JACKIE: We want to Talk about places, and people, in Paris. A favorite person is Marina de Frisching, a favorite place is the Lutetia Hotel, in a favorite city, Paris. David tucked in a visit after his winter in England … It must have felt like “Brigadoon”:
DAVID: “What a day this has been; what a rare mood I’m in; I think I am falling in love” – with Paris, all over again. St. Patrick’s Day, springtime in Paree, and the first day since I left home when I could go outside without my warm, heavy jacket. I shopped at the farmers’ market a block from my apartment at 20 rue Cherche Midi. A short walk ‘round the corner took me to the impressive Lutetia Hotel (which has my favorite piano bar) where I met my lunch date. Mrs. Marina de Frisching is incredibly charming and even more incredibly young for her tres important position as International Director of Sales for the only grand hotel on the Left Bank. And “Grand” is the operative word. It has been the welcoming home to a long list of celebrities as varied as Henri Matisse to Charles de Gaulle (who honeymooned here). They all relished the luxury and service offered by Lutetia.
These days, Marina travels throughout the world, especially to North America, to promote the benefits of this Art Deco masterpiece. On our travels, a couple of years ago, Jackie and I toured the Lutetia, guided by Marina and then enjoyed her company at dinner at the hotel’s Michelin-Starred gastronomic Paris Restaurant.
The hotel has a fascinating history; it was actually built in 1910 by the owner of Bon Marche (the fabulous luxury department store just a block away) to house her clients who came to Paris to have their clothes made.
JACKIE: Fortunately for David, Marina was free for lunch at Brasserie du Lutetia, the hotel’s more casual restaurant specializing in fresh from the sea-food. (I must confess to swooning over their steak tartare.) David was rhapsodizing on the dozen oysters he shared with Marina “redolent with the aroma of their recent home” (his words, you know).
DAVID: With them? Champagne, what else? I’m afraid I kept Marina at our table for two hours; our conversation was bubbly as the drink, and we discovered some things in common, including her recent trip to Chewton Glen, our dream spot in the English countryside. Only interruption was my main of perfectly grilled white fish with much needed veggies. I guided Marina to a contact for the West End hit, “Top Hat,” (since she loved “Nice Work If You Can Get It” on Broadway). Before I leave Paris I will certainly return to Lutetia, visit the Fumoir where I can enjoy a Cohiba cigar, a glass of Champagne, and the great live jazz offered every Wednesday through Sunday.
PRESERVE THE PAST AND BUILD FOR THE FUTURE
(The meaning of ‘Taokan’)
JACKIE: David has found a new restaurant, brace yourself!
DAVID: He’s young, he’s ambitious, and he’s passionate about the food of China. His name is Christophe Daine and he owns the newest, hottest restaurant in Paris. It’s called TaoKan! After 16 years in Hong Kong and Biel, Switzerland, Christophe returned to Paris with a hunger for the kind of gourmet Chinese fare he had enjoyed abroad. No such luck, only the conservative Chinese food of times gone by. So, he opened his own restaurant. It is a breath of fresh air, new in style in décor and certainly in cooking. All fresh produce and fish daily, and served in a cool contemporary Manhattan-like hot spot all in greys, sand, blacks, and mirrors with glass windows exposing the kitchen. The Chef was poached (no pun meant) from another big-time Chinese restaurant in Paris. He is shy and talented and here he can cook the way he longed for so long. For me, he prepared assorted dim sum: scallops, veggie, crispy chicken roll; spicy salmon tartare; spicy beef fillet, the sweetness of tender beef matched with fiery sauce; stir fried sea bass fillet marinated in miso sauce; stir fried noodles with soya; assorted veggies stir fried cooked to perfection. With flutes of Mercier Champagne and a glass of Chateau La Lagune 2000 Haut Medoc, a great meal. And a great value for the money. All in all, A WOW!
JACKIE: No wonder David needed to have his waist bands let out….