Thursday, October 21, 2010

For all the fathers out there...

Around the same time I begrudgedly started endorsing the shooting of novelty photos at key tourist landmarks (apologies to the Great Pyramids, you are indeed greater than my mis-placed pinch hold would indicate) I began chuckling at ‘witty’ puns captured in the proper nouns of restaurants.  Yes, I laughed when I saw Thai Tanic and even when someone told me about Thairanosaurus.  The latter got me thinking, not just about the appeal or market demand for a Flintstone-esque Thai restaurant, but fundamentally whether this was the sort of person I wanted to be.

It is usual that, around their late twenties and early thirties, men start finding amusement in the world of puns and word plays.  It’s an inevitable step in the development of a man’s later-life capacity to tell Dad Jokes (Dad Jokes (n) Jokes, puns and word plays of a basic and repetitive nature expressed by fathers or the old-at-heart, involving low or questionable levels of hilarity, often associated with groans and eye rolls (see: Steve Martin as George Banks in Father of the Bride Parts 1 and 2).

I have a friend, he suffered from early onset Dad Joke symptoms.  To disguise his comedic demise from his still young and still amusing friends he developed a ‘witty’ alter-ego…The Pun-isher.  The Pun-isher, a young and restrained corporate lawyer by day, by night, a force of witty repartee, questionable banter and devastating puns. His categorization of puns as a super-hero super-power might indicate that my friend was awkwardly caught between his youth and the Dad Vortex when his early symptoms appeared.  Unfortunate. He’s currently expanding his excessive and un-used tool collection and practicing the art of packing a car boot to the soundtrack of Tetris at the age of 27.  He would have the perfect pun to complete this paragraph.

Interestingly enough, I’ve discovered that the French, who don’t appear to outwardly express any sense of humour (big statement), but usually just a mild bemusement at something they are themselves thinking, have dabbled in the Dad Joke restaurant name too.  Of course the French would argue such dabbling is a playful dance with the nuances of the French language rather than a simple word play to capture the attention of the middle-aged American tourist market. Regardless, I have to admit Je Thé…Me is a good one! 

I first found myself at Je Thé…Me (4 Rue Alleray 75015 Paris, 01 48 42 48 30) back in February when I was politely abducted by a saussison, bottle of Burgundy and good company when I bumped into chef, Jacky Larsonneur, on my way home from school.  Every day since he’s popped his head out the window, “Bonjour mon petit chef!”, or I’ve popped my head in, “Que faites-vous aujourd'hui Chef?”. And that’s how I became friends with the chef and proprietor of the most delicious and possibly only Dad Joke bistro in Paris. 
Jacky’s small kitchen sits just aside the intimate and wood paneled dining room, beautifully restored in an old epicerie storefront. The walls are filled it glassware and china, pictures and all sorts of good things your grandma might have kept in her cabinets which you were never allowed to touch as a kid (actually I don’t think I’m supposed to touch these cabinets either). 

Despite originating from Normandy, Jacky’s menu is a rich chalkboard of Bourgogne and Bordelaise cuisine.  The kind of food I crave as autumn gets colder and salads just don’t cut it any more.  Last night I did what we call the Duck Double or Belly to Breast (thank you Dad).  For starter the Fois gras de canard maison, a smooth marinated terrine with a tart apple puree, and for main, the Marget de canard roti au gros sel.  Let me talk about this duck for a second.  Firstly, excellent force-feeding my friend (not to make light of the in-proper or inhumane treatment of geese and ducks in the production of fois gras). The fois terrine was generous and silken in texture, the opulent fatty flavour cut with a simple vinaigrette and pomme puree. Secondly, the breast was so perfectly and evenly pink, unctuous without being fatty, sweet and saucy without being sickening and sticky.  Ideal. And as best supporting side dish, potatoes Dauphinoise. It is statistically and humanly impossible for the combination of potatoes, cream and cheese to ever taste less than amazing.  Jakey’s Dauphinoise would taste amazing on a really really bad day.   

We are now well practiced at the shared dessert selection.  A social product of the inability of culinary students to commit to only one dish out of a selection of possibilities we can justify as ‘homework’, the ultimate challenge between fromage and the sweet tooth and good ole fashioned gluttony.  Visitor Jen had already demolished the chocolate dessert of the day while I was photographing the other desserts. A frozen bitter chocolate parfait, crisp praline hat, thyme ice cream and warm pistachio cream. She won’t be dining with us again…no seriously… The Croquant aux fruits de saison was fabulous to photograph and light, spunky and citrusy to taste.  I cannot say a bad word about cheese plates in France.

Sommelier duties at Je Thé…Me are calmly undertaken by Jakey’s son, Damien. His selections have been interesting and perfect every time.    Damien plays in a band called The Winey Frogs.  Yes, like father like son.