Thursday, January 22, 2009

Prévert/Pré Verre

This week, I went with my friend Marcelle to two very different places with the same name or at least names that are pronounced the same. First at the Hôtel de Ville (Paris City Hall), I saw an exhibit on the poet Jacques Prévert. The second was a restaurant called the Pré Verre. I recommend them both.

One of France's most popular poets of the 20th century, Jacques Prévert was also a lyricist, a screen writer and later in life, a collage artist. Even if you have never heard Prevert's name, you probably know one of his most famous songs "Les Feuilles Mortes." In English, the song is known as "Autumn Leaves." Johnny Mercer wrote the English words and Nat King Cole sang it in a 1956 film of the same name. When I saw the movie many years later, I did not know of Jacques Prévert. And in my wildest dreams, I never ever imagined how important a role Paris would play in my own life. To hear the original French version sung by a very young and very handsome Yves Montand, click here.

If you can't attend this exhibit, you should still put the Hôtel de Ville on your Paris list. It's located across the river from Notre Dame on the Right Bank. Burned down in 1871 by the Paris Commune, the building was completely rebuilt between 1874 and 1882 in a grandiose Neo-Renaissance style. The architecture is a bit over the top, but the Hôtel de Ville always has wonderfully interesting exhibits, often with a Paris theme, and admission is free.

By coincidence, a few days later, Marcelle and I were looking for a nice, little restaurant for lunch. We were walking near the College de France in the Latin Quarter and came upon the Restaurant Pré Verre. The restaurant opened in 2003 and has been a great success ever since. Its name is a wonderful play on words since Pré Verre and Prévert are pronounced the same. In French "prendre un verre" is literally "to have a glass" or as we say in English, "to have a drink." So the restaurant's name not only evokes a cozy drink tête-à-tête before dinner, but is also an homage to Jacques Prévert, who grew up in a neighborhood not far from the restaurant.

Sure enough, when we descended to the downstairs dining room, there on the imaginatively painted-walls was a portrait of Jacques Prévert.

The decor is fun,but he real reason to go to Pré Verre is the food. The chef Philippe Delacourcelle is known for his originality and his innovative use of exotic spices. Go for lunch when the restaurant has a very good, very affordable 13,50 euro menu that includes a both a first and second course and glass of good wine and coffee.

We had "Soupe a la Betterave avec gingembre" (Cream of Beet Soup with ginger, pictured here) followed by a deliciously tender Pintade or Guinea Fowl in a sauce seasoned with cumin and served over noodles.

Pré Verre's English language web site is terrific. You'll find lots more information there on the restaurant as well as several recipes that you can try at home in case you can't get to Paris this year.

Bon appétit.

A bientot,

Photos by Geraldine Calisti Kaylor
To see more photos, click here

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous descriptions. Makes me want to get back asap. And to see all these fun things!


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