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A Barbecue at Maisons-Laffitte

May 30th, 2012 · 1 Comment · Abu Dhabi, bacon, France, Journalism, Newspapers, Paris, tourism, UAE


Two of the best barbecues I have enjoyed, in the past three years, have been in a leafy suburb of Paris.

Didn’t see that coming.

We Yanks don’t normally associate Paris with grilling large amounts of meat over a pile of glowing coals. A good reason for that: It’s apparently illegal to barbecue inside the city limits.

However, we were invited to the tony suburban town of Maisons-Laffitte, about a 25-minute RER ride from the Etoile metro station, and we were happy to accept.

How good was it?

Let’s begin with the meat, the focal point of any barbecue.

–A dozen brochettes of lamb or chicken, with the appropriate onion and pepper interrupting the skewered meat.

–A couple of dozen Dodger Dog-sized pork sausages.

–Perhaps a dozen steaks.

So, yes, we were off to a fine start.

Actually, we started with some white wine, a Pouilly Fume, as we awaited the arrival of other guests. And nibbled on pistachios, cherry tomatoes, garlic toast, olives and a variety of charcuterie.

This was especially nice because it came in the backyard of our friends’ house, in Maisons-Laffitte, which besides being a fine place for a barbecue is also the epicenter of the horse-racing industry in France.

Our friend, formerly a journalist, began a career as a professional horse trainer a few years back, and she and her husband live in a place on the edge of the forest, outside the center of Maisons-Laffitte.

It was grand to sit under the trees, and hear the neighbors coming past, on horseback, and watch the dogs get excited about visitors.

The owners already had a guest, a young niece from Wisconsin who wants to become a veterinarian. This is her first visit to Europe, and I couldn’t help but ponder how important it is for Americans to get out and around early in life, and how nice it was of her aunt and uncle to take her in … and how convenient, too, because the young woman seems to be a great help around the place and, no doubt, gets along famously with the string of thoroughbreds in the stables across the street.

The other guests were two more journalists based in France, and their daughter, visiting from New York. And there we were.

Unfortunately, it began to rain. I felt responsible, even though the skies had been threatening nearly all day. Because in an attempt to ward off precipitation I had reminded the host that, as a native Southern Californian and current resident of the UAE, it never rains on me.

About 20 minutes later, it began to rain … and didn’t stop. The barbecue was under the eaves, so the fire wasn’t drowned, and we at first moved the table and chairs under a big tree, hoping we might still be able to eat outside … but the rain didn’t quit. And much of it, yes, fell on me, despite my background in drought conditions.

Eventually, we moved the actual eating part of things inside, and that worked out well. The champagne, which was plentiful, tasted just as good.

We set up chairs around the edge of the living room, with books and trophies and tchotchkes behind us, and had a wonderful time.

The salad was enormous, and the feta cheese made it interesting, and the lentil salad was particularly fun, with bacon bits I won’t be eating once we get back to Abu Dhabi.

But, yes, it was the grilled meats that I remember. I had two of the brochettes, and availed myself of large portions of barbecue sauce.

We chatted long into the night, and the conversation took interesting turns, with the veterinary student and the film student and the trainer of thoroughbreds, and the journalist who is entering the field of family therapy … and two big dogs, the ancient basset hound and the sleek young Doberman watching us.

The dogs each made an impolite noise right in front of me, and I twice had to insist it wasn’t I who did it.

Eight Americans, far from home, and fairly comfortable with it, indulging in an American-style summer meal, and enjoying it all very much.



1 response so far ↓

  • 1 David // May 31, 2012 at 9:18 PM

    You can’t barbecue in Paris? That’s un-American!

    Oh, wait …

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