Mar 7, 2014

Birthday Belly in a Doggie Bag: Tomme Borne


When I tucked her in last night, I told Gigi that the next time she saw me, it would be my birthday. She informed me sadly, "We don't have anything planned for you." Well, it turns out she's much better at keeping secrets than she used to be (with my family on a trip in Colorado four years ago, Gigi told me: "We're going to have a surprise party for you, but I'm not going to say anything!"), because in fact I wake up to breakfast-in-bed and gifts from both Anthony and the girls. The breakfast itself is also much improved from breakfasts-in-bed past, since Anthony and our cousin Abby are both there to supervise.

To celebrate my birthday, we all go out to dinner at a restaurant that we've walked by probably hundreds of time but never noticed. Called Mon Vieil Ami, it is right here on Ile St. Louis, just doors down from our apartment. A foodie friend of my visiting cousin Abby recommended it, and since it is rainy, and late for a school night, and the girls are coming out with us, it seems like the perfect choice. It turns out to be even more perfect than anticipated, because it is a restaurant that highlights vegetables. If you've actually heard me rant about restaurants in France, you would know that my big beef (pardon the pun...) is that they are all meat-and-potatoes. Side dishes are generally my favorite part of any meal, and having lived in California for so many years where vegetables are really celebrated, this just completely bums me out each time we eat out here. So this restaurant is the perfect spot for me and is my new favorite restaurant in Paris: Each dish is described first by its vegetables, flavorings, and preparation and then, in smaller type, by the protein component, and is served in those same proportions. Pippa and I share a two-person carotte confit with currants and pork belly, which is universally agreed to be the best dish at the table.

We are all dressed up, especially the girls who choose to wear a Christmas dress (Pippa) and a new Indian sari (Gigi), and we have a lovely French chardonnay (fruity, not oaky like California chardonnay's). When we get there at 7pm, we are the only customers in the restaurant, but eventually it fills up at a more "normal" French hour (around 8:30). All in all, it is a fabulous meal, and a fantastic way to start a year.


And then, as if a great day, great company, and a great meal are not enough to make for a very joyeux anniversaire (happy birthday), I shamelessly ask for a take-out box for the leftovers of the carrots-and-pork belly. It is just too much for us to finish, along with the excessive desserts we have also ordered, but it is just too heartbreaking to throw it away. As an American, I firmly believe it is my birthright -- and indeed my environmental and moral responsibility -- to take home leftovers and not waste food. But the concept of doggie bags is extremely unusual and really rather gauche here in Paris. If there's one thing that's nice about growing older, however, it's that the opinion of my waiter matters less and less to me (and, in fact, he is actually very gracious about it), so one doggie bag coming up. I'm just happy they actually have a little box they can use, since my alternative is to run home around the corner and grab my own tupperware. Now that would be gauche. But I'd do it anyway.

THE CHEESE: Tomme Borne

Tomme Borne, also called Tomme des Bornes, is a raw cow's milk semi-hard cheese from the mountains in Haute-Savoie. It's made at the Fromagerie Boujon, and possibly not anyplace else.

The crust is thick and on the verge of furry, but don't let that turn you off. It's edible, and adds some dry chew to go along with a rather moist interior. The flavor is very mild and easily likeable by people who are afraid of strong, stinky, French cheeses.


Not only does this cheese have the word "born" right in the name -- a clear reference to my birthday -- but I am also gauche enough to bring this cheese (among others) to my friend's house where we are staying and then, at the end of the week, bring it back home with me, doggie bag style. I would leave it for her and her family, but it turns out they are more a French-cheese-platter-only-when-I-provide-it-for-them-as-a-cultural-experience kind of family, and not the kind of family that actually eats and enjoys various cheeses -- even one that's not so stinky. So, in the spirit of doggie bags, rather than have it go to waste, we all agree that I should just take it back home.


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