Monday, April 29, 2013

An Afternoon at King Manor

After having spent a most enjoyable visit at the Bartow-Pell Mansion in the Bronx, Boy and I decided to fire up the family jalopy again and drive out to the far reaches of Jamaica, Queens, to explore King Manor, another one of New York City's historic house museums.

The approach to King Manor, located in Rufus King Park, Jamaica, Queens

King Manor is named after the Honorable Rufus King (1755-1827), a signer of the U.S. Constitution, a senator from the State of New York, the nation's first Ambassador to Great Britain, a land owner, and a gentleman farmer.  The house sits in Rufus King Park, an eleven-acre public space in what is today a working class residential and commercial stretch in Queens, New York.  The house is about a forty-minute drive from the UES.

Rufus King and his wife, Mary Alsop, purchased an eighteenth-century farmhouse with ninety acres in 1805, and they spent the next twenty years improving and enlarging the house and property, which today is known as King Manor.  The Kings also maintained a townhouse in Manhattan, where they lived during the colder months of the year, when they weren't in residence in Washington, D.C., or London.

An etching of the the Rufus King Manor
Jamaica, New York, ca. 1930
Image courtesy of Keith Sheridan Fine Art

By the time of Rufus King's death in 1827 the house had grown to twenty-nine rooms and sat in an estate of one hundred and twenty-two acres of gardens, fields, orchards, and forest.  Subsequent generations of the King family lived in the Manor until 1888, when the house and much of its contents, along with eleven acres of land, were sold to the city of Jamaica.  The property came under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation in 1898.

King Manor in 1950
Image courtesy of N.Y. City Department of Parks & Recreation

Within several years of King Manor being sold, houses and apartment buildings were built around the park's periphery.  Today the surrounding area is a combination of small apartment buildings and two-family houses, and large municipal buildings.  

The view across Jamaica Avenue, looking to the west

The entry to King Manor is from Jamaica Avenue, a busy thoroughfare that follows what had originally been a trail (known as the Yamecah Trail) established by the area's Lenape Native Americans long before Europeans colonized these shores.  The English, who took control of the area from the Dutch in the 1680s, named it Jameco, which was later changed to Jamaica.  There is no link between this part of Queens and the island in the Caribbean of the same name; that they share a name in common is entirely coincidental.

The view across Jamaica Avenue, looking to the east

Today there is little left on Jamaica Avenue from the time when the Kings lived in their house.  In the above photograph one can make out two towers of a brownstone Gothic Revival church standing between two hulking municipal buildings.  According to the young woman who gave us a tour of the house, it was in this church that the King family worshipped.  Well, not really.  Reggie has since learned from one of his perspicacious readers that the Kings worshipped in a different church, Grace Episcopal, that stands nearby.  Nonetheless, the church shown in the photograph is one of the few remainders of buildings that stood when the family was still in residence. 

The view into Rufus King Park from the rear of the house

Rufus King Park, which spreads out around and behind King Manor, is popular with and heavily used by residents of the surrounding area.  There were a lot of people in it the day we visited the house, running around and playing soccer and other ball games.

Architectural rendering of front elevation for the 1984
restoration of King Manor by Gibson Bauer Associates
Image courtesy of King Manor Association

King Manor underwent an extensive and careful restoration in the 1980s, and today the house is well cared for by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, with financial and other support from the worthy non-profit Historic House Trust of New York City.  King Manor is not one of the city's most popular historic house museums, given its location and the relative obscurity today of its once celebrated owners.  We were the only visitors to the house the afternoon we made our journey there.

An early twentieth-century postcard of King Manor.  Its Victorian
buff-and-brown paint scheme survived into the 1950s
Image courtesy of King Manor Association

In researching this post I came across numerous images of King Manor from different eras.

By the 1960s, the era of this postcard, the house was
painted white, with black shutters.  Note foundation plantings
and colorful flowerbeds full of annuals
Image courtesy of King Manor Association

It is interesting to see how the house and landscape evolved over the years, reflecting the changing tastes of the times and advances in historic restoration knowledge.

