We left Paris in the morning, bound for the little kingdom of Luxembourg. I've dreamt of visiting Luxembourg since I was a kid. It sounds perfect, like it's the last fairy tale land.
As we passed through streets like the Bd St. Germain road, I wished I could have another day in Paris to discover the streets rather than the sights. In 4 days, we hardly scratched the surface and I left the city more curious about it than before. Paris isn't as beautiful or romantic as friends tell me. Not all food there is good. People are not rude or unfriendly nor do they refuse to speak English when they can. We met a few who apologized for their bad English. Paris isn't as French as I imagined it to be. As with other big cities in Europe, food is international. I suspect that those restaurants that serve french onion soup and beef bourguinon in tourist areas are just doing it for the tourists, not the locals. I can't imagine the streets of China or Japan or Australia or Sweden filled with Africans selling souvenirs to tourists. Paris, like London, is truly international and has lost a lot of its ethnicity. I need to check out the smaller towns.
We had lunch in a French town called Rheims, famous for its champagne and reisling wine. Rheims is one of those places I'll skip. It's not pretty or interesting and there were lots of dog poo on the streets. This is something I can't understand about Europe, and France especially. The Europeans like to walk their dogs (for many, it'a a fashion thing. The classiest dog-walker I saw was in Verona, Italy. She was dressed in a white shirt, tight black pants and black boots walking a little black dog) but they don't clean after them. To me, this is the equivalent of spitting in China. Disgusting.
I saw a man walking the cutest dog in Rheims. It was white with brown and black patches and had very short legs. "Isn't that like a little pig? So cute!" "It IS a pig" said Hub. Before I could get my lagging camera on them, they had scurried round the corner. I wish I live in Europe so I can walk a pig too. People won't think I'm crazy.
Luxembourg didn't disappoint. We liked it, especially Hub. Classy, beautiful, clean, affluent and tidy. Straight streets with swanky shops. More designer bags onthe streets than any where I've seen so far. They wore designer clothes too, you could tell. You'd have to be filthy rich to live in Luxembourg. And if you are rich, Luxembourg is the place to have kids because it's so beautiful, clean, affluent, tidy, safe and small (translate: nothing much to see). If it gets boring, just jet off somewhere dangerous and fun.
The only palace that's right on the street in the city without a fence is probably Luxembourg's. So down to earth, unlike other stuffy monarchs (names withheld) who are always behind fences and guards.
An American jazz band was playing in the city square; very good jazz. Beers, hot dogs, carrot cakes and summer fun.
We had a special date that night. My dear friend's daughter Heather and her husband had just moved to Luxembourg early May, 2 1/2 weeks before we arrived. William, who worked at Papillon in Shanghai, is now head chef in the newly opened Albert Premier Hotel, a modern boutique hotel.
As William was still setting up the restaurant menu, we had the temporary dinner menu. The restaurant opened two weeks ago on 4th June and William has the honor of having it named after him, Mahi Restaurant. Isn't that something? I'm as proud as his mom. And MIL. This young chef is not only amazing with his culinary skills, he's very likeable and winning with his manners and presence. I've seen Heather grow up--she used to be a little brat who pounded me with her fist when I took too much of her mom's time, and I did--into such a beautiful, elegant, capable and wonderful girl. The four of us chatted until the lights went out and we continued--and I just wonder at my guts, talking about food with a celebrated French chef--until we suddenly saw that it was 2 am!
Salmon and dill are so out, man. Try salmon with mint and wrap it into cute little 'sweets' like William did.
Hub's choice of veg pizza for appetizer. So good he ate it all before I could get a bite. What's the black stuff I wonder?
Heather and I were more adventurous, we had steak tartare, something I last ate over 25 years ago! Isn't that a pretty steak?
This was seriously good steak tartare. The beef was smooth, tender, VERY fresh and sweet. No raw or unusual flavor. The rose wine was perfect with the steak. You can see the kitchen in the left photo above.
Not wanting to look uncool,, I didn't try Hub's fish. But just looking at it i know William worked his magic. His cooking is light and brings out the best in the fresh ingredients.
Heather and I again agreed on the same thing (carnivores!). The pork loin was yummy but a little minute. I love petit pois and these were tender and sweet. Wanted to ask for a whole bowl but didn't want to embarrass Heather. I noticed that William is especially good with veggies and sauces. Can hardly wait till he visits his in-laws because I'm going to stalk him in the kitchen.
Dessert was creme brulee and ile flottante (floating islands); I had two servings of the ile flottante. William honored us with a tour of his new, sleek kitchen which is outfitted with the top-of-the-line stoves, ovens and equipment. Hire me, William!
Thanks for the loveliest dinner and company, William and Heather!
p.s. I missed out the Cathedral of Notre Dame at Rheims! There's lots of beautiful stained glass but the one by Marc Chagall is different (after all it was done in 1974). Instead of tidy symmetrical designs, Chagall's stained glass is like paintings, fluid and beautiful.
The left panel is about the old testament and the birth of Jesus, the middle about Jesus' crucifiction and Abraham's life and the panel on the right about the parables and the coronation of the kings (a strange thing about old churches: is it about God or about earthly kings?)