Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Les Bateaux Parisiens - lunch cruise on the Seine

Les Bateaux Parisiens - lunch cruise on December 31, 2013
Thanks to my friend, we went on a lunch cruise on the Seine with Les Bateaux Parisiens. "Bateaux" means boats in French and Les Bateaux Parisiens offers a lunch cruise, dinner cruise and a sightseeing cruise. The boats depart from the dock near the Eiffel Tower so they're not hard to find. When we checked in at the pier, we were given our table number and handed a menu of our lunch selections. We made our way to where our boat would depart just in time as it started to rain when we got there. Fortunately the boat was flat-bottomed and fully enclosed so we could enjoy the views in dry, warm comfort.
I have to say, the cruise was one of the highlights of our trip, if not the highlight of the whole week and a half of vacation. When we boarded, we were shown to our table, offered a selection of nuts and libations and away we went. The tables are arranged so there's not really a bad seat. Since it's fully enclosed in glass, you could get a great view anywhere you turned. The tables right against the window were lower than the inside tables so even from an inside table, you had an unobstructed view of the sights.
Our starting point was the Eiffel Tower
Bread rolls, nuts and drinks to start off with while we waited to sail
But what really made the trip so fantastic was (of course) the food. I've been on dinner cruises before in San Francisco Bay and they've been fun but I can't say the food was really striking. Not so with Les Bateaux Parisiens. I'll be remembering this meal for quite some time and not just because I have a good memory when it comes to food. Everything was roll-your-eyes-to-the-back-of-your-head delicious.
Veloute of pumpkin, chestnuts and pine nuts
The menu lets you select a starter, an entree and either cheese or a dessert for the third course. For my starter I got the pumpkin veloute. Our very nice waiter served it initially with the cream in the center of the bowl then he poured the hot pumpkin soup into it in front of me. A completely nice touch, especially considering he and the other wait staff had to do that for every diner who ordered the veloute. The soup was hot, creamy and the perfect pumpkin flavor.
Duck Terrine with foie gras and fig chutney
Shyla got the duck terrine and Lauren the escargots. Both enjoyed their starters and they were literally a good start to our cruise. In the midst of the food being served, we were already under way, cruising the brown waters of the Seine. Since this wasn't the sightseeing cruise per se, they only made sporadic announcements of some of the sights we were passing, including Les Invalides, Le Musee d'Orsay, and La Bibliotheque Nationale de France but the announcements over the loudspeaker did offer some informational tidbits about some of the bridges and monuments we were passing.
Cassolette of escargots from Burgundy, 'Meurette-style'
For my entree I ordered the "Braised Pork spare rib with gratin Dauphinois". It was amusing for me to see the singular "rib" as I had in mind the American version of ribs, always in the plural. Were they going to give me one rib? Turned out the answer was "yes" but it was more like a boneless pork loin. Tender and very flavorful in a yummy sauce. I wish I had a better way to describe it other than, "wow, this is really good and I'm eating all of it". But my favorite part was the "gratin Dauphinois". The boat didn't have wifi so I couldn't look it up before I ordered it but I retained enough high school French to figure it was some kind of scalloped potatoes with cheese. OMG. The words "potatoes" and "cheese" are wholly inadequate to describe how good this was. Cheesy, perfectly cooked, and tender - did I mention cheesy?? They were so good. I never knew potatoes could be that good.
Braised Pork Spare Rib, gratin Dauphinois
Shyla got the shrimp and spinach in a crayfish sauce. The foam you see below is the crayfish sauce and she enjoyed that as much as I enjoyed my potatoes. As in, several hours later, she would burst out, "OMG, that foam was so good!" Yep, we're related.
Jumbo Shrimp, Spinach, Crayfish Sauce
Lauren got the veal stew. I didn't get the picture in action but, like my pumpkin veloute, it was served with an individual touch: our waiter brought her the plate then proceeded to spoon the stew onto it from an individual sized little pot. Very cute, very classy.
Paupiette of Veal cooked in a casserole dish, stewed vegetables
While we were eating, we were zipping along the Seine and I took random shots of what we were passing. Whenever I managed to look up from my plate, that is.
Le Grand Palais (I think)
The announcer over the loudspeaker also talked about some of the bridges we were going under but since I didn't write anything down, I confess I didn't retain the knowledge beyond our next course.
Since we were in France, our third and final course was a choice of cheese or dessert. We all opted for dessert but I managed to take a picture of the cheese plate before they delivered it to another table.
Fromage (cheese)
On my foodie bucket list of "desserts to eat in Paris", Tarte Tatin is one of them so I was pleased this was one of the dessert offerings. It's essentially a caramelized apple upside down cake. For a traditional Tarte Tatin, you line a cast iron pan with sliced apples, prettily arranged if you're skilled enough (I'm not), cover the tart crust, bake, then flip over onto the serving plate once it was done. If all goes well, you have a beautifully caramelized apple top with the tart crust underneath. If all doesn't go well, er, like when I made it in culinary school, let's just say, mine never came out looking like the one below. This was also good but it's hard not to like a warm apple tart. In Paris.
Tarte Tatin
Pot de creme (pot of cream)
Lauren got the pot de creme which is literally a pot of cream. Just like the creme brulee from Bistro La Petite Rotonde, this was sinfully rich and creamy and very good. And I say that as someone who doesn't often like cream-type desserts. Creme brulee and pot de creme are notable exceptions.
Praline Paris Brest
Shyla chose the Paris Brest which is a pate a choux filled with mousse. That was good too but each of us only had a bite to taste. She was already full and Lauren and I were focusing on our own desserts.
The Paris version of the Statue of Liberty
Did you know there's a Statue of Liberty in Paris? It's a smaller version of the one in New York City and was a gift to the city in 1889 from the American community in Paris on their centenary. Pretty cool. I think we passed this somewhere along the dessert course or shortly after so I did actually notice something other than what I was eating.
Coffee to end a delicious meal
The whole cruise took a little over two hours and we went along the Seine at a pretty steady clip, enabling us to circle the route twice while we ate. We got lucky in that our waiter served us first so we had plenty of time to enjoy our food before the cruise ended. We got even luckier that the rain stopped before the cruise ended so by the time we emerged, we could continue our travels without getting (too) wet. If you're ever in Paris, this is a fun cruise to go on and a great way to enjoy more delicious food.

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