Funny Times at Le Ralph

One would not think of Ralph Lauren as a rip-snorting, knee-slapping kind of guy.  He represents a type of Americana that is beautiful, rich, and refined, very wasp-y and hushed. Pretty cool and inventive for a poor Jewish guy from the Bronx; and he has made his mark here as well.  His store on St. Germaine is so beautiful. Drop dead gorgeous, I just want to lap it all up.  The outside is as stunning as any

hotel particulier

could ever be.  And beyond the courtyard that is lush with plants, old brick and weathered but comfortable patio furniture (and now with a million tiny white lights) is Le Ralph, his American restaurant that is packed to the gills with Parisians, longing for a real apple pie and not a wimpy tarte tatin.

Some of you might exclaim, "Pourquoi  go to a Ralph Lauren restaurant in Paris when you can go to the one in Chicago?!"  The reason is simple; it is beautiful, delicious and I long for a bit of home after 5 weeks.  Plus, the waiters are so cute in their TIGHT oxford cloth shirts, that it makes paying $60.00 for a Le Ralph burger less painful.

The first time I went during this trip was with my sister, Debbie.  She was seated in the plush banquette, surrounded by thick tartan plaid pillows. We were next to the roaring fireplace.  I was facing her, with my back to the restaurant. One gets the best seats when one dines at 7:00 instead at 10:00, like everyone else here. As we were talking, a tiny little mouse stuck his head out of one of the fireplace cracks. It as so cute and all I could think of was RATATOUILLE!!!  (Yes I know he was a rat, but please, don't ruin my story.)  I didn't know whether to tell Debbie or simply ignore the occurance, but now I could not take mon yeux  off that crack!  I tried to talk to Debbie, but my eyes kept wandering over there.  Finally she asked me what in the world was I looking at?!  I told her and we had a good laugh, but the rest of the dinner, she felt worried, like that little French mouse might come back and decide to crawl across her shoulder.  He did not.  I am sure he was ticking his head out, wondering when we were all going to leave so he could come and feast on the crumbs.  Or whip up something wonderful, just like in the movie...

Me, right before my killer cramp started...

A few weeks later, I went back with my friend Wendy, who is from Virginia and also a (very good ) student at Le Cordon Bleu.  We were eating our way through the menu and were seated to a sophisticated couple from Germany.  The woman was thin as a rail and dripping in diamonds, something one does not see here often in Paris.  (It is not proper to show off your wealth, unless of course, it is with your clothes or handbags.)  All of a sudden, I got a KILLER CRAMP in my left thigh.  There is a muscle that wraps around the inner thigh and goes to the back of your leg and is one of the biggest in your body.  You know the one?  That one!  I wanted to start screaming and rolling on the floor!  Instead, I jumped up, ran over to the bar and interrupted everyone, yelling quick, "Je suis a horrible cramp!! ( I am a horrible cramp) Do you have tonic water?"  The bartender looked up--no one hurries here unless you at Le Cordon Bleu, then it is full steam ahead--and he said, " Oui.  Le Schlepps?"  By now, I was starting to die and I blurted,"Oui!  Hurry!"  He gets the bottle, opens it, begins to pour into a glass, but I grabbed it out of his hands and chugged it!!!  Everyone was looking at me as if I were crazy.  I said, "it has quinine in it. It makes cramps go away...." Of course, they could not understand a word of what I was saying. 

 But that is not the end.  The combination of chugging such a carbonated beverage on a very full stomach full of Ralphie's food, made my stomach  expand like a balloon.  I ran-hobbled down the long spiral staircase to the restroom, bolted past the lady working there without so much as a polite bonsoir, went into a stall and almost barfed!  Instead, I must have let out at least 10 belches that would make any fraternity guy envious.  Yes, this is the woman representing the U.S. in Paris.