Daniel Boulud's Birthday Luncheon

I don't remember much about this meal other than that the food came in amazing succession from all the great chefs who had worked under Daniel Boulud since he came to New York, most of whom went on to work in other restaurants. They returned to fête his 50th birthday celebration at his restaurant, Daniel.

Earlier this year, Camdeborde and his wife Claudine acquired a hotel in Paris's lively 5th arrondissement, half-way between the Seine and the Jardin du Luxembourg, 50 feet from the Boulevard Saint-Germain. The Relais Saint-Germain is a small (22 rooms) four-star inn that admirably combines the charms of a small family-run establishment located in ancient buildings with the amenities of a luxury hotel. Made up of two old buildings joined at the ground floor (the other floors do not connect and each has its own small elevator), the hotel is decorated with modern art (sculptures made by a close friend of the Camdebordes are found everywhere from the sidewalk to the rooms) and lively colors that vividly off-set the beams and architecture from the Middle-Ages. As is typical in Paris's oldest, most charming buildings, the elevator doors are located between floors on spiral staircases, requiring guests to climb a few steps to access their rooms (porters deal with the bags, of course).

The rooms are spacious, especially by Parisian standards, and well-appointed. Free high-speed internet access, modern bathrooms (mine, #40, had both a superb shower and a deep soaking tub), and air conditioning that is more powerful and efficient than any I've encountered in a hotel anywhere (readers who have experienced the bad joke that is French air conditioning will be shocked) are found in each room. A friend of mine stayed in one of the hotel's suites, room #58, which has a delightful terrace over-looking a small square, perfect for a couple to drink their coffee while reading the morning papers.

Breakfast, included in the room price, is served in the tiny restaurant on the hotel's ground-floor, is a reflection of Yves Camdeborde's obsession with quality ingredients. Cards on the tables announce what will be served, and the name of the producers: Eggs are from a farm in St-Germain-en-Laye, the Pata Negra ham is sliced off the bone immediately before being served, the aged Comté cheese is from a top-flight fromager, the juices fresh squeezed, the fruit cup cup fresh and bursting with flavor, the dairy products (butter, yogurt, etc) all first rate, as are the croissants, nut-bread, and baguettes... even the coffee is outstanding, a rarity in France at breakfast.

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