Monday Miam-Miam: Chez Chartier

As soon as I hit Publish last Monday, I knew I’d probably picked a misleading title for my new series. Which is typical of someone who navigates her life between two languages.

If Manger in French only means To Eat, in English it designates my French crèche.

When Joey commented and asked with her usual humoristic voice if I would talk about la crèche I knew I had to do something. My husband suggested Miam-Miam, which is Yum-Yum in English. Widely used in France and not only by kids, it felt perfect. What would I do without this man?

So here I am with my second post for this series now called Monday Miam-Miam.

As often as possible I will add the name of a bookstore to this post related to food.

Because body and mind need to be fed, right?

 

ONE-HUNDRED YEARS OLD AND STILL ALIVE AND KICKING

 

Today, I’m taking you to one of the oldest and also one of the first Parisian restaurants where I ate when I moved to the City of Lights.

Le Bouillon Chartier is 121 years old and located in the heart of Paris. If you are more interested by architecture than food click here to get a rotating view of their legendary dining room.

One corner of the historic dining room

Quickly, Le Bouillon Chartier, simply called Chartier in Paris, became one of my favorite restaurants, first and foremost due to the very reasonable prices. Currently appetizers start below 2 Euros and barely go above 6 Euros. Entrees are all below 13,50 Euros and desserts are between 2 and 4 Euros. You also have a cheese selection around 2 Euros each. It was less expensive back in the days: a must for starving students.

Unlike the Americans, French are not too big on raw vegetables to the exception of Céleri rémoulade, which is grated celery root served with mayonnaise mixed with mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and Carottes rapées vinaigrette, which is made with grated carrots served with vegetable oil of your choice, vinegar, a little bit of sugar, salt, pepper, and chopped parsley. These two appetizers are found everywhere in France. Including at Chartier where I happily ate them, a sweet reminder of my childhood food.

My very favorite appetizer at Chartier, though, also one I loved when I lived at my parents’, remains Filets de hareng, pommes à l’huile. I’ve never eaten this dish elsewhere but in France. Made with smoked herring filets and steamed cooked potatoes accompanied with a dressing made of vegetable oil, shallots, lemon juice, mustard, parsley, salt and pepper, it’s a French staple. And I would do almost anything to eat this dish. Now!!!!

In the US we would call Chartier’s cuisine comfort food since all French people know these dishes from an early age. Take their Steack haché sauce poivre vert, frites, French version of an American hamburger with green pepper sauce and fries or their classic grilled chicken also served with French fries or still their Choucroute alsacienne, sauerkraut with sausages, a dish originally from Alsace but served in every brasserie in France. You hold France in your plate when you eat these dishes.

The menu on the traditional chalkboard

But the reason I really, really loved eating at Chartier was to order their fromage blanc with crème de marrons.

When I moved from Paris to the San Francisco Bay Area late 1990, there were very few common things between my homeland and the US. The dairy section, an important part of French alimentation, was by far the strangest. In France, there were hundreds of cheeses but crème fraîche was crème fraîche. Here, cream was sour, light, heavy or whipping heavy. And what on earth were creamers, buttermilk, and half and half? And where could I find real yogurt?

In Normandy when I was a kid, we bought eggs, milk, and crème fraîche from a small farm, close enough to my home so my sister and I could walk when our mother sent us. I loved the pungent odor rising from the crocks where butter and cream were stored. My mother made yogurt from scratch and of all things, I missed French yogurts the most when I arrived in California where I found all yogurts way too sweet or too bland.

Even now days where the US can almost compete with France with a much larger and diverse selection of dairy goods than in 1990, I still have to taste real fromage blanc. When I searched online how to describe best this French dairy treat I read that fromage blanc is comparable to cream cheese. It has nothing in common with cream cheese. It is thicker but softer in taste than yogurt. You know what I’m talking about if you ever got a chance to eat some.

At my home we ate fromage blanc as a dessert with a dusting of sugar or with a spoonful of jam. Chez Chartier fromage blanc was served with my secret weakness: crème de marrons. Ask my son how delicious it is. He and I share the same passion for the sweetened chestnut puree lightly flavored with vanilla and always offer each other a small can for Christmas. Again if you don’t know crème de marrons, give it a try. Clément Faugier is the maker and you can find it in most supermarkets. If you are new to it, go slow. It’s very sweet and that’s why I love it with fromage blanc. A spoonful in a good quality plain yogurt and my taste buds dance a happy jig.

I checked Chartier’s menu and they don’t offer this exact same dessert but still serve their Coupe Mont Blanc, crème de marrons with Chantilly or plain crème de marrons if you don’t like whipped cream. My second favorite dessert from Chartier is still on the menu. Pruneaux au vin, glace vanille or prunes soaked in wine and served with vanilla ice cream. Miam-miam.

