If you’re a regular reader here, you may have noticed a recurring thread running through some of my more recent posts.
Probably because my own surroundings are far from sumptuous these days, I’ve become downright obsessed with the charmed lives of Gerald and Sarah Murphy, close friends of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and partial models for the main characters in Tender Is the Night. I even have a wrist band with WWGaSMD? etched into the leather to remind me to ask myself “What Would Gerald and Sarah Murphy Do?” before I make any major decisions.
So. This day’s lunch was part of my pursuit of Murphyesque elegance.
You can enter the Willard Hotel’s Café du Parc directly from Pennsylvania Avenue, but I prefer taking a slow walk through the interior of the beautiful Beaux-Arts building. The Willard can trace its origin back to six small houses that served as a hotel on this site more than 200 years ago. After repeated cycles of decline and rebirth, the hotel was restored to its current magnificent state during the 1980s and 90s.
Abraham Lincoln stayed here before his inauguration, and six US Vice-Presidents have lived in the Willard during their terms in office. This is where Julia Ward Howe wrote the lyrics to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in 1861, and where Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote the “I Have a Dream” speech 102 years later.
The entrance to Café du Parc is just off the lobby.
I decided to lunch on the café’s patio instead of inside the café proper. I chose a table bordering the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk and, following the old gamblers’ admonition about keeping your back to a wall, I chose a chair facing west. The White House is a six-minute walk in that direction, and I didn’t want to be surprised by some rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouching towards the Trump Hotel to be born. Safety First.
It seemed a little silly to order French Onion Soup in August, but I like what I like, and there are few things that I like more than that classic combination of caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, beef broth, bread, and a dash of sherry.
My Apilco Lion’s Head soup bowl runneth over with goodness.
Chicken or fish? Fish or chicken?
Or, as the Café du Parc menu put it, “Poitrine de Poulet Rôti au Jus or Pan-Seared Atlantic Salmon”?
Chicken and fish dishes are default main courses on many an RW menu, because they’re cheap, fast, and easy. * Add Salade Niçoise to those choices, and you have the day’s three main options at Café du Parc. A little disappointing—The restaurant is usually more innovative in its offerings.
I had the salmon, with pesto mashed potato, heirloom carrots, and a tomato beurre blanc sauce. It may not have been a life-changing original, but it was damn good.
The menu called this “Pot De Crème au Chocolat au Grand Marnier” and describes it as “Baked Valrhona Guanaja 70% Chocolate Custard With Grand Marnier Liquor, Crème Diplomate Orange Confit, Buttery Langue De Chat Cookie”. I
I couldn’t put it better myself. /s
It was one of my favourite desserts of the week.
* “Cheap, fast, and easy”, btw, was my nickname in college. I guess they called me that because I ate in a lot of fast food joints back in those days.