With anti-American sentiment on the rise worldwide, it’s not surprising
that the French, the self-appointed guardians of life and liberty have
found new ways of expressing their displeasure. At Charles De Gaulle
airport, select flights destined for the U.S. are now assigned to the
ill-famed Terminal E, where the falling ceiling once caused casualties.
One fashion editor arriving for the Paris couture shows last July was
sprayed with insecticide in a show of welcome. Hoteliers and
restauranteurs, who for years have made an art form of hauteur, have
turned up the volume a notch.
If guide books were to compile a list of American-friendly restaurants,
however, Chez Gramond should get honorable mention. The Gramonds opened
their bistro while John Kennedy was in the White House, and the menu
has changed little with passing time. By the door, a small American
flag is kept on a table.
“We love Americans,” M. Gramond explained. “My son lives in
Connecticut. So what if the U.S. is going through a rough period. It’s
all a cycle.”
Change, however, is not a word that applies to his own establishment.
While the streets of the sixth arrondissement near the Jardin du
Luxembourg have gone from cobblestones to blacktop, and the
neighborhood, once a bastion of liberals from the publishing industry,
has morphed into a haven for tourists, Gramond’s classic cooking has
not budged one inch. And perhaps that is the secret to his longevity.
On the brisk November Friday I visited, game was in season. The
handwritten menu posted on the window changes daily according to
market. Mme. Gramond confesses that they do not own a freezer, since
her husband goes to Rungis every morning to search out the day’s
The Civet de Lièvre, or Hare Stew that occupied a place of honor that
day was served in a heavy black pepper sauce and accompanied by
parsnips and carrots. Elsewhere, partridge, Scottish grouse and
pheasant graced the menu, though Woodcock (now protected by French law)
was nowhere to be sighted.
Of the first courses, the House foie gras is among the best to be found
in Paris, and a treat to the palate when accompanied by a glass of
For a true dessert sensation, the weightless Grand Marnier soufflé can
not be topped.
Unfortunately, the tables are increasingly empty, and with the Gramonds
nearing retirement age, one wonders if classic cuisine, like haute
couture, is an art form that is ephemeral.