On the evening of Tuesday October 4th, 1994, my wife and I were completing our first full day in Paris. We spent the day doing some of the things that everyone does on their first trip to Paris. We visited Notre Dame—she wrote that evening “I think this whole trip was worth coming to see this complex building”—Saint Chapelle, the Concierge, and walked around Isle de Cité soaking up the sights and smells of old Paris. We walked around the neighborhood of our hotel and about three blocks away found a restaurant that looked like it had potential. While my wife enjoyed a salade de bœuf (beef salad), faux filet et frites(sirloin steak and French fries), and gâteau au chocolat (chocolate cake), I devoured terrine de maison(house terrine), rognons de veau au sauce madère (veal kidneys with Madeira sauce), charlotte des fraises (raspberry cake). I only remember all this because my wife documented all this in her travel diary later that evening.
What she didn’t write about, but we both remember quite well even today was the two men sitting opposite each other at a nearby table. Judging by their dark, pin-stripped suits, they appeared to be business men. When they weren’t eating, they maintained an animated conversation, that we couldn’t understand and smoked cigarettes. When their main course arrived, we were treated to a show that no one had warned us about. Placed on the table between them was a large wooden plank with an almost as large piece of meat. It was easily the biggest steak I had ever seen. The beast had to weigh almost a kilo (a little over two pounds). They proceeded to devour this hunk, mouthful by mouthful, by cutting off hunks with their knives and plopping the cutoff pieces directly into their mouths. Although cooked on the outside, the meat appeared raw on the inside. I now know that they were eating a côte de bœuf (beef chop) which technically speaking does not become a steak until you remove it from the bone, and it then becomes an entrecôte (rib-eye steak)…….