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In a famously Irish, green-and-gold kind of town, Boston is a surprisingly fantastic place to celebrate Bastille Day. Restaurants all over the city rush to rearrange their menus and lower their prices for 24 hours, encouraging all of us Francophiles to come in and raise our Champagne to the country that brought us some of my favorite things in life: Edith Piaf songs, a skyline that includes the Eiffel Tower, and good (no, let me re-phrase: GREAT) food. Last night, I went to Aquitaine in the South End to celebrate my favorite summer holiday, but en route I thought to myself, “How can I make this year special? What can I do to be authentically French?” “Je n’aime pas…les escargots!” That was probably the most commonly heard phrase in my high school French classes (other than when we learned what “merde” meant, and you can Google that without my assistance). Not that any of my classmates had ever actually EATEN escargot, but seriously, what kind of person enjoys eating snails? A French person, that’s who. Escargot is so uniquely French that I’m sure the snails would wear striped shirts and drink wine by the barrel if they could. This is why, to a chorus of dramatic groans from my friends, I confidently placed my order. Merde.

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I could smell my plate-o-snails before I could see it. These little guys were absolutely drowned in butter and garlic. Not exactly the healthiest thing in the world, but you can’t be concerned about calories when you’re being adventurous with your dinner.  The plate itself reminded me of a painter’s palette, with the little snails being substitutes for gobs of paint (sorry to put the word “gobs” in the same sentence as “snails”).  The waitress, looking at me with a sympathetic glint in her eye, told me I could put the escargot on the bread or eat them alone, and then mysteriously said, “When you taste them, you’ll know what to do.” Comforting? The snails themselves are black, shriveled, and not the prettiest things in the world. After cautiously dipping the bread into the butter and garlic sauce and liking what I tasted, I decided that life’s too short to be wimpy about food, and down the hatch Snail #1 went. I’ve heard that you are supposed to let the snail “slide down the throat” without any chewing involved, but I can only be so strong. I chewed for a long time, giving the new tastes and textures enough time to register.
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Verdict: I loved it! They tasted like steamers, rubbery with a bit of a salty taste. I ate the whole platter in maybe five minutes (SO un-French of me).  My dinner dates went from being disgusted to being curious, and I even got one of them to dip their bread into the butter/garlic combination. But alas, no one would join me in my new-found love of escargot. Their loss! As for the rest of the evening, we all had a lovely time eating copious amounts of food and drinking even more copious amounts of Champagne. I think everyone should go outside of their comfort zones every now and again, whether it’s trying a new food, talking to a stranger, singing karaoke (my worst nightmare), etc. And if this post has grossed you out to the point of no return, here’s a nice, comforting picture of the delicious Vanilla Bean crème brulee we had for dessert:
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A bientot, Alison

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