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In France: duck quackery

Posted by guest  January 26, 2009 07:45 AM

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Thanks to a dinner at a friend’s house in Barcelona and another at one of my new Paris faves, l’Escargot, I’ve recently been lured back into loving confît de canard.
Crunchy on the outside, melting and moist on the inside, these two dinners reminded me why the dish is a classic.
This afternoon, however, at Le Petit Fer à Cheval – a Marais classic in its own right and a place that prides itself on the dish – I remembered why it’s been so long.
newjoe2.jpg

Allow me to work through my plate in reverse…
Yes, it’s winter and the selections at the vegetable stands are pretty grim at this time of year, but this was particularly depressing. There was a vague wave in the direction of seasonality with some cabbage, and there was even a bit of variety, but everything either squeaked on my teeth or was mushy.
C’mon guys…live a little and drizzle some olive oil on the steamed broccoli, try finishing the green beans with some butter and shallots or just punt and swap the veggies out for a salad. I love being in the Clean Plate Club, but not today.
The potatoes next to the veggies were hand cut and crunchy on the outside - Hooray! - but more than a few were crunchy on the inside, too. Ick.
Finally, the duck itself reminded me why I hadn’t had this dish in so long – it was crunchy on the outside (though I almost wonder if, considering the laziness of the preparation for the rest of the dish, they just crisped it up by throwing it into the Frialator with my spuds), but inside it was lifeless.
What’s frustrating is that I like this place – the well-dressed waiters, the U-shaped bar that gives the restaurant its name, the big wall clock that goes backward, the good Parisian feeling that you get here – but I think it’ll be a while before I come back.
I lied unconvincingly when my waiter asked me how it was but the kicker, and a good part of the reason why I’m writing this, was the ridiculous price tag: 20 euros (!!!) or the equivalent of 26 bucks. At L’Escargot, where I would eat it again and again, their confît comes with a potato puree with truffle oil and a beautiful salad for 17 euros.
Expensive and good I can deal with. Expensive and bad just makes me angry.
“Really?” I blurted out to the poor bartender.
“The duck is the specialty of the house,” he said.
It has nothing to do with the guy behind the bar, but quit insulting me.

L’Escargot
50, rue de la Villette
75019 Paris

011 33 1 42 06 03 96

Le Petit Fer à Cheval
28, Rue Vieille du Temple
75004 Paris‎

011 33 9 62 09 23 38‎

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Globe travel correspondent Joe Ray writes his own blog, Eating The Motherland and contributes to the English language version of Simon Says! the French food and lifestyle blog run by French food critic Francois Simon.

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