Monday, 17 June 2013

French Dinner

A "test" entry about my cultural French experience.


Once upon a time I had a French dinner. It was amazing. Unfortunately it happened to be the day I dyed my hair bright orange, and it felt a bit awkward entering the posh LE P'TIT NICOLAS restaurant with these two older French couples, into this large area that looked like a huge cosy lounge with many tables, feeling a very silly and inadequate experimenting teenager.

During the past year, I have been working as an English language assistant at a local high school, giving English lessons on the side - including to these two people – an older female and a middle-aged male, interestingly married but not to each other. This evening was our second to last lesson, and they decided to take me out to dinner with their spice (that is the plural of spouse isn't it?).

The waiters were young and male of a slighty better than average appearance, and one showed us to a wardrobe where we took turns giving him our coats. There was one student in her final year from my school who was at the restaurant too, who gave me a surprisingly wide smile – I wonder if it was amusement, the English assistant with her bright hair awkwardly following these French couples...

Le P'tit Nicolas, pic taken from their website
We were sat down at a table – I was placed happily between my two students, G and R. (What do you call adult students?? 'Students' seems to equal 'young, immature and learning about the world through experiments'...) There were menus stood up on the table, and I awkwardly side-glanced at the others, wondering if we were meant to look at them now, after a pause, after a drink or maybe we would be having some special menu not on the menus themselves which would mean it would be completely stupid and embarrassing to have a look...?

Luckily the others decided to look at the menus. There were a mirriad different 'menu-options', usually including entrée, plat et dessert – starters (why do I keep thinking to translated it as entry...), main dish and dessert, prices ranging from 21euros to about 70, depending on if you wanted champagne with it. We, obviously, wanted champagne – it was the first thing G asked for.

There was not a single entrée or plat suggested on the menu where I understood all the words. I asked about a few words, but then decided I didn't understand enough. I chose the entrée du jour and the plat du jour, incidently not on the menu itself. The waiter told them to us, then G repeated them to me, and I just made sure there was no escargots (snails) or especially foie gras (well, foie gras, ie. duck liver from ducks brought up in very horrible conditions at least according to my mumsie). G, R, wife and hubby also mostly had the specials of the day. 
We ordered, and G, R, and wife were immersed in gossip about random people they knew, and also talking about the young waiters – didn't seem too positive... a few times G woke me up from my daze asking if I understood a certain term they used – I varied my answers between no and yes even though most of the time I had forgotten to listen.

Waiter arrived with little shot glasses with white and red stuff in them. Ok, entrées I guess. It took me a while to start mine because this time G had decided to engage me personally in conversation, which I was happy about. The food turned out to be some sort of maybe creamy very mild cheese foamy stuff with a tasty tomato saucey thing on top. All in the shot glass, you ate it with a spoon. Om nom, restaurant got my approval.

After the champagne was finished, a red wine was ordered. Do I like red wine, G asked me. No I sincerely don't. But obviously I didn't say that. And I'm sure red wine was the only wine to be drunken with our main meals, which were all fish (from what I gathered from the orders). “Oui oui,” I assured him.

Next dish arrived. Looked very fancy. What I can tell you about it was that it had asparagus (I swear at least nearly all of them had asparagus in them!), pastry and a foamy thingy which no, was not sausage, but some foamy thing. Tasted a bit tomatoey. AMAZING.
Asparagus-thingy om nom

Conversation was moving on the same lines. Feeling awkward like always, but not unpleasantly awkward, more like a what-a-funny-situaton-awkward. I was ever so thankful I'd already had experience with posh French dinners with my French au pair family, although of course two older couples is different company than a family with two crazy children chasing each other around the tables and dropping food all over the place. (Ok, maybe I exaggerate, Axel was very well-behaved...)

There was a long wait between dish number 2 and 3, and I was already looking forward to my speculoos-dessert (speculoos was the only bit I understood from it, but you can't go wrong with speculoos...) But, to my surprise, the next dish was more savoury food. Ah, ok, so the first shot glass-'dish' was not even a dish, it was an added extra!

Fish with sauce and mushy peas and mushy tomato stuff
This dish, turning out to be the main meal, was scrumptious too. Fish, which was good as fish goes, along with an amazing lump of tomato sauce, with veggies in a small bowl on the side.

Dessert, as always, was amazing. The toque de speculoos I ordered still vaguely confuses me – I was told a toque is like a chef's hat. Yes, it was shaped like a chef's hat, but I still don't know what it consisted of. Very nice though.
By the end of the meal, I was full but not too uncomfortably so, since all the portions were so small and there were long waits between courses. The red wine went down scarily well – the second time in my life I've actually enjoyed red wine, and after getting back home I suddenly remembered the first time wasn't very pleasant... I realised I'd probably had quite a lot of it when R, wife and hubby were all refusing more wine, wife shaking her head about how she's 'already had more than she usually has'. And that was when G emptied the bottle into my glass. Oh well... would be very rude not to, wouldn't it.

In the end I didn't have that much wine, but I felt quite hungover the next day, failing to sleep for three hours between the hours of 2am and 5am, and having a headache and feeling sick for the next day.

All worth it though, because of the awesomely fun posh French_fancy_restaurant_meal_with_posh_French_adults.

There is no point to this story, just thought I'd write about a cultural experience. :)

Good night!
I think this is foie gras. Didn't have it.

1 comment:

  1. You follow in a good family tradition when you order food without knowing what it is. I've travelled often enough in countries where I'm not entirely familiar with the language, that I've ordered something and hoped for the best... But yes, do avoid tortured ducks and geese if you can.