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Birthday Celebrations: Le Potager du Marais, Versailles, and the Gentle Gourmet

June 21, 2010

This may be the first in a series of back-logged posts, since I wasn’t able to do much blogging last week. Predictably, my Parisian birthday was fantastic, and kept me quite busy.

The place I had really wanted to go for my birthday was the Gentle Gourmet, a lovely Parisian B&B that serves regular dinners and brunches and which is the only place (as far as I know) that does four-course vegan meals. Unfortunately for me, the head of the Gentle Gourmet was out doing a tour on the 15th, and so I had to be patient and wait until Saturday night for my extra-special meal–it was worth the wait.

But before I go into that, I can say a bit about what I did on my actual birthday, and about our special next-day excursion.

On the 15th, we went to Le Potager du Marais, a mostly vegan restaurant near the Pompidou Centre. This is a very cozy establishment located on a trendy street in the Marais, whose menu is almost entirely French-inspired. (I say “French-inspired,” as opposed to “French,” only because they serve no meat–but the spices used and the style of presentation are certainly French.)

As an appetizer, we had seaweed tartiner,

which we ate with our bread and vegetables.

Graham and I really liked this–it was like a lemon-y seaweed and olive tapenade.

I then had something which roughly translated to “nut roast” with saffron creme.

This also came with a salad, pureed cauliflower (with nutmeg), and fried potatoes. The nut roast was, I believe, a mixture of pureed soaked nuts, mushrooms, and vegetables, which was then baked as a little cake and laid on top of a bed of the saffron creme (which I think was cashew-based). It was extremely good, and the little sides complimented it perfectly.

Graham got the plat de jour, which was eggplant moussaka.

This was also extremely good. I had never had so many vegetables in moussaka before, and so each little “petit legume” was a treat. The eggplant had been cooked in such a way that it was very creamy, which was delightful.

For dessert, Graham and I each got a slice of their gluten-free chestnut flour chocolate cake with a dollop of vanilla pudding.

This was fantastic–I had never actually had a gluten-free cake before, and I think this one set the bar pretty high. The chestnut flour gave it a different consistency from what one would normally expect in a cake (i.e., it was not light and fluffy), but it was more like a fudge-y brownie. Needless to say, we will definitely return to Le Potager du Marais for some future special occasion. 

The next day, we decided to join some friends on their trip to Versailles. We spent the entire day wandering the gardens,

The Grand Trianon,

The Petit Trianon,

and Marie Antoinette’s creepy fake village.

(The whole time we were in the village, I couldn’t help but think of The Village in The Prisoner. “Be Seeing You!”)

While in the Grand and Petit Trianons, I got some decorating ideas,

and while on the Grand Canal, we had a lovely picnic with our friends.

For our lunch, we brought some hearty whole wheat bread, some Vegusto, some mushroom pate, some hummus, some babaganouj, some chocolate spread, and some plumbs. It was a wonderful place to have a picnic.

And, if you’re ever in Versailles, it may be good to know that this part of the grounds is free–you can picnic there to your heart’s content, at least until sundown.

The final birthday festivity took place on Saturday evening, when we went to the Gentle Gourmet. The Gentle Gourmet is a lovely, homey, and inviting place, and all of the people running it are extremely friendly. Deborah, who is the founder, is an American who has been in Paris for a very long time and who, along with her delightful staff, is truly spear-heading the vegan movement in Paris (they are, for instance, almost solely responsible for the Paris Vegan Day festival, which will take place again this coming November). It was wonderful to meet them and learn about their experiences here.

This was my first time taking part in “private dining”–it’s much like going to someone’s house for dinner, provided that that someone is an extremely talented hostess and vegan chef. Graham and I had dinner with six other people, who, on that evening, were a mix of Canadians, Americans, Finlanders, and Swedes. It was very fun to get to know all of these interesting people, and to hear about how they turned up in Paris.

The first course (which I failed to get a picture of), included two different kinds of mango cups–one kind was savory, with lots of herbs, and the other kind had mangos soaked in a sweet white wine. Both were absolutely delicious.

As an appetizer, we all got a plate with stuffed and baked zucchini boxes (filled with fresh vegetables), olive tapenade, and a salad.

I loved these zucchini boxes–they were so cute, and had clearly been crafted with a great deal of care (and they were, of course, extremely tasty). The tapenade was also great, especially for a tapenade fiend like me.

Our main course was tofu stuffed with fresh basil, fried gnocchi, and green beans.

All of this was fantastic–the tofu had been perfectly fried, and the gnocchi had also been fried and seasoned with fresh herbs. Sometime, I’d like to try to emulate their fried gnocchi, which I’ve never actually attempted to make before.

For dessert, we got lemon “meringue” ice cream, with rhubarb compote and fresh strawberries.

This was incredible–the ice cream was extremely creamy, and was lemon-y without being overwhelming. I’m not normally a huge fan of rhubarb, but the rhubard compote with lemon ice-cream was a fantastic combination. And the strawberries were perfect.

And, because it was my (and another diner’s) birthday, we got a couple plates of these.

Lovely, fluffy little poppy seed cupcakes with a cream-cheese style ganache.

I’m hoping that sometime, for a treat, Graham and I can go back for one of the Gentle Gourmet’s Sunday brunches, which sound just as incredible as this dinner. The Gentle Gourmet was a very nice new experience for me–the owner, the cooks, the host for the evening, and the other diners were delightful, and it was great to have such a nice culinary and social experience. It’s also just heartwarming to meet such talented people making organic, seasonal vegan food in Paris.

At the moment, I can hear lots of different kinds of music playing throughout our neighborhood, since today is the Fete de la Musique. In a few minutes, I think Graham and I are going to go explore all of the different free concerts taking place, as we munch on falafel.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Caroline Brooks permalink
    June 21, 2010 3:34 pm

    Wow!! So glad you had such a wonderful birthday – definitely one to remember! The Gentle Gourmet looks and sounds truly amazing! And you’re so good at getting great pictures of all your food (even if you did miss the first course). I always end up remembering when it’s half gone (well, that’s if I remember at all-ha!) Happy birthday once again, Amelia! 🙂

  2. patricia leach permalink
    June 21, 2010 3:40 pm

    Dear Amelia… I love every posting and it seems as though each one is better than the perfect one that succeeded it….I am so happy that you two are having such a wonderful time….As for a return to the Gentle Gourmet… I know of another birthday coming up in October…xopat

    • June 22, 2010 11:17 am

      I think it would be great to go back in October–I bet that the menu would again reflect the season, and it would be fun to see what they would come up with!

  3. Gwin Krouse permalink
    June 21, 2010 4:05 pm

    I think one of those crystal chandeliers from Versailles would look perfect in your little flat.

    • June 22, 2010 11:16 am

      Yes, I think a couple of giant crystal chandeliers and some bright yellow upholstery would really perk things up in here.

  4. Mary Bosch permalink
    June 21, 2010 8:32 pm

    You have been busy! A three day birthday celebration!

    I enjoy reading about your adventures so much. Could you tell what was in the olive tapenade? (My recipe is pretty simple: kalamata olives, a litte evoo, fresh garlic, lemon juice and oregano.)

    Nothing new here, food-wise, except that Leto has discoved she likes dry roasted peanuts.

    • June 22, 2010 11:15 am

      I don’t really know whether any of the tapenades contain special ingredients–I think your tapenade recipe is wonderful as is! If you’re looking to change things up, you could try adding some seaweed (that would make it similar to the tartiner at Le Potager du Marais). Alternatively, adding some fresh basil could make it into something more akin to pesto. But like I said, I think that if you want traditional tapenade, your recipe is already great!


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