Here on the outskirts of Philadelphia, PA, it appears that spring has finally sprung. The snow has melted, the daylight hours are lengthening and albeit it reluctantly the temperatures are averaging a bit warmer.
Along with the annual season of rebirth and renewal, I’m taking better care of myself. I’ve gone more than a month now without drinking any Diet Coke™ (or similar beverages, as opposed to my daily habit of a gallon or more) or consuming any fried chicken (which used to be my default lunch, four to six times a week). My intake of land-based protein overall has dwindled to almost nothing. Instead I’m eating lots of seafood and vegetables. So, look for changes when next you see me.
Meanwhile, here at EATING AUTHORS we’ve got Dan Koboldt today. He’s a genetics researcher (which I think is really cool), but that’s not what caught my attention. Rather, it’s because the protagonist of his Gateways to Alissia series is a stage magician working in Vegas. As I’ve dedicated a million or so words to my own stage performer protagonist, I feel a certain kinship to Dan. Please note, this is not a prerequisite to enjoying his work.
Dan’s second book, The Island Deception, comes out tomorrow from Harper Voyager Impulse. And while what happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, what happens when you cross through a dimensional portal is another story altogether. But don’t take my word for it, go pick up a copy of the book.
LMS: Welcome, Dan. What comes to mind as your most memorable meal?
DK: A couple of years ago, I received an invitation to speak at a scientific workshop in Evry, on the outskirts of Paris, France. All expenses paid. I speak French, and had traveled to France a few times, but my wife had never been. Her parents and sister even offered to babysit. So I agreed to the invitation, and we booked a ticket for her as well. We were off to Paris!
Well, sort of.
The village of Evry is almost an hour’s train ride from Paris proper, and requires one to take the RER. This abbreviation might as well have stood for “Rural Erratic Rail” because the trains that ran between Paris and Evry had a sporadic schedule, and often required transfers at rather unsavory stations on the outskirts of the city. Still, an hour was a small price to pay for the City of Lights, so we braved the trains every afternoon.
On the last day, we discovered a wonderful spot near the Louvre with restaurants and stores that were open late. Had we known about it, we’d have spent every evening there. Alas, our trip was over soon after, so we headed to the airport. Interestingly, this is where fate intervened.
As we waited in the gate area, we were informed that our flight had been delayed half an hour. Then an hour. Something about a burned-out lightbulb that required a special part. They sent someone to get the part, which wasn’t in stock at the airport. More delays, more waiting. According to a fellow passenger, this had very little to do with the plane, but the fact that American officials had delayed the departure of an Air France flight for several hours the day before. We were but pawns in a game of international air travel chess.
At last, they cancelled the flight and put us up in a hotel near the airport. We were tired, frustrated, and missing our children terribly. But we were also starving, so we refreshed ourselves and headed down to the hotel restaurant. Unfortunately, it offered buffet-style dining (which we as germaphobes try to avoid) and didn’t seem very clean. It was after 8 p.m. and the only other place we could get to was a metro station.
“What do you want to do?” I asked.
“We need to find somewhere to eat,” she said.
“You know… it’s just a 40-minute ride into the city.”
“I don’t know. It’s already so late.”
“Come on,” I said. “We can go back to that area by the Louvre. They’re open late.”
Somehow, I convinced her to take one last adventure. We caught a train into the city. When we exited onto Boulevard Saint Germain, the place was hopping. Picking a restaurant for our last meal in Paris seemed like an impossible task. By chance, we turned around to look across the street, and saw a restaurant called l’Opportunité (Opportunity).
We took it as a sign and crossed over.
Upon entering, I saw an empty table, and asked the man behind the bar (in my most polite French) if they had a place for two. Regrettably, the table I’d spied was reserved, but they did have a small table right by the window. We took it, ordered wine (of course), and perused the menu.
Here we come to the weak point of my French vocabulary, which is food.
I wanted a nice steak, but the word “steak” on a menu in France actually means hamburger patty. I saw a beef item on the menu that might have been closer to what I wanted. A quick conversation with the proprietor (who was also our server) assured me that this was no hamburger patty. So I took a chance.
It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had. My wife’s dish was equally delicious. It gets better. While we ate, a group showed up to claim the reserved table. They weren’t diners, though; they were musicians. Once a month, this group came to play live music for restaurant patrons. Tonight was the night.
We thus spent a perfect night with fine food, wine, and live music. Toward the end, I told the proprietor that it was the “best piece of meat I’ve eaten in France.” This so delighted him that he insisted on getting his brother out of the kitchen to pass it along. Between that and a generous tip, I suppose we made a good impression.
As we put on our coats to leave, the proprietor showed up with a bottle of liquor and two shot glasses. As he poured, he put a hand on my shoulder, leaned in, and murmured some French wisdom about liquor and romance that I won’t repeat here. It was classic.
My wife and I are not heavy drinkers. We hadn’t taken a shot in years, but we could hardly refuse the hospitality. The liquor burned a path of fire down our throats. We shook hands with our generous host and slipped out into the street. Then it was back to the train, where the liquor kept us warm on the long ride out of Paris.
Thanks, Dan. The only wisdom I’ve heard about liquor and romance is “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” I’m hoping that sounds less creepy in French.
Next Monday: Another author and another meal!
Tags: Eating Authors