Quatorze Bis: Home Is Where the Heart Is

Home is where the heart is, home is where you long to be. So goes that old-time saying in which there's so much truth. For many of us, when we think of 'home,’ it's our parents' home, the place where we've spent our formative years, hopefully years filled with endearing memories. For others, ‘home’ is the place they’ve created for themselves, possibly the very opposite of what they experienced growing up.

As readers of this blog well know, this heart of mine periodically finds itself longing to be in Paris, which I tend to think of as my spiritual home. Why Paris? There are reasons too complicated to explain in a blog post. To understand the undying lure of Paris—how it all began so many years ago—I highly recommend Veronica’s Grave: A Daughter’s Memoir, to be published by She Writes Press May 9th. (Click here. )

A Moment in Time

In fact, this week brought evidence that the book which has been in the works for years is really happening when an advance reader's copy arrived in the mail. Within minutes, it found a 'home' on a bookshelf surrounded by a number of classics. Can you read the blurb on the cover? It's from Mary Higgins Clark, America's Queen of Suspense!

And while I love the energy and hustle-bustle of New York, I'm smitten by the architecture of Paris, smitten by a streetscape dotted with mid-rise buildings, elegant shops and open-air cafes providing seductive settings for all manner of assignations. Quite naturally, there are times I wish I could drop everything and bop over to Paris for a few days, but for now commitments have me in New York searching for a touch of French style which, as you know, is what 'Desperately Seeking Paris' is all about.

At Quatorze Bis

When a case of homesickness hits me hard, I head for a down-home French bistro. One I've returned to time and again is Quatorze Bis, a longtime Upper East Sider with a traditional Left Bank menu, starting with a selection of oysters and country pâté. Simply sitting there sipping my wine and watching the local clientele pouring through the door is an oddly soothing activity.

The specials of the day are handwritten on small blackboards that the waiter brings to the table. Normally I skip those, not because they're not tempting which they are, but because I almost always order the same dish at what essentially is my neighborhood hangout. My friends and I all agree, Quatorze Bis has the absolutely best grilled chicken with herbs in town. Cooked to order, it's not left lying on a steam table! Invariably the waiter cautions that it takes a full 25 minutes to prepare the dish properly, and invariably I tell him I'm in no hurry, take your time.

At which I take a deep breath--SIGH--and sit back to enjoy a soft-bodied red from the Cote de Rhone, along with the ambiance.  Cotes du Rhone wines are generally medium bodied, fresh-tasting with red fruit characteristics, and absolutely perfect for pairing with grilled chicken. Or grilled anything. So what does Zagat say about Quartorze Bis? "It's not cheap and it could use a face lift, but its prosperous clientele still deems it a pleasant experience."

(PS The restaurant underwent a facelift in 2017 after a devastating fire, but fortunately for its loyal patrons, it has come back as a younger fresher version of its old self. )

Another Moment in Time

Did they say a 'pleasant experience'? That it is, but it's so much more. For me it's a moment in time when I'm delighted by our animated neighbors, charmed by the French-speaking waiter (they're becoming a rarity in New York), and amused by the print of 'Le Roi', the king, hanging nearby. Could that be Louis XIV? Eyes wide open, I can almost believe I'm in Paris. As they say, home is where the heart is.

Thanks for stopping by, hope to see you next week when I'll have the coffee waiting. May life be good to you. À bientôt mes amis....