Lunch at Au Petit Tonneau
It was a crisp fall day, and I was in Paris to have lunch with two dear friends that I had not seen since we moved to Europe. I was strolling along my favorite street, Rue Cler, near the Eiffel Tower, taking in all of the sights, sounds and smells of this enchanted market street. Shopping would have to take place later, as I didn't want to be late.
How the French Lunch
I love going out to lunch, and I particularly love going out to lunch in France. When it comes to the mid-day meal, the French know how to do it right. It is not a hurried occasion designed to quickly fuel the body. It is a time to relax, to socialize and to re-energize for the afternoon and evening.
Most restaurants will have a “formula” or “menu” option. This is always a particular favorite of mine, as you can typically have two to three courses at a set price. Some places offer you a choice of an appetizer, main course and dessert. Some have only one. Choice or no choice, chances are the meal will be simple yet incredibly enjoyable.
Au Petit Tonneau
I walked through the door at Au Petit Tonneau and immediately felt at home. Red and white checked tablecloths brightened the cozy dining room, and the music in the background added to the ambiance. An older gentleman walked over to me with a huge smile on his face, kissed me once on each cheek and welcomed me. I immediately felt as though I knew him.
On a table near the front door was a plate of beautiful mushrooms. I tend to avoid mushrooms, but these looked absolutely incredible. In a mixture of French and English, the gentleman explained that we were now in "mushroom season" and these were the very best. It was then that I learned about seasonality and how important that was to cooking. Throughout my short stay in Paris and then back at home in Belgium, I saw lots and lots of mushrooms. It was, indeed, mushroom season.
I wish I could tell you all the wonderful things that I had that day. While my friends ordered a variety of vegetable dishes a la carte, I settled for the menu, three courses for 26 euros. It was an incredible bargain and the food was wonderful. This wasn't haute cuisine, but it didn't need to be. I felt like I was in a home and someone's grandmother was cooking for me ... simple dishes with complex flavors.
The afternoon slowly drifted by, and I was sad to see it end. Kisses all around closed out the day, and I left with wonderful memories of seeing my friends, plus memories of making new ones.
Have I been back? Of course! We celebrated my daughter’s 13th birthday there and a Mexican ambassador, who was there with his family, participated in singing “Happy Birthday” to her. We returned for New Year’s Eve and loved running down the street to catch the Eiffel light up at midnight. With each subsequent visit to Paris, we always make time to have a wonderful, leisurely lunch at Au Petit Tonneau, and we are always greeted as though we are part of the family.