The friendly, neighborhood vibe started on the street, where the proprietor leaned against the doorway chatting with diners seated at outdoor tables, and extended to two low-ceilinged rooms inside, where a marble bar occupied one wall, and the small, square tables were mostly filled.
Susan started with bric maison – puff pastry filled with brie. The cheese and accompanying green salad were large enough to be a meal. I dived into a fragrant disk of roasted camembert with slices of fresh baguette – thinking about it weeks later still makes my mouth water.
Then came the poulet noir de Challans – a tender, flavorful chicken raised by one of 150 farmers who specialize in the breed, in Vendée, on the western coast of France. The breed sports black feathers (hence the noir). The meat was darker than normal, too, and oh, so moist.
We finished with tarte aux framboises – a crisp, thin crust, spread with sweet pastry cream (the stuff of great eclairs), and topped with bright, juicy strawberries.
Our server recommended a Saumur blanc to go with the meal – a sweet, full bodied white from the Loire Valley that was extra flavorful, he said, as the grapes were harvested in 2007, the year of the drought in France.
If the food was what we had been hoping for, the wine exceeded our expectations, intensifying the creaminess of the cheeses and the deeper notes of the chicken. A great meal, and a wonderful memory… We will be back!
21, rue Boulard, 14th