The house today, as painted in a scheme from the 1980s
restoration.  The foundation plantings are gone.

So, let's go inside and look around, shall we?

The main hall of the house features a handsome
Federal staircase with a mahogany banister

What strikes one when entering King Manor is that it is not a particularly "fine" house with articulated moldings or plasterwork that one would expect to see in a city house of its size.  It is a large country house that has been expanded over the years, and it functioned both as the seat of a family of consequence and as the hub of a large working farm.  The King's townhouse in Manhattan would have been a more refined dwelling, I believe.  King Manor's principal rooms are large and well proportioned, and overall the house is quite pleasant.  Were it not for the urban surroundings it sits in today, one could easily imagine living in it (assuming one had the substantial wherewithal required to do so).

The front parlor contains a marble fire-surround installed by the Kings
and a few pieces of Federal-period furniture

King Manor is only minimally furnished, and many of its secondary rooms have been set up as teaching installations, focusing on Rufus King's political activities.

Rufus King portrait by Gilbert Stuart, ca. 1820
Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

A copy of a portrait of Rufus King by Gilbert Stuart hangs in the house's front parlor.  The original is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.  Here is how the NPG describes the sitter on its website:
"Rufus King was one of the last of the Founding Fathers. A delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress, an active framer of the Constitution, minister to Great Britain, opponent of the War of 1812, senator from New York, and the Federalist Party's last candidate for the presidency (overwhelmingly defeated by James Monroe in 1816), King had a public career that extended through the administrations of the first six presidents of the United States. His portrait was painted in 1819-20, a time when he tried to rouse opposition to the admission of Missouri as a slave state, defending before the Senate 'the natural liberty of man and its incompatibility with slavery in any shape.' John Quincy Adams recorded: 'He spoke with great power, and the great slaveholders . . . gnawed their lips and clenched their fists as they heard him.'"
In other words, Mr. King was a Very Big Deal in his day, and a man who did not shy away from controversy.

Turning back to the house, I rather liked the pretty cream jug and coffee can and saucer seen in the preceding photograph that were sitting on a desk in the front parlor.  Perhaps if I were to actually follow through on my "Coffee Can of the Week" series promise, I might do a post on the coffee can . . .

The house's commodious dining room was remodeled by the Kings to have an oval end, which our young docent said seated musicians for dances at the house.  The doors on either side of the window lead to small closets.

"The Dinner Party" by Henry Sargent, ca. 1821
Image courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston

King Manor's dining room's decoration has been loosely based on the interior depicted in the well-known painting "The Dinner Party" by the artist Henry Sargent.  I know of at least two other Federal-era historic house museums that have also looked to that painting for inspiration for their dining rooms: Homewood House in Baltimore (the subject of an earlier post of mine) and the Harrison Gray Otis House in Boston.

King Manor is notable for its library, shown in the preceding photograph.  At one time it held over 3,500 books, of which approximately 2,000 remain today behind the room's curtained cases.  A book collection of such size in America in the first decades of the nineteenth century would only have been possible for a person of substantial wealth.  To put it in perspective, Thomas Jefferson's library of 6,500 volumes was the largest library in private hands in America when he sold it to the U.S. Government in 1815 for the then staggering sum of $23,900.  It formed the nucleus of what is today the Library of Congress.

The woodwork and walls in King Manor's library were grained when the house was restored in the 1980s to approximate their original decoration.

A late-nineteenth or early-twentieth century
view of the library
Image courtesy of King Manor Association

The photograph of the library in the preceding photograph shows the room as it probably looked in the years leading up to when the Kings sold the house to the city of Jamaica.  I wonder where Rufus King's "favorite arm chair" is today?

