When someone asks “Would you like to taste a 19 year old 1er Cru Burgundy?” there is only 1 appropriate response. We were visiting Frasier at Frenchie Bar a Vins in Paris (I was with my partner and our friend Aaron Rosenthal, sous chef at Septime). Our mission was simple: try to drink as much ridiculous wine as possible.
We’d started off earlier at Clamato, with Domaine Belluard Perles du Mont Blanc and oysters, some crudo, spring vegetables, aaand this guy:
Feeling full and elated by 5:30, we went out in the spritzy Parisian rain for a walk around the 11th. We stopped for a round of oysters at La Buvette and caught up with the indomitable Camille. Dangerously close to ordering another bottle and more cheese and saucisson, we decided to leave still hungry. As we headed towards the 2eme Arr., we checked out a few old covered Passages, including the one that houses the impressive wine shop + bar a vins, Legrand Filles & Fils in Galerie Vivienne. The arcades were an interesting anecdote to the changing landscape of inner Paris, as the industrial revolution and Haussmann’s “city improvement” project that tore down many small streets and replaced them with grand boulevards. In these covered alleyways one could stroll, browse and indulge in utopian ideals of a modern city. Microcosms like this became the obsession of philosophers like Walter Benjamin who believed that these places were society’s attempts at a tangible equivalent to utopia. Commodities offered promise of the realization of dreams, something that he feared would overtake us. As we walked, we found ourselves observing and being observed, indulging in the endless array of things we could possess to satisfy our desires. But newness alone can’t sustain itself against the march of time…
Until recently, the Passages were mostly pretty run down. The ones that remain open served to connect different alleyways to main streets, usually housing various semi-open tchotchke shops and homeless, sometimes a bar. But there are a few that are starting to come to gastronomic life with fresh ideas, new petits bar à vin with natural wines and tiny, foraged seasonal menus. Beyond this, there remain beacons to that philosophical ideal of street/life/object, and while they are beautiful, the rest is lost behind exactly that. The passages are rebirthing once again as a voyeur destination, in a new form.
Frenchie Bar a Vins was bustling and uber-hyped as expected. But the difference was being there with good people and drinking exceptional wine. Here, try it! Splash of this, splash of that, finish this bottle, compare these two vintages, bottle of Domaine Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc, Ghislaine Barthod Bourgogne Rouge, and all the cheese.
Rather than elaborating on the taste experience, this was really more about the situation. I’ll remember it more as the taste of walking through the Passages, the steady gentle rain, the vertical garden L’Oasis d’Aboukir, the jokes and the lovely people who shared it with me.