In doing my Paris research, all everyone talked about is a little place run by an American chef, a place called Spring. The chef is Daniel Rose (he writes a column for the Off-Duty section of WSJ, a section I have worked for), and almost every night he creates market dinners from scratch for people lucky enough to score a reservation. For the unlucky, or spontaneous, there is the wine bar, the buvette, downstairs.
I’m one of the unlucky, or spontaneous, ones, which is why I found myself downstairs with Soufien, the curly-haired, bespectacled French sommelier/bartender/waiter/foodrunner/fromage arranger/bread slicer/oyster-shucker. Daniel may rule the open kitchen upstairs, but in the basement, Soufien is THE MAN. And Soufien knows it. He speaks in a tone that wavers delicately, perhaps sneakily, between arrogant and confident. He tells you what you want if you display any sort of uncertainty. He does not suffer fools, but he nurtures people who respect the wine bar (even if they don’t know which wine they want).
My favorite thing about Soufien (besides the fact that he chose our two bottles of wine, and our cheese, and our tasting plates) is the way he described a particularly fine, earthy, mysterious, red wine. In heavily accented English, he looked at me and said,
“Zees wine is like a horse. A big horse that must run, and it runs through the forest. Eet ees powerful (gesturing with his hands), and the forest changes around him. Earth, soil, dirt, champignons. Eet ees very, how you say, strong. Eet changes.”
I don’t know any sommelier that has spun a story of a horse running through a forest to describe a wine to me, but the story worked. The smells and taste of the wine rush back when I think of this story.
In other notes, we had a completely fantastic salad of cepes, squash, pomegranate and mache, a veal cooked en croute, and cheese, including a goat’s cheese that had been drizzled with truffled honey (oh my).
It was so good I came back two nights later. The place was packed (it was a Saturday night) and Soufien was orchestrating the floor a little bit like a madman. I had a beautiful wine that night, but he had no time for stories.
Read more about Spring on their blog.