What a strange place Paris Commune is — a French bistro owned by a Chilean, an Englishman and a South African that for more than 20 years has managed to stay afloat in the West Village, largely, it seems to me, through robust weekend brunch business (which it recently started serving the other five days, too) and a neighborhood base whose loyalty transcended the 2004 move to a new location.
For the past six months, the restaurant’s owners have tried a new, long-term marketing scheme: The Red Rooster Club.
The concept was explained last night, at the sixth Red Rooster Club dinner, by the restaurant’s British owner, Laurence Isaacson.
Mr. Isaacson was once a multiunit restaurant operator, owning a bunch of British restaurants that specialized in steak frites. Back then he realized that it was very difficult to get press for a restaurant that isn’t doing anything new, so he created a Carnivores Club. He held regular dinners and showed up on television arguing with vegetarians and so on.
Seeing a similar dilemma for Paris Commune — an old place whose focus is more on having good rapport with its guests than on serving extraordinary food — he started the Red Rooster Club, to which an eclectic array of press and amusing people are invited for a brief lecture on poultry and a meal.
For the first such meal I attended, last month, Josh Ozersky gave a brief and entertaining analysis of duck in the American zeitgeist.
The second such meal I attended was last night, and I was the featured speaker. It being November, I had been asked to talk about turkey.
So I found Benjamin Franklin’s quotation about turkey, which he famously wanted to be our national symbol rather than the bald eagle, and I shared my own observations about turkey and our dual image of it as the centerpiece for our most decadent feast and also as the protein of virtue that we have instead of beef or pork in turkey burgers, turkey bacon, turkey sausage etc. And I concluded with the story of when I made Thanksgiving dinner for my American classmates as a student in China. If you’re good, I might share that story with you someday, too, deer reader [or rather, dear reader; sorry, Mark (see comment #1 below)].
This is what Benjamin Franklin said about turkeys, in a letter to his daughter, after disparaging the bald eagle as a scavenger and “a bird of bad moral character”:
“The turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America. … He is besides, though a little vain and silly, a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on.”
What I ate:
Cranberry foie gras brûlée with toast points
Butternut sqush soup with cream, almonds and cinnamon
Orange-glazed smoked ham with creamy honey mustard sauce, oven roasted turkey with homemade gravy, stuffing and sweet pumpkin with candied walnut
Individual pecal tart with vanilla, Cognac and whipped cream