This summer, after a giddy, joyful lunch at L'Arpege in Paris, I told Michelin three star chef/owner Alain Passard how disappointed I was to have not had time to visit his garden during my trip. He grabbed me by the arm and stared into my eyes. "Louisa," he said in his intense French, "The next time you come back to France, you must visit the garden." I nodded, smiling, still glowing from the meal. "But you must stay three days," he said, then added, "And you can stay at my house."
You don't say.
L'Arpege currently serves the single most expensive set menu in Paris. With the current exchange rate, that price hovers around 500 dollars per person. That's for food alone - there's no wine, coffee, or even a glass of mineral water included.
So I'm thinking, this is going to be sweet.
Alain Passard's garden supplies some of the finest rare and heirloom vegetables, some varieties unavailable anywhere else in the world, exclusively to the restaurant. Every morning, the day's pick goes out to Paris by TGV - just an hour by high-speed train.
And remember this kitchen garden - or potager - was the inspiration for the chef's temporary/ephemeral restaurant Vegetable last year.
I had visions of an Arpege in the country - but a bed and breakfast version. And then when I heard the house is actually a chateau, I wondered if I should bring nicer dinner clothes.
But then when I asked what I thought was just a cursory polite question about what I should bring and they told me boots, sheets, and breakfast food, it started to dawn on me that I might barely have a bed - and forget about breakfast.
Right now I'm writing from the unheated gardeners' office. I arrived tonight and it's cold and damp. To add even more fun, it's been pouring for the last two days so there's sucking mud everywhere. I'm being dive-bombed by pre-historic looking bugs that I'm sure could drain the blood from my body - if I weren't waving my arms hysterically to fight them off. And I just heard an unidentified animal howling outside.
I just want to thank Farmgirl Susan profusely for great boot advice and encouragement - which I really didn't think I'd need as much as I do right now - and for not making Simple Life jokes. Those of you who did, you know who you are.
I can't wait to see the grounds in the morning.