Ahhh mes amis. Cetait un long temps que nous avons visiter Paris, oui? Presque deux ans, je pense.
Yes friends, my grade school French was recently back in action as I vacationed with Lauren in the city of light. Like the Eiffel Tower, no visit to Paris would be complete without passing by Maison David, the kingdom of Michel Kalifa…butcher, charcuterie artist, wine expert, chef, flirtatious genius and possibly the most talented deli man in the world.
If you don’t know about Monsieur Kalifa, you can read about my previous visit to his small shop here.
Suffice to say that I eagerly awaited a return to the wonderland that is Maison David, this time for the pure pleasure of eating and talking with my friend.
Well, I can say with all certainty that Maison David is as stellar as ever. Kalifa was in fine form, popping a bottle of Champagne as Lauren and I entered the shop, which we shared with his wife Francoise. Introductions between him and Lauren, Francoise and I aside, Kalifa then began opening up the display counter and the taste journey once again began its long ride. Unlike North American delis, where the choice of meats is limited to five or six, Kalifa’s selection is limitless. He has dozens of sausages, dozens of cured cuts of veal, beef, lamb, duck, chicken, and goose. It is a living museum to Ashkenazi cooking, though this is a thoroughly modern museum, more of a Pompidou than a Louvre, and everything here is taken through the gourmet lens of Kalifa’s talented hands.
Each morning he rises at 2 am, heading out to Paris’ grand food terminal to haggle with suppliers for the finest meats, the best vegetables, and the choicest wines. Then he takes these to his workshop, and to his small store, where he’ll toil chopping, spicing, stuffing, curing, smoking, cooking and ageing, often for months, until the desired flavor is perfect.
Everything is seasonal, which means:
a) it’s all fresh
b) each time you go in the selection changes
Again, the sumptuous standing banquet the merry butcher of Marais put out was a feast for both the eyes and the belly. Over two and a half hours we ate and ate and ate, each time surprised by another flavor, texture, or scent.
Some of the highlights:
-thinly sliced dried salami with red peppers from Provence, just spicy enough but with a mellowed sweetness and a gorgeous bright red color
-tiny “needle” sausage, firm, crisp, and oh so deliciously fatty
-dried, shaved salt cured veal…like a more pungent prosciutto
-his famous schmaltz and carmelized onion heavy chopped liver, which was outdone, by the same chopped liver with hunks of fresh foie gras. Diets can kiss my ass.
-a spread of pureed salmon caviar and egg whites, lighter, creamier, and more delectable than anything you’d shmear on a bagel
-a salad topped with chopped liver, and another topped with foie gras. I say this because Kalifa’s salads are just lettuce canvases to deliver even more decadent, fatty meat.
-grilled shoulder of lamb tossed in freshly chopped garlic, oil and lemon juice. When I asked Kalifa where the grilling was done, he led me to the back of his shop, where his kitchen hand had disconnected the gas line to the oven, and was literally blow torching the meat. Oh sweet genius!
-the most sensational entrecote steak I’ve ever eaten. Cooked in a pan without oil, salt, butter or any seasoning. “If the meat is good, it shouldn’t need anything.” I couldn’t agree more.
-perfect squares of creamy, melting, dense cheesecake and chocolate souffle. After all, this is France.
Afterward, we went to the Kalifa household for dinner, where the wine, the food, and the joy lasted well into the late hours of the evening. Again, Michel and I talked about the famed Marais neighborhood and the Jewish infused Rue de Rosiers, which has rapidly been losing its Jewish character. The culprits are the city of Paris, wealthy foreigners buying up the apartments, and a trendy gay nightlife and fashion scene, which is encroaching on the few traditional business left. Compared with the first visit, two years previously, there were certainly fewer Jewish businesses on the street. Sure, the tourists were plentiful, but the delis and barbers were largely empty. To drive the point home, we passed the empty frame of Jo Goldenberg, once the most famous deli in Europe, but now a construction site that would soon be another fancy boutique. Hip hugging pants at 300 euros a pair have replaced chopped liver in Paris.
Besides Maison David there are a few excellent butchers and delicatessens along the Rue de Rosiers. Dimitri Panzer, the Finkelstajn delis (both Florence and Sasha), and the Korcarz and Murciano bakeries are worth a visit. In terms of excellent Jewish food per square foot, it really doesn’t get better than this gorgeous slice of Parisian history.
6, rue des Ecouffes;
33 1 4278-1576.
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