The house's "gift shop" in the upstairs hall

Our tour ended in the upstairs hall, which has been somewhat haphazardly set up as a gift shop.  None of the upstairs rooms were open to the public when we visited the house.  We peeked into one or two of them, however, and saw that they were mostly filled with furniture (perhaps including the elusive "favorite arm chair") stored under protective sheets.  Assuming much of the covered furniture was sold to the city of Jamaica by the Kings when they vacated the house, I suspect a subsequent reinterpretation of King Manor's interior may bring some of it back into the rooms, which would have been furnished during the Kings final days with a mix of period furnishings, as seen in the early photograph of the library.

With our tour completed, we bid our guide goodbye and left the house through the door seen under the porch in the preceding photograph.  The dependencies in the rear of the house were once devoted to service activities, notably cooking and laundry.

Architectural rendering of the east elevation for the 1984
restoration by Gibson Bauer Associates
Image courtesy of King Manor Association

In its day, King Manor would have been supported by numerous barns, stables, and outbuildings required to house the horses, carriages and buggies, livestock and farm equipment necessary to manage a large working country estate.  These have long since been torn down.

A view of the rear of the Manor, ca. 1936
Image courtesy of N.Y. City Department of Parks & Recreation

And with that I leave you, Dear Reader, with this charming old photograph of a view of the rear of King Manor.  We enjoyed our visit to the house and appreciate that we are fortunate today that it still stands, a stalwart reminder of the dignity and beauty that the countryside surrounding New York City once possessed.

Reggie's appreciation for King Manor, and the preservation of it and other historic house museums found in the public parks of New York City made possible by the philanthropic Historic House Trust of New York, has motivated him to make a donation to the Trust in support of its worthy and laudable efforts.  Should you be so fortunate to find yourself in New York, Dear Reader, Reggie encourages you to set aside an afternoon to visit one of the city's historic house museums, and to consider leaving a contribution when you do so above and beyond the modest admission price in order to help support their ongoing existence.

King Manor Museum
King Park, Jamaica, New York
(718) 206-0545

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

The Historic House Trust of New York
830 Fifth Avenue, Room 203
New York, NY 10065
(212) 360-8282

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reggie's Rules for the Considerate Management of One's Presence When Riding In Elevators

Dear Reader, I realize that it has been rather a long time since I last posted a Reggie's Rules piece.  It's not that I haven't been planning or formulating any such posts, mind you, but rather other subjects have taken the forefront of one's consciousness of late.

"I hear my cellphone ringing!  Should I
answer it, or wait until I've gotten off the elevator?"
Image courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

However, something so egregious happened the other evening while your sainted author was riding an elevator that it has caused him to reconsider his temerity on such matters, and thus resume this series, post-haste.  I cannot remain a stoic silence any longer!  Rules are rules, Dear Reader, and must not only be understood, but also obeyed!

What? you might ask—is there anyone left on the planet who does not understand the rudiments of riding elevators?  How hard can it be?  Surely this cannot be the case, Reggie, as Mr. Otis perfected said vehicle of efficient vertical travel more than 150 years ago!

"No more passengers!  Step to the rear please!"
Source: LIFE Images

Well, one would have hoped the Young Miss who I had the misfortune of sharing an elevator with several evenings ago in the building where I live would have known better than to loudly carry on a tiresome personal conversation on her cellphone for all (notably Reggie) to unwillingly (and begrudgingly) overhear.  Not only was she complainingly blabbing into her cellphone while a group of us assembled to wait for an elevator in the building's lobby, but our Young Miss carried on her tedious conversation while entering the elevator and throughout the journey (but at a higher decibel rate so the person on the other end of the line could hear her better), and continued her honking without pausing for so much as a breath of air upon exiting the elevator and walking down the hall to her apartment.  Those of us who remained on the elevator after her (blessed) departure looked at each other with a mixture of relief and irritation once the doors closed, and agreed that our Young Miss was a thoughtless cretin, indeed.  My only consolation for her rude behavior, Dear Reader, is that it was the inspiration for this edition of Reggie's Rules, for which I owe said annoying cellphone blatherer a debt of gratitude (and a sharp rebuke, I might add, should I ever be subjected to her rude behavior again).

