One of the goals Nancy and I had for this Paris trip was to see an exhibition of Impressionist works from the Courtauld Collection. The exhibition was at the Fondation Louis Vuitton. The Foundation is plunked down in the Bois de Boulogne in a building that you have to see to believe, as is often the case with Frank Gehry buildings. Form ignores function.
Nancy and I had been to the building once before with Debbie and Katie McMullen after visiting the excellent Musée Marmottan-Monet and a very nice lunch at La Gare. Getting to the Foundation is kind of a project, especially if you don’t realize that the RER red line doesn’t stop at Neuilly and you wind up at the massive complex of La Defense, with no more idea where to go than if you’d emerged in the Amazon rain forest. When we finally remembered that moss grows on the north side of buildings, we got oriented and undertook the 40 minute walk to the Foundation in a light rain. A usually light rain.
As we neared the Bois we decided to eat lunch. It was an unfamiliar area, and I couldn’t just do a “restaurants near me” search, so we were at a disadvantage. But La Criée looked pretty good. Fresh seafood was in evidence, as were some customers, despite the unconscionably early hour for lunch in Paris (noon).
We sat down, were given some rolls, and tried to decipher the menu. Now, that often takes more than a knowledge of French. The French have a seemingly endless number of names for any given fish, depending on recipe, region, and who knows what else. And waiters only rarely seem to be able to translate the name into English, probably because English also have an endless number of names for a given fish, not even counting the names, like mahi-mahi for dolphin, that were created by marketing consultants. Indeed, some US restaurants simplify things by claiming that they’re serving grouper regardless of the actual fish.
We partially deciphered a fish in a shrimp sauce that looked promising. The waiter suggested that it was trout, which seemed to be his generic term for firm white fish. Close enough. Nancy and I both ordered it.
It was quite good. It was not trout, but it was some sort of firm white fish and it was fresh. And the shrimp sauce tasted like shrimp. And it all tasted good. Mission accomplished. It came, as you can see, with mashed potatoes. Weren’t they nicely presented? They were delicious. The French understand that the key to delicious mashed potatoes is butter. Lots of butter. Millions of Americans clearly disagree, but, as Anatole France observed, if 50 million Americans say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.
I also had a glass of a very good and even more welcome rosé.
La Criée, as it turns out, is a chain of seafood restaurants spread all over France. I’m certainly not one to turn up my nose at chain restaurants. I mainly turn up my nose to search the air for barbecue places, but then that’s another matter. Nancy and I both enjoyed our meal at La Criée. If we again found ourselves in an unfamiliar neighborhood, a La Criée sign would be a welcome sight indeed.
Oh, the Courtauld exhibition was great. Click on the link and take a few minutes. Mr. Courtauld made a fortune – actually expanded an existing fortune – as the inventor of artificial silk (rayon), and he used that fortune to acquire a large number of now familiar paintings. And the Foundation Louis Vuitton is well worth a tour. It is an incredible building, and the permanent collection of very modern pieces, is at times interesting and provoking, and at times unintentionally hilarious. You should go.