Just like New York, Paris is an ephemeral whirlwind of dining trends. There is a buzz and a hashtag for the newest dumpling, burger, and the latest wave of culinary discovery.
After a week-long, never-ending pot of chicken curry, we married folks left our MacBook Pros behind and checked out The Sporting Project dinner at Bob’s Kitchen a few weeks ago, just after Paris was covered in blanket of snow. It is a simple concept, really. Two American girls obsessed with Paris, leave behind their lofty fashion jobs in New York, tap into their vegan networks, and open a series of pop-up restaurants during Fashion Week.
The dinner featured West Village restaurant Hudson Clearwater. The NYC amenities were all in place: warm lighting, the Aesop soap-free soap in the bathrooms, an ironic playlist and elbow-to-elbow communal hi-top tables. The mile-long mission statement on the back of the menu flaunted the wonders of local ingredients, affordability, friendly people, and good times. As a devoted follower of Top Chef, I’ve learned you cannot create a peanut butter and jelly consommé if neither are evoked in the final product. At 55€ per person for a 5-course vegetarian tasting menu sans drinks, the uppercase AFFORDABILITY was a red flag.
After warming up to a few specialty cocktails, the food arrived to our table in deceptive simplicity. There was a mis en bouche of apples, zucchini and fresh cheese and a cauliflower soup with sauteed mustard greens and mushrooms.
“Excuse me! May we please have some bread?” I asked our smiley server direct from Greenpoint. “I’m sorry, but we don’t offer a bread service here.” Even the carbophobic fashionista cannot resist a little bout de pain during Fashion Week. So what if the people in France are rude, tourists come for the bread! The main course arrived, a handful of stewed lentils and celery root. Mon mari put down his fork in nutritional surrender. ”55 euros. You’re going to finish those lentils, jeune homme!” I shouted as our footsie turned from amorous to aggressive.
I have great respect from the founders of the Sporting Project and anyone else who moves to an impossible place like Paris with just an idea in hand. But I often ask myself this question: how do I create something relevant and fresh in this Old World I have jumped into? America originally borrowed the farm-to-table philosophy from the French. But translating the concept back to France this evening felt tired and insincere. Because the dinner was playing up exclusively to the fashionista clientele, what was missing was a real passion for food. But maybe that was just me, being a carb-eating size-6. But happy fashionistas abound and Gwenyth approved!
We walked out of Bob’s Kitchen into the slushy streets of Paris still buzzed and still hungry. I could not have said it better than mon mari, “we’ll see where this goes when fashion week is over.”
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