Daniel Rose's Spring restaurant was the surprise hit of 2006. A tiny 16 seat restarant in a populaire part of town run by a American who did it all himself, cooking, serving, cleaning, taking reservations, whch immediately became very hard to get; who would have believed it?
Last year he decided to expand a bit, to 28 seats (!) and to move closer to the center of Paris. It being Paris, he ran into permit trouble when they found a bit of one of the original city walls in the basement; plans on hold for a while, he decided to open a store up the street from the new location, an épicerie also called Spring, at 52 rue de l'Arbre Sec. Last night was the grand opening, timed to coincide with the release of this year's Beaujolais Nouveau.
And what an opening! The narrow store was filled to the brim and overflowing with foodies, winies, and anyone else curious enough to have wangled an invitation, although truth to tell, anyone could have dropped in and no one would have been the wiser. Winemaker Jeannot Montanet of Domaine de la Cadette in Burgundy was offering his delicious wines along with hunks of jambon persillé while chatting charmingly in French and English with all comers. Catherine Breton of Domaine Breton in Bourgeuil was doing the same, while "hot dogs" of boudin blanc were served with onions confit in red wine. Jeannot, it turns out, will likely be in Berkeley in April when he will be visiting his importer, Kermit Lynch. A small world story once again, since we buy nearly all our wine from Kermit Lynch.
By the time the overflow had spread out into the street and across to mingle with another party, we had met lots of interesting people, including a few of my favorite bloggers, drunk a lot of excellent wine and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, except for the incident of the sapeurs pompiers (firemen) who pulled up in their red truck to help someone who had apparently been taken ill across the street. And all this just across the river, within 10 minutes walk. I love Paris.
Daniel's new restaurant is back on track and will be opening in a few months, but in the meanwhile we've discovered a miracle in our backyard. I say discovered advisedly; in fact it's been the buzz among foodies in Paris for several weeks. Next door to le Comptoir du Relais, a restaurant we love but which has become a bit too expensive to visit as frequently as we'd like, the chef Yves Camdeborde has opened l'Avant Comptoir, a tiny space with a crêperie in front and an incredible, affordable and comfortable bar à hors d'oeuvres.
I can't think of anything better than walking in and ordering a glass of good wine at an incredibly low price to accompany a board of premium ham from a well-known charcutier, served at the old-fashioned zinc counter laden with containers of cornichons, pickled chanterelles, pickled cherries, Bordier butter, and bread for the taking. And for the best little amuse bouche you've ever had, an order of ham croquettes that absolutely melt in your mouth. And all this for 20 Euros. For two.
You can see why this is where we've been hanging our hats several times a week, after marketing, before a movie, on the way to an event. I want to live there, allowing Thomas, the super-nice guy behind the bar, to feed me an unending stream of wonderful things, but the place is so small that I would soon be too big to fit through the door. Of course then I could always order the crêpes through the window from outside.