The Paris wine bars of legend no longer exist, said Jane Sigal in Food & Wine. Only 25 years ago, many of them still actually “looked like cafes.” They opened in the morning, did not close until the last customer went home for dinner, and mostly served wines from Beaujolais and the Loire made by small producers.
A new breed of wine bar arrived in 2000, when the tiny Le Verre Volé opened for business in the city’s 10th arrondissement. Cyril Bordarier’s small establishment not only served food but sold groceries and poured “mostly natural wines nobody had heard of.” Despite some grumbling from old-timers, the new generation of bistro owners “followed his lead.”
Today many wine bars not only serve excellent wines but bring “terrific food to the table.” William Abitbol, owner-chef of Alfred—located across the street from the Palais Royal and not far from the Louvre—specializes in “inspired but unpretentious French food.” His riff on a classic creamy gratin substitutes a nutty celery root for potato. Serve with baby artichokes.
Recipes of the week
Beef Tenderloin Steaks With Celery Root Gratin
One 2-lb celery root—peeled, quartered, and sliced crosswise, 1/8-inch thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
5 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 tbsp cut into small pieces
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Four 6-oz trimmed beef tenderloin steaks, about 2 inches thick
½ cup veal demiglace (available in specialty food shops)
4 rosemary sprigs, for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread one-fourth of the celery root slices in shallow 1-quart gratin dish. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg. Repeat with remaining celery root slices to create 4 layers; season each layer. Pour cream over celery root, dot with 1 tbsp butter pieces. Cover with foil, bake 30 minutes. Remove foil, bake about 30 minutes longer, until browned on top and celery root tender when pierced with knife. Let stand 15 minutes. Leave oven on.
In large ovenproof skillet, melt 1 tbsp butter in olive oil. Season steaks with salt and pepper, cook over moderately high heat until brown crust forms on bottom, about 3 minutes. Turn steaks, transfer skillet to oven, cook about 12 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to plates. Add veal demiglace to skillet and bring to boil. Remove skillet from heat, whisk in remaining 3 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp at a time. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over and around steaks. Garnish each steak with sprig of rosemary, serve hot with celery root gratin. Serves 4.
Herb-and-Lemon-Poached Baby Artichokes
1 cup water
4 lemons, halved
12 baby artichokes (about 1½ pounds)
1 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
1 cup dry white wine
¾ cup finely chopped red onion
¼ tsp coriander seeds
¼ tsp black peppercorns
2 thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
2 sage leaves
4 bay leaves, preferably fresh
Fine sea salt
In large, deep skillet, combine water with juice of 2 lemons; add all 4 lemons to the water in skillet. Working with 1 baby artichoke at a time, snap off all dark-green outer leaves. Using sharp knife, slice off top half of inner leaves. Peel and trim stem. Drop baby artichokes into lemon-infused water. Add 1 cup olive oil and white wine, onion, coriander seeds, peppercorns, thyme, rosemary, sage, bay leaves to skillet. Bring to simmer over moderately high heat, reduce heat to low. Cover, simmer until artichokes are tender when pierced with fork, about 20 minutes. Let artichokes cool in cooking liquid for 30 minutes. Transfer to work surface; discard cooking liquid. Cut artichokes in half lengthwise and arrange them on platter. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt, serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4.