I’d been on the road for over a week. Tasting wine in the morning, tasting wine in the afternoon, and drinking more wine with lunch and dinner. I’d had a rough night or two – thinking about the recent loss of my father-in-law (I swear I saw a ghost in the cemetery next to les Tonnelles). Overall it was a great trip – lots of laughs, lots of great wine, lots of fascinating people.
That night we found ourselves cramped into a small wine bar in the 11th arrondisement of Paris – a big group of Americans, who drank too much wine (the staff was put out with us, perhaps because we picked better wines than they thought Americans should know about, and thusly were drinking them out of their inventory). Our French friend took care of things, and put them in their place, and when dinner was done we deferred to him as to where to get a nightcap.
That’s how we ended up at les Enfants Rouges. That first night we crowded around the bar, drinking Côtes de Rhone blanc, and two different Côte Rotie. Jeff broke one of the doors, Wade and I talked to a regular about California, and we hung out with Jean-Paul until well past 2am. It was one of those nights when, stumbling through the Marais in the pouring rain, it felt like life was taking place in the moment, rather than the past or future.
Wade and I went back twice over the next week. We had oignon gratinée, and glasses of Jo Landron’s Amphibolite Nature Muscadet. We ate steak frites, we drank old Beaune and Saint Nicolas de Bourgeuil. We were always the first people in the place, sitting down at 8 or 8:30, we felt like regulars. It’s that kind of place. Familiar, welcoming, charming – the food is simple and delicious, the wine list is full of truly interesting wines at good prices (that St Nic was a 1989 Joël Taluau, and it cost something like €35 – it was fantastic).
The folks at les Enfants Rouges have been in the restaurant world for a while, having previously run a wine bar. The bistro is named for the nearby market. While it’s not necessarily part of the new wave of hipster wine bars all over the city (le Baron Rouge, le Verre Volée, la Nouvelle Mairie, la Cremerie) it shares a focus on wine from smaller producers and lesser appellations (although you could certainly find a good bottle of Bordeaux on their list if you needed to). What’s lacking is the pretension of those young and trendy spots. There’s no polemic at les Enfants Rouges – natural wines is certainly appreciated, but not at the expense of good producers who work in more conventional manner.
The place has stuck in my head. Since we’ve been home, Wade has taken to making entrecote and fries. We’ve eaten a lot of mâche and drank a bunch of Beaujolais. Last night, we sat in the kitchen and talked while the steaks sizzled and the potatoes fried. We drank a bottle of Chinon and ate the steaks with grainy mustard. The good feelings of that night in Paris months ago were resurrected in our small San Francisco apartment.
That is what I love about food and wine. People come together over a meal – whether it’s a group of friends, or two intimates. A glass (or two) of wine seals that bond.
Les Enfant Rouge
9 Rue de Beauce Paris (3rd Arr.)
01 48 87 80 61