Snapshots from Paris: Salads at Le Relais Gascon
I can't take one little bit of credit for discovering the Salade Gascon (€15.50) from Le Relais Gascon in Paris's Montmartre neighborhood. Robyn Lee wrote about it back in 2006, and Maggie Hoffman pointed me there, too, after a visit of her own. But even my trusty colleagues' recommendations didn't quite prepare me for how good this salad was.
It's essentially a salad in name only. There is a nice bed of greenery down there, dressed in a simple, creamy vinaigrette. But on top are potatoes sauteed in garlic and olive oil; and in the case of the Gascon, an incredibly generous cut of foie gras and tender petals of smoked magrets (duck breast). So that's: fatty duck, fried potatoes, and fattier duck. (And green stuff.)
Hard to imagine when a salad contains this much delicious duck, but the best part is really the potatoes. They're thinly sliced and salty and garlicky like the best kind of garlic fries, with the slightest crisp on the outside; crunchy and warm when you first get the salad, they soon soften into the vinaigrette, and are perfect eaten that way or with foie smeared on top or with thin slices of magrets wrapped around them.
Just about any salad here would probably be excellent—swap out the duck for roquefort and ham, or smoked salmon and crème fraîche. You can add goat cheese or salmon or fried eggs to any of the salads, too; I considered how good a few runny yolks would be on those potatoes, but figured that magrets and foie gras were indulgence enough.
It's the kind of lunch that demands wine.