After a year of nomadic restaurant-eering around the world, The Paris Popup has returned to the Motherland, albeit temporarily, to bring their wining and dining skills back to Paris. Laura Vidal & Harry Cummins, who met while working at cult classic Frenchie, pack a punch with their sommelier/chef union.
In December, I randomly ran into them in Morocco, where they were chefs in residence at a beautiful restaurant in the Fez medina called Restaurant Numéro 7. My company organized a 4-day leadership retreat to Fez, so I had no part in the planning, but they just happened to book us at the restaurant where Laura & Harry were doing their North Africa thing.
After winding through dark alleyways, past donkeys, through the chaos of the people-filled street crowded with carts, smoke, and all kinds of scents, feeling as if the modern world no longer existed, we entered a doorway and stepped into an interior courtyard oasis. And there was Laura Popup Vidal waiting to welcome our group.
I recognized her face because I’ve been to several of their events over the past couple years, and their photos pop up (Didn’t mean to do that but now I’m leaving it) on Facebook. I just didn’t expect to exit the year 500 A.D. in the old Fez Medina and turn the corner to see a Paris food world face.
In the same way that sports fanatics might recognize the running back or the pitcher, these are the players on my favorite teams, and I keep up with that game. I am generally terrible with faces and names but somehow I recognize bakers and chefs and wine people by proxy. Ah, you’ve done something excellent with food? I shall sear you into my memory. So my friend and I had a little chat with the two of them about their upcoming plans and decided we’d have to come to the next one.
Which brings us to Paris and their most recent pop-up series, Le Jeu de la Bouteille (Spin the Bottle).
Le Table Ronde is situated so that diners surround the interior open kitchen, and it is the best possible set-up that a restaurant could have. Why? Dinner and a show. Broadway, but better. I don’t care if they sing or not, because this is more fun to watch than a chorus line high kick finale.
We had the best seats in the house, and we felt inclined to give sportscaster commentary from the sidelines, although we were the only ones really appreciating it. I think they had no idea what we were talking about and just wanted us to be silent observers; a wish that did not come true.
Another badge on the Eagle Food Scout vest: Making your own bread. This batch is a mix of Organic flour from Burgundy, chestnut flour & spelt flour.
Golden Circle, an Australian sauvignon blanc. This wine was cray. It smelled intensely sweet and fruity, like pineapple and apples, but the taste was completely different (still apple-y but more on the dry/tart side). I can’t speak with any authority about wine, so I’m like a caveman describing these matters. Smell much fruit! Taste not as fruit.
You are welcome.
Cosmic Confiança – A Catalonian natural wine from 95 year old organic grenache vines, harvested according to moon cycles. This natural moon wine was my favorite of the evening…no, wait, it was the red. Jury’s out.
Veal tartare with pickled shiitake mushrooms, grilled leeks, wood sorrel, leek ash, and smoked oyster sauce.
Pollock with black garlic squid ink and cauliflower with kaffir lime
Bloom’s Field Californian Pinot Noir. The producers describe the following: Aromas of fresh crushed rose petals, geraniums and alpine strawberries are matched with flavors of fresh game, cracked green peppercorns and hints of salt and nori.
I now feel like an idiot. I never could have identified these scents, let alone that the rose petals smelled crushed, the strawberries were ALPINE, and the peppercorns green. I don’t think I could point out a geranium in a flower shop, let alone identify its scent. So I’m a failure in life, but my esteemed opinion is: I loved this wine, and I’m trying to track it down for personal mass consumption.
Poulette de la Cour d’Armoise. I want to know what makes this type of chicken so special. It is known as a superior quality chicken worth mentioning on restaurant menus, like the Wagyu of poultry, but I can’t find much about what makes it so great.
At first, I was disappointed to see chicken on the menu, until I took my first bite. I can’t wax poetic enough about the flavor, and the juicyness, the skin, nay, the perfection. I almost stole the oyster, the best part, when Harry foolishly walked away, leaving it to taunt me, just sitting there. I mustered self control.
He is willing the chicken by way of intimidation to be delicious. And it worked. Apparently they made a last minute switch with the poulette on the menu because they couldn’t get the beef they wanted for that night. Rolling with the punches and improvising on the fly.
Round of applause. Poulette de la Cour d’Armoise with coffee-roasted carrots, anith leaves, and roasted and toasted spelt.
And served with a exceptional Grand Cru Ethiopian coffee from L’Arbre à Café, served cold à côté. To go with those coffee-roasted carrots.
To accompany dessert, Earl Gray tea and an Italian sweet wine made from organic sun dried grapes, without sulphur or filtration. It smells like apricot, honey, and citrus and tastes sweet, but not overly so like some heavy sweet, and syrupy dessert wines.
It was such a great evening – Fun to watch them make all the magic happen right in front of you, like Top Chef live. The reputation they’ve built for themselves in what they deliver is such that if they announce a pop-up, you should just plan to go, and know that it will be a memorable evening.
The best ending to the evening was getting to take home the lone remaining boule of fresh baked bread. I could not wait to wake up the next morning to cut it up and toast it, and as a non-morning person, I do not get excited about waking up. Since they bake the bread fresh each day, this one could not be repurposed for another meal. Such. a. shame.
For everyone but me.
When it comes to popping around, these two are worth the chase. Their next event is coming up in a couple weeks, March 27th and 28th. Go while you can; They have other countries on the horizon, so the Paris days are limited. More info here on the next event, or follow them on Facebook.
The Paris Popup