Gourmets will tell you that wine and food should complement each other. Restaurants therefore sometimes go to great length to pair different wines with different dishes. In Gaillac (in Southwestern France), we once dined at a restaurant where you could pick either your menu or your wines but not both as the chef was adamant he wasn’t going to let his carefully prepared meal be marred by the choice of the wrong wines. It wasn’t a fancy place and my very elderly parents (with whom we were traveling) were a bit taken aback: in all his born days, my Dad had never heard of such a display of authority by a restaurant owner. Since he wasn’t about to let anybody dictate his choice of wines though (too momentous a decision), he picked one for each of his three courses (he obviously wasn’t the designated driver) and ended up quite happy with the dishes that accompanied them (anticipatory curiosity probably had a lot to do with it as I don’t recall the cuisine as particularly memorable). We did the opposite and picked the dishes and were equally happy with the mystery wines that were brought with them. Altogether a different kind of dinner and a fun evening…
But have you ever been to a restaurant where food is systematically paired with bread? Well, thanks to Jean-Philippe de Tonnac, author of the compelling Dictionnaire universel du pain (a must-have reference for French-speaking breadophiles) whom I met in Paris last week and who recommended I try Maison Kayser‘s new restaurant in Bercy Village, I now have and I love the idea. The restaurant is so new that at the time of this writing, it isn’t even listed on the Kayser website.
It is located 47, Cour Saint-Émilion in the 12th arrondissement. Prices are not cheap but considering the location, they aren’t outrageous either: a lunch consisting of an appetizer plus an entrée or an entrée plus a dessert (I am not a dessert person so I picked the soup but the Kayser desserts are gorgeous) will set you back €14,90 (about $20) per person, tax and service included.
Of course pairing food and bread isn’t a revolutionary concept in France. Certain cheeses are best accompanied by specific breads, oysters on the half-shell are traditionally served with thin slices of buttered rye bread and my paternal grandmother wouldn’t have dreamed of serving her famous “civet de lièvre” (hare stewed in red wine) without “galettes de sarrazin” (buckwheat crêpes). But Eric Kayser, the famous Parisian baker whose liquid levain tsunamied through the home-baking web some years ago, went one step further recently by opening a restaurant where each course is served with a different bread.