And with that I now share Reggie's Rules for the Considerate Management of One's Presence When Riding in Elevators:

1. When waiting for an elevator, stand to the side so those exiting it may do so unimpeded

It is inconsiderate to block their path by standing in front of the doors, which requires those exiting to "excuse me" their way around you.

Courteous elevator lobby behavior is to be encouraged and emulated
source: LIFE Images

2. When waiting for an elevator, allow those wishing to exit the elevator to do so first before barging in

It is basic good manners to allow them to do so, and eases the flow of traffic.

3. When entering a crowded elevator, say "excuse me" when seeking to find a space

Do not shove your way in, it is not a subway car at rush hour.

"Sorry, Pal, no more room here.  Would ya
 mind waitin' fer the next one, please!"
Image courtesy of United Artists

4. When seeking to enter a crowded elevator, use common sense and judgement in determining whether there is sufficient space to enter it.  Wait for the next one if there isn't

Again, elevators are not subway cars.  Another will come along soon enough.

5. While it is considered polite under certain circumstances to allow ladies to first enter and exit elevators, it is technically not a requirement to do so  

Elevators are akin to stairs and escalators in this consideration—efficiency of movement trumps precedence of the sexes, particularly during busy times of day such as morning and evening rushes, or during lunchtime.  When a crowd of men and women are waiting for an elevator, it is in the best interest of all concerned to resort to a first-come-first-served precedence in order to aide the efficient movement of people on and off the elevator.  On the other hand, if a single man or pair of men and a solitary woman are waiting for an elevator, it is common courtesy for the man/men to allow the lady to enter and exit the elevator first.  Use judgement in such matters.

6. When entering or exiting an elevator in an apartment building, one should always politely acknowledge the other people on the elevator with a simple "good morning" or "good evening"

Particularly if they live in the same building as you do.  Have some manners, please!

"Which way is up, baby?"
Image courtesy of United Artists

7. When entering or exiting an elevator in an office building or store, it is not necessary to verbally acknowledge the other people on the elevator, unless one already knows them or the elevator is being run by an elevator operator (a great rarity these days, but it still happens in such places as the flagship store of Tiffany & Company in New York)

When riding elevators in such buildings one should only feel compelled to acknowledge fellow riders one already happens to know (such as a fellow employee or acquaintance), or the elevator operator, since one is expected to inform said operator of the desired floor.  While it is not improper to acknowledge other riders in a public elevator, Dear Reader (particularly if one has made eye contact upon entering said elevator), it is not a requirement to do so.  Again, use judgement in such matters.

8. Prior to entering an elevator, should you be speaking to someone on a cellphone, end the call with a simple "I'll call you back later, I'm getting on an elevator"

Do not keep up your cellphone conversation while riding an elevator.  It is rude and thoughtless to those who are trapped listening to you (and this applies to you, too, Young Miss!).

"Help! Get me out of here!  She won't stop talking on her cellphone!"
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

9. Should your cellphone ring when you are preparing to enter an elevator or are riding upon one, either do not answer it, or tell the caller that you will ring them back afterwards

For the same reason as noted in 8, above.

10. When riding a crowded elevator with a loved one, spouse, or friend, do not carry on a personal conversation, but rather wait to resume it once you've exited the elevator

Similar to cell phone conversations, the other passengers on the elevator are not deaf.  You are not riding in a cone of silence!

11. When riding an elevator while listening to music on headphones or ear plugs, do not have the volume turned up to such a high level that others riding in the elevator are forced to listen to the music as well

For the same reasons as in rules 8, 9, and 10.

This woman knows that it is best to wait to speak on
one's telephone until after one has completed one's elevator journey
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

12. When riding an elevator with a pet dog (or child for that matter) do not allow it to lunge at the other riders in the car

It can alarm them.  Restrain your dog (or child) for the duration of the ride, please.

And last (but certainly not least):

13. When riding an elevator, one should do one's utmost not to perfume the air with one's flatulent gases, a practice vulgarly (but aptly) known as "crop dusting"

While it may be a relief (and even a source of amusement) for the perpetrator, it is inconsiderate to those who have the misfortune to involuntarily share in such aroma.

