Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Fondue de Saint Marcellin Parmentière et Salade

The Le Jean-Moulin luckily entered my line of vision when I stepped off the Pont du College, a footbridge across the Rhone connecting the lower sixth arrondissement to the second here in Lyon. I decided to swing by and take a look. It's a cute little gem of a place with lots of cachet on the riverside. I was drawn like a fly to honey to the simple delicious sounding offerings on the sidewalk chalk board. Entering the shelter of the restaurant from the chilly wind that's been blowing down the hill since the big rain, I was enveloped at once with warmth. The little restaurant, featuring only 10 covers on the ground floor but more upstairs, was decorated with an air of quiet tasteful restraint but at the same time, the details of its structure were steeped in a homey coziness. I adored way they rightfully left the historic and beautiful things that needed to be left alone, and added contemporary touches to the decoration at just the right dose here and there. The menu was also like that.

The salad I chose was noted on the menu as a Fondue de Saint Marcellin Parmentière et Salade. The first bite was a revelation, not just because I am a certified cheese freak and have a special weakness for the local Saint Marcellin, but because the warm potatoes and cheese were served at the perfect temperature, the plate coming direct from the kitchen and placed within seconds on my table. The warmth of the potatoes on salad, the healthy twist in the greens, the quilt on the landing to the stairwell leading upstairs, the service with a smile just made me feel - taken care of. The salad itself was simple enough, with mixed greens that included a nice dose of this season's peppery arugula, potatoes, Saint Marcellin cheese from Maison Richard at Les Halles, cured ham, almonds and chives, the greens perfectly dressed with a light vinaigrette.

It's really strange to try to imagine French cooking without potatoes, isn't it? We see them as the basis for so many incredibly delicious regional specialties. What would we do without Tartiflette, for example, or Pommes Dauphine? The lovely straw cakes prepared in country kitchens in the Auvergne, the Pommes Anna, or Aligot? The fact is, not much longer than 200 years ago, it was illegal to cultivate potatoes in this country for human consumption. They were thought to cause disease. Potatoes were introduced to the French diet only when a man named Antoine-Auguste Parmentier (1737-1817) devoted a good portion of his life to convincing the people of France that they were edible, and can taste good. He first convinced the medical community, then went on to network his social resources, including enlightening Mr. Benjamin Franklin to his cause, and staging spectacular public events to draw attention to the tuber. He eventually persuaded King Louis XVI to remove the ban on the cultivation of potatoes in France. Today if a dish has Parmentier in the name, you can be sure it contains potatoes.

Thank you, M. Parmentier. You made my day.



Le Jean Moulin
22 rue Gentil 69002 LYON
04 78 37 37 97
closed Saturday lunch

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5 Comments:

Blogger Anita said...

That set of windows into the kitchen at the pass is utterly charming.

2:05 AM, August 09, 2007  
Blogger Kitt said...

Wow. Now I'm really hungry.

Lyon is MFR Fisher's old haunt, isn't it? I assume you've read all her stuff ...

8:38 AM, August 09, 2007  
Blogger katiez said...

Indeed, He has my grattitude as well. Hard to imagine early summer without those wonderful 'new potatoes' from Nourmoutier....
Gorgeous salad - wonder how that would be for breakfast.....

9:25 AM, August 09, 2007  
Blogger Euro Chic said...

yum, yum, yum! And a little education to boot.

4:10 PM, August 09, 2007  
Blogger Tartelette said...

If I could have potatoes and St Marcelin everyday!Gratin Parmentier is one of my favorites "anything but the kitchen sink" meals.

9:02 PM, August 18, 2007  

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