Steak Tartare and Books


The parents-in-law were due for a visit and they came in their usual way, via Italy on AirItalia, fatigued by the trip and relieved the minute they arrived at our humble appartement.  The girls were jumping with joy, RN always visibly excited by their rare and precious visits and SS who has a quiet excitement about her manifested this by a very warm “Ciao Nonni!” and her famous bear hug . In the past 19 months that we’ve been in Paris, the in-laws had visited us twice.

The FIL who loves all things antiqued and smelling of antiquity  was very excited to learn about a Marché that sold antique books.  He had found it through a website linked to an Alpine Association that he is a member of.  Nonno Piero is afterall an alpinist who has scaled K2 and climbed various other mountains in the Italian Alps.  He is also a collector of mountaineering paraphernalia and books.  He was on the hunt for some interesting and valuable livres de montagne.

The said marché is located in the 15th arrondissement, a section that I’ve not been to before.  The 15th is the largest arrondissement in Paris and is very varied in its character and architecture.  To get there, we had to take two métro trains, the last one taking us to a strange crossroad just outside the sortie.  I thought we had traveled a long way and was surprised to learn that we were still in Paris and only in the 15th.

The Marché is in the foyer of what looked like an old train station.  In effect it is a covered walkway where 60 vendors display their wares – ancient and second hand books.  It is opened every Saturday and Sunday come rain or shine.  Although covered, it is in the open, so I guess during the winter months, the vendors must have a hard time fending off the cold.  The 60 odd vendors were selling all sorts of books, from children’s books to out of print coffee table books and even books so old that their pages were yellowed and their spines eaten away by worms.  We browsed each stand leisurely.  This is book paradise where used books wait for their rebirths in the hands of another book lover.  I found myself a cookbook printed in 1942 that charts the journeys and the foods of some pieds noirs families in North Africa, mainly Algeria.  I love finding cookbooks with histories, especially ones charting more histories.  Les Pieds-Noirs are French or European families who have settled in occupied Algeria before the country’s independence in 1962 which saw more than 1 million pieds-noirs of French nationality evacuated to mainland France.

The FIL found his coveted book and then it was time for lunch.  Using an App on my iphone called Places, I found a resto with the delightful name of Les Tontons.

The Uncles’s speciality was Steak Tartare.  For the faint hearted this means raw beef that has been slightly seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of worcestershire sauce (funny that!), marinaded with some capers and served chilled like a beef patty with a side salad.  It can sometimes be served with a raw egg on top and on a piece of rye.

I was glad they had an option for the tartare to be poêlé-d – pan fried.  I am not a raw meat fan having come a long way since Neanderthal Man discovered fire.  I prefer my cuts of beef à point or cooked to a medium/rare.  So I ordered myself a Steak Tartare with Roquefort and Porto poêlé:

Steak Tartare Poêlé

Mixed into the minced beef are pieces of Roquefort cheese and the port was left sitting in a little dent atop the steak.  It was surely an unusual lunch.  For Steak Tartare fans, I recommend this little resto and if you were 6 like us, they may even give you the little coin – corner – at the back of the resto.  It’s good for cosy family bonding but terrible for photography, especially when one is only equipped with an iphone 3.

SS decided on a vegetarian tartine:

Ratatouille Tartine

The vegetable was beautifully displayed atop a piece of pastry so thin that it was almost invisible on the plate.  There were whole roasted tomatoes that gave this dish a nice caramelised flavour.

I was curious that our basket of bread was not the perfunctory baguette.  Instead we were served tranches of Poilâne bread.  This famous bakery, started in 1932 is a renowned for its recipe of soured dough bread, baked in wood ovens.  This renowned baker from Normandie who went against the odds to bake these soured dough breads instead of baguettes gave his name to the creation which has became synonymous with soured dough breads in France.  Let’s get a Poilâne for dinner is heard more often than let’s get some soured dough bread.  Look at what I saw in the baker’s window:

A Round of Poilâne

All done with lunch, we started towards home.  I had also purchased a soup recipe printed on cardboard that I intend to hang on my kitchen wall.  So armed with that and our purchases, we retraced our steps in the métro.

The FIL was happy with his find but alas, when he got home, he discovered that he had been pick pocketed.  The shock of losing all the money that he had in his wallet (nearly 500€) and his identity card, the only travel document he had with him, left a sour aftertaste to this excursion.

Marcheé du Livres ancien et d’occasion:

104 rue Brancion Paris XVe

Les Tontons:  73 Rue Brancion, Paris – 01 45 33 87 22

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