ‘colorful’) daughter.
Anyway, the French are unparalleled when it comes to la nourriture. So, it only makes sense that after four months of living in my charming Eastern Market rowhouse, I move past the bread and butter fare of Le Pain Quotidien and try the piece de resistance of French cuisine on Capitol Hill, Montmartre.
Named for the arrondisment made famous by Toulouse-Lautrec, the can can, and the popular nightclub, the Moulin Rouge, Montmartre is a charming little restaurant nestled on 7th Street, near the popular brick Eastern Market, well known in Washington dining circles for their buttery mussels and extensive French wine selection.
Naturally, we had to try it.
So, joined by my dear cousin Holly and our friend Simone, we met last night for a long-overdue girls’ night.
First off, the host. Hello, ladies, if you like them talk, dark, handsome and foreign, this is the place. No idea what his name was, but he was a near perfect specimen of masculinity. Hyperbole? Probably, but he was really good looking.
We started our dinner with a bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé, per Holly’s recommendation. Of course, she chose the one wine on the wine list that I had trouble pronouncing, but I digress. It was light yet not too dry, and went perfectly with the bowl of chestnut soup that my dinner companions split (and, of course, I sampled).
Did I mention there was bread? Oh, yes, there was French bread. And it was consumed. Om nom nom.
Anyway, onto the main course. I was torn between the evening’s special, which was a ribeye served with string beans, baby carrots and a potatos gratiné, and the onglet, or the hangar steak. Now, the hangar steak, according to our server, is a bestseller at Montmartre, but can also be very tough if prepared improperly.
Fun fact: did you know that there is only one hangar steak per steer? The entire cut typically weighs between one and two pounds, and used to be referred to as the “butcher’s steak” because butchers would keep this cut of meat for themselves rather than sell it.
Thank you, Wikipedia.
Moving on, I decided on the ribeye because, well, the ribeye is one of my favorite cuts of meat. Holly chose the cod, served with potato gnocchi, olives, pine nuts, leeks, and arugula pesto. Simone opted for the delicious-looking scallops, with came with mushrooms duxelle, swiss chard, marinated fennel and Madeira sauce. (Hey, I don’t even like scallops and I thought they looked good).
(Side note: Dear Holly and Simone, I did not remember the sides which came with your entrees. I am not that strange. I had to look them up on the restaurant’s website. Kisses, Virginia).
Needless to say, everything was amazing. Conversation flowed between the new Dancing with the Stars line-up (group consensus: boo on Kate Gosselin, yay! for Evan Lysacek), Holly’s weird new purchase (the Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman made-for-TV movie), and fashion choices at the Oscars (Sandra Bullock looked fantastic, while Miley Cyrus needs to learn to stand up straight). The food was fantastic. I seriously think we all almost licked our plates, it was so delicious. We were so full, we couldn’t stand to eat another bite!
Until the dessert tray was presented.
An array of delectable looking tartes was presented before our eyes, ranging from a drool-worthy mixed berry tarte to a positively sinful chocolate tarte.
Garçon: And we also ‘ave a crème brûlée and a floating islan-“
Holly: *gasps* Île flottante? Je prends ça!!
Simone and me: Guess this means we’re not splitting.
Needless to say, we all ordered our own dessert. I got the crème brûlée- shocking, I know, but try and contain your surprise- as did Simone. And yes, like Amélie, my favorite part of consuming this dessert is breaking the caramelized crust with my spoon. It’s just so fun!
Holly and I also are so used to conversing in French when we don’t want others to understand us that we forgot that, whilst at Montmartre, other people knew what we were saying. We were trying to figure out what to call the host- we kept saying “chaud homme,” which literally means “hot man”- and finally settled on homme beau. Actually, I’m calling him bon-bon now, which is the French word for candy. See, it makes perfect sense to me…
Anyway, it was the perfect way to end a long day’s work. In fact, we’ve decided to make this a weekly- or biweekly, as our schedules allow- ritual. Holly is picking next week’s culinary destination, and Simone and I have already vetoed any eateries that are either a) Chinese, or b) vegan. As my dear cousin is the same person whose idea of ‘soup’ is to boil a green vegetable, then boil a potato, toss them in the blender, and blend with milk until creamy, you’ll understand our reservations.
Rest assured, friends, that I will be documenting each gathering. If they’re as hilarious as last night was, it should make for some interesting entries.