Maybe you’ve heard — Paris had five very special visitors over the weekend: President Obama, the First Lady, First Daughters Malia and Sasha and First Grandma Marian Robinson. And yes, we know the family climbed the belfry at Notre Dame, visited the Eiffel Tower at sunset, and toured the galleries of the Centre Pompidou. But let’s cut to the real question: Where did the Obamas eat?
According to our high-level sources (okay, that would be Le Figaro), Obama and Michelle dined Saturday at la Fontaine de Mars, an old-fashioned bistro in the 7ème, that’s right next door to the Eiffel Tower. Joining them was one of the girls (unspecified), an American writer (“une écrivaine Americaine” says the article, so we know it was a woman), and a fifth person (“une cinquième,” so also a woman). President Obama was “très gentil” with all the staff, tucking into gigot d’agneau, or leg of lamb, and îles flottantes (a soft meringue-like dessert), all of which was first tested by a secret service agent. He washed down his meal with “pas de vin, juste de l’eau” (no wine, just water). The rest of the table enjoyed steak and crème brûlée. President Obama picked up the approximately 300€ check.
My two cents? With its old-fashioned air, traditional food and not over-the-top prices, la Fontaine de Mars has many followers. I ate there in 2004 and still remember my entrée of oeuf en meurette, an egg poached in red wine, a classic dish that I first read about in Julia Child. Alas, Fontaine is also very touristy — it’s mentioned in 99% of American guidebooks (including Rick Steves), and is frequented by Anglophones. Personally, I prefer the modern fish restaurant that shares the square, Les Fables de la Fontaine.
On Sunday, Michelle and her daughters had dinner at la Cigale Récamier, which is located right around the corner from Cooking the Books headquarters (aka my apartment)! No word on what they ate, but Cigale is well-known for its soufflés — I recently enjoyed their Henri IV, a cheese soufflé served with a chicken and mustard sauce. You create a hole in the top of the soufflé and spoon in the creamy sauce so that it mingles with the melting egg whites. Their dessert soufflés are also pretty delicious, especially the Grand Marnier, which arrives with its very own miniature bottle so that you can sprinkle on the orange liqueur with abandon.
My two cents? Frequented by French film stars, politicians and writers, Cigale has a see-and-be-seen-scene, but the food is well-prepared, prices are not too outrageous, and I have yet to meet someone who wasn’t charmed by a soufflé. Plus, in the summer Cigale has a delightful, enormous terrace so you can dine under the shimmering, late-summer Parisian sky. One of my favorite restaurants!
La Fontaine de Mars
129 rue St-Dominique, 7ème
01 47 05 46 44
La Cigale Récamier
4 rue Récamier, 7ème
01 45 48 86 58
Here are some photos from Obama’s U.S. Embassy meet-and-greet, which took place Saturday morning at the residence of the American ambassador (though she or he has not yet been appointed). It was cold, it was rainy, we arrived very early (7.20am), and waited for over two hours. But when Obama appeared to greet us, his handshake was very warm. In the photo above, the Chargé d’Affaires, Mark Pekala, introduces President Obama, who then gives brief remarks.
Before the president emerged, his senior staff arrived, including Rahm Emanuel.