The servers always dressed in black and white

Since its doors opened in 1896, Chartier has not changed much. Even the menu from the 1980s when I ate there most is basically the same. The only major difference I noticed when I had lunch with my husband a couple of years ago was the absence of young people. In our days university students and young professionals elbowed each other as we waited in line to get in. Now they favor the sushi bars and the more modern-looking places. Chartier remains, however, a fantastic place to eat great traditional French cuisine for a very affordable place and in a beautiful setting.

The famous sideboards where regulars kept their own, personal napkins, in the old days

I didn’t have any personal photos to illustrate this post. Last time I went to Chartier I wasn’t thinking of Monday Miam-Miam yet 🙂

But Chartier allows free downloads from their website. So I selected a few. Their website is also bilingual, so you can read their story. The menu, however, is in French.

Chartier is located rue du Faubourg Montmartre in the 9th arrondissement, not far from the Opera, the Bourse, which is the French Stock Exchange, and Drouot, the famous Parisian auction house specialized in fine arts and antiques.

 

There are countless independent bookstores in Paris. Even if you don’t read French, by all means enter one of the bookshops. The number of books originally published in American English will surprise you, but you’ll also see many, many novels and nonfiction books written in French that you won’t find at home.

Within walking distance from Chartier and next to the Stock Exchange you can pay a visit to the Bourse du Collectionneur, a unique boutique related to everything money and stamps.

You’ll love the Librairie du Passage located in Passage Jouffroy, one of the oldest Parisian covered arcades that characterize this part of Paris. These galeries or passages as we call them in French are worth a visit. And all of them harbor at least one bookstore.

 

See you next week for Monday Miam-Miam!

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Une jolie introduction à la cuisine française. Pour le fromage blanc, la comparaison est bonne. Bien qu’ayant été parisien, je n’ai pas fréquenté la table de Chartier et assez peu d’institutions de ce type d’ailleurs. Et comme en plus je verse depuis presque 15 ans dans le végétarisme, ça sera plus dur.
    Au moins ces bonnes entrées sont à mon goût et cet article devient un Karambolage franco américain (cf l’émission d’Arte)

    • C’est pas évident de décrire quelque chose qui n’existe pas vraiment ici, alors merci si ma description du fromage blanc est décente. Pas mal des entrées chez Chartier sont végétales, mais leurs plats sont poisson, volaille et viande. Alors ça ne marchera pas en effet pour un végétarien. Le cadre cela étant vaut le coup d’oeil. Merci de m’avoir lue en tous cas.

  2. A fascinating visit Evelyne, I think I would like the herring and potato dish very much. Interesting the way food differs so much from country to country – we had an American visitor last year who was very frustrated at some of the things she couldn’t buy here to cook with!

    • Not so many people like herrings, so I’m glad you do:)
      When my mother used to visit us in the US she didn’t like the flower that she found too thick in comparison to the French one. Which is still true. Now when in France I miss my good old oatmeal 🙂
      So, yes, we take for granted our familiar food. That’s why I liked this place in Paris when I lived there. Affordable typical French food that I used to eat at my parents’.
      Thank you, Andrea for another visit.

  3. Oh, my goodness, my mouth watered when you described the dishes. Such a beautiful place, thanks for the link to the 360-degree view. When I go to Paris again, this restaurant will definitely be on the itinerary.

    • I was getting hungry when I typed my post 🙂
      Besides reading about food that I don’t eat here made me want to eat these dishes right away.
      Knowing you I’m pretty sure that you would love the setting. It’s really gorgeous. I will soon highlight another favorite of mine, although in a beautiful setting. So stay tuned.

  4. Well now I’m famished and it’s salad and bread night chez nous! Bah! My mouth must have watered five or six times through this post. I insist you bring samples next time! Haha!
    I note that as a person who cooks, the cream issues are very hard to understand until you actually MAKE some of them, then it all gets clearer. Mostly. Don’t get me started on the bad math of half & half.

    • I was getting hungry too as I read their menu. It’s not fancy food but it’s typical French food from your maman’s kitchen. There is something comforting about that. But the setting is not your typical dining room.
      Okay, now I want to learn how to make cream. Really? You make yours?

      • There’s no making to it; When the milk comes out of the cow, the cream rises to the top.From this I made butter. We also used the milk to make a certain cheese. It’s hard work.

      • I realize that my comment implied that I didn’t know where cream came from:)
        Which for someone born in Normandy would be a paradox!
        But few people do their own from home. Since you write in the preterit, I assume you don’t anymore?

      • I must say I’m relieved, cause I’d thought you were from a rural area! 😁 And SUCH a foodie!
        Phew!
        No, I don’t get to make much dairy stuffs anymore. Can’t even have tiny goats in my part of the city.

        Glad you cleared that up! 😊

  5. But you did, which I think is pretty cool. We had a goat when I was a little girl but she was old and we only kept her because she had been left behind when my parents moved into this house. She wasn’t really of any use. Except that she loved eating sheets and towels that my mother hung outside to dry 🙂

Trackbacks

  1. […] On Monday, Ms Holingue wrote a post which included a section on dairy products. I commented, “I note that as a person who cooks, […]

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