Max Mercier – the start of my love of food

June 29, 2006

One of my favorite rants is about the fact that one of my favorite restaurants, Le Parisien, closed its doors five years or so ago. I miss it.

Three of my friends’ daughters recently took a trip to Europe on a school sponsored expedition, which included Paris, France. One of the girls commented that people were eating snails with a shudder.

Now, I love escargot. It is wonderfully yummy and the only place in Salt Lake City that I know of that ever served it was the aforementioned Le Parisien. Her dad asked if I knew of any other place around that served it (none that I know of) and then dropped the bombshell that he’d read Max Mercier’s obituary in the paper.

I still haven’t come to grips with this yet. I literally have known Max all of my life. My dad is the same age as Max and my dad worked downtown from the mid 1960s until he closed the door to his recording studio a couple of years ago. When I was eight or nine months old, my dad likes to tell of taking me with them to dinner at Le Parisien and letting me gum the dressing off of the lettuce leaves. We lived in the south end of the valley but we’d take the drive on occasion to have dinner downtown – the waiters knew our names, treated my parents as friends and made us feel like it was our place too.

My favorite dish at Le Parisien was the Boeuf Bourguignon. Delicious and wonderful, the few dates that I had in high school ended up there if I really liked the person. It wasn’t expensive but it was oooooh so good.

Dad knew the menu and the daily specials – he’d plan his lunch around them. I’m not sure which day it was, but they served an Eggs Benedict which was quite good and he’d have it each week. When Utah passed some restrictive liquor laws Max added on a private club so Dad could have a beer or a glass of wine with dinner and not have to smuggle it in.

The tables were wood, dark stained, covered with red and white checkered table cloths. Each table also had a bottle filled with colored sugar crystals that as kids we delighted in pouring a few out and licking a finger to pick them up and let them dissolve.

Oh, and the bread! Wonderful hot bread, served with foil wrapped servings of real butter. The bread had a thick, crunchy crust and we always made sure to save a piece to sop up the extras from dinner ’cause they were yummy.

I’ve missed Le Parisien and Max Mercier – when Le Parisien closed I didn’t have much opportunity to run into him. My dad knew him more socially but for me he was like a special, favorite uncle that made wonderful food.

Good bye, Max.

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