Morning at Evasion Loft brings piquant homemade rhubarb jam, fresh pastries dotted with vermillion pralines, and top-notch new company. International small talk is a surprisingly pleasing accompaniment to plentiful black coffee.
Lyon by daylight is sunny and brisk. The bare branches nicely reflect the simple elegance of the French urban architecture. We embark on a walking loop around a few of the northern arrondissements that Thérèse has plotted out on our map.
A boggling assortment of olive oils on the way hooks us and reels us in. The shopkeep at A l’Olivier proffers an extensive tasting, and we’re shortly inundated in distilled essence of basil, truffle, and lemon zest. The selection of vinegars is formidable, in particular a 10-year-old balsamic both creamy and intoxicating. We make a note to pick up an item or two on our way back later.
The walking loop takes us through several traboules, winding foot-traffic passageways used in the transportation of silk through the city as far back as the 4th century. They appear almost private – some of the entrances are through doorways – and at first we wonder if we might be trespassing. Good thing Rick Steves has taught us “Désolé, je suis touriste.”
Wandering this neighborhood is sweetness – here and there are traces of alt-culture, thoughtful graffiti, a dojo. Cassoulet, Whisky, Ping-Pong seems probably magnificent.
We stumble across an open market up here on the hill and do our absolute best not to slaver over the dripping poulets and fresh fromage.
The walking and the cold have us eager to reach our lunching destination, but not so much that we don’t take a pause to vogue on the footbridge. The wind causes it to lurch disturbingly; we make haste shortly after snagging the shots.
Lunch at Les Halles is an obvious must. We love markets wherever we go (see: Barcelona’s La Boqueria, Huay Kwang in Bangkok, Sunday market in Tolosa – to name just a few), and Les Halles is where the top chefs in Lyon purportedly do their shopping. Pictured is a tiny slice of the overwhelming selection – were we to live here, we would most certainly pick up a pâté pyramid and a chicken complete with feathered head and blue feet. The candied peppers intrigue as well.
Spying a seafood stall specializing in les coquillages eases the impossibility of choosing, particularly when we note a table enjoying a selection of urchins. I’ve gushed over the Asturian oricios such that MP wants a few oursins of her own, so we stumble our way through the French: une sélection de coquillages, s’il vous plaît? huîtres, non? et oursins, c’est possible?
The photos denote our success. Six enormous oysters (from Normandy?), clams of all variety, and a trio of urchins, one each from Brittany, Iceland, and Galicia. Add slightly sour brown bread, butter, and a cold carafe of house white – parfait.
The oysters are predictably spectacular, and the distinct character of each clam holds its own. The urchins have an order – first Brittany, then Iceland, and finishing with Galicia – and their gooey umami pleases to no end. The Galician is by far my favorite; it’s assertively briny while the other two are much more subtle. For the uninitiated, the texture is a bit like okra – slimy, yes, but it is the loveliest of slimes.
Cheese is not, strictly speaking, necessary. And yet.
And roll we do, right into the arms of a three-hour nap (some of us, anyway. others dedicate themselves to placating you, dear readers).
How can it be evening already? Weren’t we just urchin-ing, wine-and-cheese-ing? Do we do anything besides eat? No, we do not. We gussy ourselves in preparation for our grand gastronomic venture of the trip.
We occupy one of four tables. The night’s only seating opens with salmon, ham, and caviar nested in poppy seed waffle compartments, shooters of lobster and parmesan foam, and a slice of sausage embedded in crispy wafer-thin brioche. The following surprise eight-course menu is currently entitled Q.E.D., and the only selection to be made is wine. The four-glass accompaniment sounds about right.
1: Egg yolk and mustard foam. Salad greens, sprouts and radish slices in rice wafer shell.
2: Crab, mango, avocado, green apple, vinegar gelatin, walnuts, green onion, dill.
3: Chorizo, basil, peas and their shoots, orange peel, beurre blanc.
4: Foie gras, radishes, beet, beet compote.
5: Sea bass, celery, carrot, macha, beurre noisette.
6: Entrecôte, macha, shallot, asparagus, red pepper compote, artichoke, greens.
Cheese course: an outstanding brie, a charming Comté, a stupefying Roquefort.
7: Champagne foam, acidic fruit cocktail.
8: Chocolate dome melted with hot raspberry sauce. Hidden underneath are cubes of chocolate mousse and cake, cherries, and mascarpone ice cream.
Ending sweets: macaron, macha marshmallow, and a small sugary truffle filled with Calvados. MP attempts to bite it in half, causing it to dribble; she giggles all over the place and documents my reaction.