I'm not quite sure why, but I seek you out, French restaurant, and especially in cities where I do not live. I think, in fact, I may never have actually eaten at the French, or French-ish, restaurants in my own town. But I am drawn inexplicably to the bistro as a category when I am away from home, and particularly when I'm on my own.
When I'm on my own, I want food with a tradition, food that's not afraid of its own commitments, food that is simultaneously a little bit snobby and, paradoxically, also as comforting as soft clothes and comfortable shoes and butter. Lots and lots of butter.
It's a bonus when the staff are kind. This has happened to me two times, but each of those was a memorable time. Once in San Francisco, the waiter, who had either a real or a really, really good faux French accent, asked me if I wanted "still or fizzy" water, and told me that the sauce on my salmon was "delicious," pronounced with extra French syllables. Tonight, the guy was not remotely French, but he was really nice, and he brought me extra bread when I asked for it, because the saffron sauce on my moules safran was so unbelievably, stunningly delicious. And a spoon when I needed it to eat the sauce.
And he did not look askance when I had dessert on top of that, a Normandy apple tart. With some sort of extra special whipped cream and salt caramel sauce, just the right amount of each.
French restaurant, you were everything that I needed and wanted in a restaurant tonight, and more.
And that sauce was so, so good, it made me grateful. For sauce.