“I Could Live Like This”

I remember a long lunch I had several years ago in the al fresco restaurant at the top of the old Hotel Washington, which had one of the best views in the city: You looked down on the White House, and out over the Washington Monument and the west Mall.

It was one of those perfect spring days, and none of us was eager to go back to work. As I sat there, I said to myself, “I could live like this.” And then I had the epiphany: I do live like this!

This evening was another one of those “I could live like this” nights. Around 7:30, I walked up 18th Street to have dinner in the sidewalk cafe section of the L’Enfant Café & Bar.

I started with a duck confit over white beans and thyme, served in a small mason jar, followed by steak frites with ruby port butter, matchstick fries and chipotle cumin ketchup for dipping.  The food was all right, but, except for the Grand Marnier and caramel dessert crepe, not particularly memorable.  (No pictures.  It was dark, and I don’t use a flash in restaurants except in v special cases.)

What was memorable was the atmosphere. As the menu made clear:

Welcome to L’Enfant, your piece of Paris
right here in DC …. True to Parisian café style,
we have a small & intimate dining space
catered from a petit kitchen. Please be
patient with your order during busy times.
Instead, relax and enjoy the view of the
surrounding crowd—we attract some of the
most interesting people around.

The service was…French.  My waitress was charming and unrushed.  Steak frites is about as simple a dish as you can make, but the kitchen took so long that the waitress comped me for a second glass of Bordeaux Rouge.  And it was perfectly all right–it reminded me of long, leisurely meals in cafes in Paris, where they point is to enjoy the experience rather than to get in and out as quickly as possible (as is often the case in a certain large, North American country which will not be named here.)

In so many ways, Europeans live better than we do.