Friday, February 29, 2008

Coldstone It Ain't

Friday night.

People took off early from work.

Club flyers are plastered on the cars.

Well-dressed suburbanites are rushing to the metro for drinks, dancing, and god knows what else.

And here I am, in my hotel room, tapping away on my keyboard.

It's a sad existence, this living-in-a-suburban-hotel gig. But worthless American dollars be damned, I was on a mission to do something. So I walked the streets of Clichy, searching out a restaurant. It's payday after all, so I can afford to splurge a bit, n'est-ce pas?

I walked around in a huge circle, finding nothing but shitty faux Chinese traiteurs and the same dingy, fluorescent-lit brasseries I did last time around. For the umpteenth time, I walked by a place called Fire & Stone Grill, a place that - no matter how many times I saw it - I've avoided like the plague for the name alone. But this time, I went in. Drawn in by the fantastic smell of grilling steak and the reasonable menus, I couldn't help but be seduced by the prospect of meat.

The atmosphere was jovial, but it depressed me. Enveloped by the sound of my favorite kitschy 80's tunes, I felt much rather like dancing with someone I loved than sitting down to what might be a questionable meal. And by the looks of it, it was date night in Clichy. An old couple - apparently regulars - next to me. A middle-aged married couple who seemed to be having a make-up dinner across the dining room from me. A young, interracial couple - so obviously in love - across from me. With my place-setting for one.

I immediately ordered a bourbon. A big, fat tumbler of it to drown my sorrows.

As the distilled spirits made their way into my bloodstream, I looked around and smiled. It won't be long before my honey is here, and we can have date night every night. I hit the bottom of my glass and felt all warm and fuzzy. Then I ordered steak.

But first, the buffet. While not the most appealing spread ever, there were enough cold fish and meats and cheese to make any viking happy. I went straight for the vegetables.


In my scrimping and saving and scrounging, my stomach has shrank. And even though I stood before a Texas-sized spread of appetizers, I now have a French-sized appetite. I decorated my little plate with beets, lentil salad, tomato salad, some red radishes... all the hallmarks of some hippie vegan meal.

All the better. My meat arrived, a big, bloody hunk of rumpsteak, sitting atop a superheated marble-slab. Apparently, at Fire & Stone, your steak is always cooked to order. Because you cook it. I let it cook for about a minute on each side, and dove in. Nice and blue. A few minutes later, it was perfectly à point. Midway through, it was the American version of medium rare. Alas, I ate too slowly, enjoying my side of potatoes and abundant bread, and my last portion was criminally medium. But I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The price? Not including the bourbon and obligatory after-dinner coffee, €15.50. For the first time in a week, this expression entered my mind: Tremendous value.

If I ever get my American-sized appetite back, I'm coming back here to lay waste to the buffet. They're open for dinner from seven 'til midnight, meaning I can sit and stuff my face for five hours solid. But in the meantime, having a reasonable portion was enough to fill the gaping void inside of me.


  1. You're definitely taking me there if I ever make it over to Clichy. That place sounds awesome.

    I know how much it sucks to be a few thousand miles from The Spouse. It'll be over soon. Just not soon enough!

  2. Mmmm, meat and bourbon! It sounds like you're making the best of the situation...not to worry, she'll be out there soon enough.

  3. OMG - traiters asiatiques!!!