And there you have it, Dear Reader, Reggie's Rules for the Considerate Management of One's Presence When Riding in Elevators.

Tell me, do you have any good elevator stories?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Reggie's Five Favorites: Dining in Paris, Part II

This is the second part of a two-part series on the five restaurants in Paris we enjoyed eating in the most during our holiday there in the week leading up to Easter.  I hope you will consider finding your way to one or more of them during your next visit to the City of Light.  If you do so, Dear Reader, please raise a glass to dear old Reggie.

Le Café de l'Esplanade—Chic, of-the-moment café serving an Asian influenced take on the French classiques

The exterior of Le Café de l'Esplanade

One evening, while en route to a different restaurant, we chanced to walk by Café de l'Esplanade.  We were intrigued by its glamorous exterior, with its black facade, white awnings, and café chairs lighted with large black and gilt carriage lanterns.  This was worth a closer look, we thought . . .

The view though the window into the interior of l'Esplanade

Peering through the windows, we saw a dramatic, beautifully-lighted, theatrical interior.  "We must eat here!" we exclaimed (because for us a restaurant's decor is almost as important as the quality of its food).  We slipped through the door, took one of their cards, and made a reservation there for lunch the following day.

The main dining room, a series of enfilades

Café de l'Esplanade takes its name from the Esplanade des Invalides, which it overlooks from its location at the corner of Rue Fabert and Rue de Grenelle in the swell 7th arrondissement.

Of course one must begin one's luncheon
with flutes of pink champagne!

l'Esplanade is an "of-the-moment" place that draws an attractive, well-heeled clientele from the surrounding area, augmented the day we ate lunch there with expensively-dressed business people from the nearby offices.

New York isn't the only city where most of the inhabitants wear black

The restaurant's super-stylish, Napoleon III-infused decor takes its inspiration from the nearby Les Invalides—a complex of magnificent buildings built by Louis XIV and dedicated to celebrating the military history and glories of France.  l'Esplanade's main dining room is a series of enfilades separated by gilt arches with columns in the form of cannons, and chandeliers made to resemble clusters of cannon balls.  So chic!  The originals are found but steps away on the grounds of Les Invalides.

A welcome break from the national cuisine

The food at l'Esplanade is delicious, and more than lives up to the restaurant's marvelous decor.  It features an international menu that includes dishes inspired by those found as far away as Vietnam and closer to home, too.  I started with a delicious appetiser of spring rolls (one of the house's signature dishes) and happily tucked into a lobster and tomato pasta that had more lobster meat in it than I knew what to do with.  I couldn't finish it!  Rest assured, Dear Reader, one can also find the French classiques there, as I espied a nearby table dining on one of the most beautifully-presented steak frites I have ever seen.

Oh, now I get it!

When it came time for coffee, I was not surprised to find the accompanying paper roll of sugar was printed with the word "Costes," given the restaurant's chic interior, eclectic menu, and superb service.  The waiter confirmed that l'Esplanade is indeed part of the Costes Group, famous for its glamorous hotel on the other side of the river favored by movie stars, moguls, fashionistas and late-night denizens of the demimonde.

Le Café de l'Esplanade
52 Rue Fabert
75007 Paris
+33 1 47 05 38 80

Restaurant Paul—Tasty traditional bistro fare in a storied location

The facade of Restaurant Paul
overlooking the Place Dauphine

Restaurant Paul is a charming, quintessentially Parisian bistro tucked away on the Île-de-la-Cité that serves dependably delicious fare of the sort that would have more than appealed to members of the Bon Appetit! generation, and still does in spades to those who beat a path to its doors today.

The front room and bar at the entry of Restaurant Paul

I first ate at Restaurant Paul thirty years ago, and I make a point of returning to it every time I visit Paris.  The grand-mère who once presided over the register up front has long since been replaced by a younger, more winsome host (as has the register been replaced by a laptop), but the food remains dependably tasty, old school bistro fare, and just right.

