Sunday, September 9, 2012

Date Night Paris

I've always known that I have a great husband.  Yet occasionally he does me the favor of reminding me exactly how and why he is so great.  Last night is a perfect example.  It was our first night out together in a number of months, and I have to say, he really outdid himself.

We went to dinner at Hotel du Nord in the 10th arrondissement. Located right on the Canal St. Martin, sitting outside this charming restaurant offered excellent people-watching as well as the chance to savor one of the nicest nights we've had in Paris this summer.  If you can call early September summer.  Hotel du Nord also has the unique quality of being a French restaurant that offers not one but two vegetarian entrees, in addition to multiple fish and meat options.
This doesn''t really do the scene justice.

Close-up of awesome hipster guy with crazy beard and strange glasses.

Mr. Oil selected the dos de cabillaud, which was simply and elegantly prepared.  Even better, it came with a side of possibly the best mashed potatoes I have ever eaten. We thought it might better be called "butter, with a side of potatoes." I stole more than a few bites in between enjoying my own "millefeuille de thon a la japonaise."  I'm not a food writer, so I will just show you a photo:

But what really made the dinner amazing was dessert.  In honor of a)date night, and b)me being pregnant, we splurged and ordered two desserts (we are typically the share-one-dessert type).  Dessert #1 was a classic moelleux au chocolat - molten chocolate cake - with both vanilla ice cream and a light yet delicious creamy sauce.  Totally legit cake.  Dessert #2, however, was the winner - pain perdu au caramel beurre sale.  Pain perdu is the foundation of what we know as French toast.  It's not a breakfast food so much as a rich, egg-ily drenched sweet.  In this case, served with a tiny pot of rich, succulent caramel made from salted butter.  Pour said caramel over said egg-ily drenched deliciousness, and you have a taste that will stay in your mouth for a long, long time.  Sorry, no photo - too excited to pause for documentation.

As the evening progressed, the scene got even more interesting.  Quickly I became the most under-dressed woman in the restaurant, and I had again missed the memo about short skirts and tall heels.  A parade of languages accompanied the heels as well.  Sitting outside did have one disadvantage, as patrons from inside the restaurant began to linger outside the door for a cigarette break.  We were treated to one of those only-in-France scenes in which three woman, all dressed to go out, stood around smoking and chatting.  Nothing out of the ordinary there - until we realized that in fact the woman in leopard-print capri pants and platform sandals had a baby strapped to her in a Baby Bjorn.  While standing with her smoking friends around 10pm at night.
You can't see the cigarettes or the baby, but they're there, I promise.

If you're going to have not one but two serious desserts, it is good to have a plan to work it off.  Mr. Oil's date night plan went further than just the meal.  After we finished, we hopped on two Velib bikes, part of Paris' city-wide bike program.  Across the city, there are stations where you can rent a bike for just a few euros, and then return it at any other station.  You have to guarantee the bike with a credit card so you don't steal it, but otherwise you get to ride through the city's many bike lanes on a well-maintained bike that even comes with its own nice basket to hold your bag.

We cruised down the Canal St Martin, glancing at the many, many groups of friends sitting on the edge of the canal sharing wine and food throughout the evening.  Past Republique, we turned and headed into the Marais, passing bars and bistros all bursting with Parisians and tourists alike enjoying the glorious Saturday evening.  We parked our bikes to walk for a bit through Les Halles - more bars and bistros and people having a good time, including some bars that made both Mr. Oil and I feel immensely grateful that the period in our lives in which we went to such places is over.  Picking up more bikes by the Chatelet metro, we cycled down Rue de Rivoli - past the Louvre, where at night you can see sculptures through the windows, past the Place de la Concorde, which epitomizes Paris with a view of the Eiffel Tower, Assemblee National, Les Invalides, and even the Arc de Triomphe, and up our trusty ol' Boulevard Malesherbes to home.  There's a Velib station on our corner, so parking doesn't get more convenient than that.  I was even able to overcome the fact that I've barely exercised since we moved here, and that I haven't been on a bike since before Baby Oil was born.

Romantic canal-side dinner for two followed by romantic night-time bike ride through the heart of Paris?  Date night indeed!

PS Hey, great husband - don't let this go to your head too much - instead, I suggest you focus on planning our next date night...