For most of September we had a lovely Indian summer here in Paris. Well, that's officially over. It is back to being grey and wet and I have caught my first "crève" of the season. Crève is a lovely French word to describe some kind of virus that is in-between a cold and death. My autumn version usually corresponds with the High Holy Days, making for an extremely depressing Week of Atonement. But this blog is not about the state of my soul, rather my cultural experiences, so let's move on to more joyful things.
Last week was also my birthday (for those keeping count, I turned 39 - again) and instead of whining about it, I decided to use it as an excuse to go out for a fancy lunch. As we also had tickets to the ballet that afternoon, I made reservations at the new restaurant at the Palais Garnier. It is actually a bit surprising that there's never been a restaurant there up until now - it's not like they lack the space - but there's probably some weird cultural politics involved I'm not privy to.
In any case, the new resto, imaginatively called L'Opera restaurant, has a good sized-terrace and somewhat small indoor space that looks like it was designed by the same people that art-designed those futuristic movies of the 60's. There's lots of white and red and curved lines and I'm surprised there's not a spinning round bed in the middle of the room.
But on to the important stuff: the food. P & I were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meal, which the Opera website touts as classics revisited with a creative flair. Actually that's not a bad description, as most of the offerings seem to be fairly classic French menu staples, treated with some kind of fresh twist. I had a perfectly cooked cabillaud subtly infused with thai herbs that came with a side of the most tasty caviar d'aubergines that I've ever had. Pierre had the smoked trout with a rich but not heavy side of raviolis de Royan. The wine list is also excellent with a fine selection of wines by the glass.
We finished off with an "emulsion" of strawberry and rhubarb for Pierre and a café gourmand for me, featuring 2 tiny opéra pastries (of course!). I wasn't a huge fan of the mozzarella sorbet that came with Pierre's fruit...uh, soup? But the rest was pretty fab and I did get a kick out the fact that the honey used in the desserts is actually cultivated on the roof of the Opera house. For those interested, the kitchen is run by chefs Christophe Aribert and Yann Tanneau, with Yves Moreaux on pastries (frankly, I don't really keep track of chef names unless they have a show on Discovery...)
After all that, I was really ready for a nap, but it was actually time to watch the ballet performance. The program this time was a double bill of "Phèdre" choreographed by Serge Lifar, originally created for the ballet de l'opéra in 1950, featuring costumes and décor by Jean Cocteau; and "Psyché", a new work by Alexei Ratmansky with décor by contemporary artist Karen Kilimnik. As usual, the dancers were outstanding and the music of both quite beautiful (the latter featured a live choir as well).
I admit I'm not usually sensitive to costumes and décor as much as I should be, but these were two cases where they really stood out. While Cocteau's designs might seem a bit dated by today's standards, they are so inimitably Cocteau it's hard not to get a kick out of them. And "Psyché's" fairy-tale-like backdrops and elaborate costumes (including flowers, wild animals, and a foursome of wind 'zephyrs') added a lot of whimsy, which you don't much see in contemporary ballet these days. I'm putting that one down as a show to take the kids to when/if it comes around again.
In fall tv news (drama category), I've tested and passed on "Ringer", "Pan Am", "A Gifted Man", and "Person of Interest". I'm all in on "Revenge" and "Homeland". And I'm still on the fence about "American Horror Story" because while it's original and edgy, it just might be a bit too damned creepy for me. Anything you think I should give a second chance to? Should I try one more time to get through the first season of "Breaking Bad?" (why can't I get into that show, which just about everyone agrees is genius?)
Happy autumn everyone...