A sublime first meal in Paris

I enjoyed settling into Paul's comfortable embrace during our first lunch in Paris, when I dined on a highly satisfying meal of oeuf mayonnaise followed by a perfectly roasted halibut served with spinach and sauce hollandaise.  Restaurant Paul is the ideal place to stop into for an unhurried lunch when visiting the nearby Cáthedrale Notre Dame or Sainte-Chapelle, or any of the other surrounding sights for that matter.

Looking out into the back room at Restaurant Paul.  In the "old days,"
when Reggie first dined there, the waitresses wore uniforms, unlike
the young woman in the white sweater who was reciting the day's specials

Restaurant Paul is also just far enough off the beaten path (if you can believe it, given its location) that it is mostly filled during weekdays with regulars from the surrounding courts and law offices, rather then tourists.  If you request a table in the back dining room—seen through the archway in the above photograph—you will be assured of a memorable view out the windows of boat traffic on the Siene.  It doesn't get any more Parisian than that!

Restaurant Paul
15 Place Dauphine
75001 Paris
+33 1 43 54 2148

Please note, Reggie has received nothing in return for these reviews and he doesn't expect to.  He is sharing them with you, Dear Reader, for the sheer pleasure of doing so, which is why he writes this blog in the first place.

All photographs by Reggie Darling

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Reggie's Five Favorites: Dining In Paris, Part I

My original intention, Dear Reader, was to have this be a single post on the five restaurants we enjoyed dining in the most during our visit to Paris.  However, to spare you the tedium of reading a long-winded, endless post on same, I figured it made most sense—and was more manageable—if I were to split it into two separate posts, and I do so herewith.  I hope you like them.

Well, one could hardly write a compilation of one's five favorite restaurants in Paris (having only just been there a week or so), now could one?  However, since I am always interested in other people's recommendations for places to dine when I am planning a trip, I thought I'd share with you, Dear Reader, the five restaurants we enjoyed eating in the most during our all-too-short visit to the City of Light.  Perhaps you might find your way to one of them on your next visit that fair city . . .

André Allard—Old school neighborhood bistro favored by those in the know

The unobtrusive facade of André Allard

It is all-too-easy to pass by the doors of André Allard in the busy Saint-Germain district.  Unlike many of its neighbours, Allard doesn't make a flashy effort to rein in the tourists flocking to the area.  That's because Allard doesn't have to.

The Lilliputian front dining room at Allard, a favorite of Pierre Bergé

The restaurant's tables are packed nightly with Parisian regulars and knowledgeable visitors who return to it again and again for its delicious, lusty bistro fare and its classic early twentieth-century decor, carefully retained by its owners.

One enters Allard with a view right into the kitchen, where
its chefs are busily at work preparing the evening's meals

We stumbled into Allard by chance one rainy night, and I can only wish that such serendipity would smile upon us more often.  We agreed our dinner there that evening—starting with a salad of mâche with beets followed by a dreamy roasted Cuisses de Lapin—was one of the best we could remember.

We enjoyed Allard so much that we returned to it but two evenings later, when I was fortunate to order the most delicious Quoquilles Saint-Jacques I have ever eaten in my life.  It was only with the greatest of willpower that Reggie refrained from picking up his plate at the end of his meal to lick it clean.  I'm not exaggerating!

The convivial main dining room at André Allard

How could I be surprised, then, when I learned afterwards from the divine Diane Dorrans Saeks that she adores Allard as well, and that Pierre Bergé is apparently such an appreciator of Allard's charms that he has a standing reservation there every Sunday night during white asparagus season to dine on the delicacy that Allard is known to cook to perfection.

André Allard
41 Rue Saint-Andre des Arts
75006 Paris
+33 1 43 26 48 23

Restaurant Le Voltaire—Expensive, yummy comfort food for the well-heeled club set

I'd never eaten at Le Voltaire before this trip to Paris, but we did so at the recommendation of a number of swell friends who know about such things.  And I am certainly glad we did, Dear Reader, for our dinner at Voltaire was Heaven!

The golden glow of Le Voltaire's main dining room—the inner sanctum

Le Volatire is the Swifty's of Paris, a cosy clubroom for members of the city's well-tended and well-heeled beau monde, who make a beeline to the restaurant's elegant rooms for its yummy, easy-to-eat fare, perfect service, and the (very) flattering lighting it is known for.

The front dining room at Le Voltaire

Carine Roitfeld, the former editor of Vogue Paris, was sitting two tables over from us the night we dined in Voltaire's elegant, velvet banquetted, inner dining room.  Lee Radziwill chose Voltaire to have dinner with Nicky Haslam the day he interviewed her for the much-commented upon, recent piece in the New York Times' T Magazine.  You get the idea . . .

Le Voltaire's fabulous frites

Bold face names among the restaurant's happy diners notwithstanding, we found the experience of dining at Voltaire a delight.  It helped that we were accompanied the evening we did so by a ravishing young lady whose lovely presence repeatedly turned every admiring head in the room, and whose presence ensured that we received the best service possible!

Note line for cigarettes on the bill . . .

After a busy day spent visiting the antiquaires of the Carré Rive Gauche, we were all in a bœuf-eating mood, and—after tucking into a delicious avocado and red grapefruit salad to start with—the three of us ordered the restaurant's excellent Filet de Bœuf Frites, followed by the house's signature Mousse au Chocolat served ceremoniously by the waiter from a large bowl at table.  Divine!

You can be sure, Dear Reader, that Le Voltaire will be on my short list of restaurants to return to when I next find myself in Paris.

Le Voltaire
27 Quai Voltaire
75007 Paris
+33 1 42 61 17 49

Le Grand Véfour—Superb haute cuisine served with flourish and all the trimmings in one of the most beautiful, historic rooms in the western world

Le Grand Véfour—discretely tucked away
in the passages of the Palais Royal

I first chanced upon Le Grand Véfour as a teenager, on a school-sponsored trip to Paris.  I came across the legendary restaurant, which I subsequently learned was one of Paris' most storied, one afternoon while strolling through the Palais Royal, and was immediately and memorably taken with it.

The sublimely beautiful main dining room at Le Grand Véfour

Peering through the restaurant's windows at the time I was enchanted by the lovely, luxe interior I glimpsed within.  I remember thinking that I would be thrilled to return to Véfour one day and dine there when I was older and could afford such things.

Véfour's cheese trays—the most beautiful Reggie has ever seen!
(Goat' s milk cheeses on the left/cow's milk cheeses on the right)

While I have been to Paris numerous times in the intervening years, I had never had the foresight to make the necessary advanced arrangements to dine at Véfour.  This trip, however, I was more organized in my planning and I booked a table there for us to have lunch.

The restaurant's triumphal procession of presentation!

It was a memorable afternoon, indeed—featuring course after delectable course (including one of the most spectacular cheese selections I've ever seen) of the most delicious food imaginable (and, needless to say, much champagne), finished off with a dizzying, seemingly never-ending shower of confections and sweets.

Vefour's pretty Pâte des Fruits
but one of the many sweets
served at the conclusion of our meal

Not only is the food at Le Grand Véfour splendid and what dreams are made of, but the level of service at the restaurant is equally awe-inspiring.  Watching the maître d's, sommeliers, waiters, and waiters' assistants' highly-ordered ritual dance of presentation and service was like witnessing a grand corps de ballet in all its perfection.  And yes, Dear Reader, the rooms truly are beautiful, and even more beautiful in person than photographs could ever capture.

Le Grand Véfour
17 Rue de Beaujeolais
Palais Royal
75001 Paris
+33 1 42 96 56 27

Next: Reggie's Five Favorites: Dining In Paris, Part II—Café de L'Esplanade, Restaurant Paul, and more . . .

All photographs by Reggie Darling
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