Jambon-beurre. They are just two apparently humble ingredients, yet choose them carefully, tuck them into a crackly-crusted baguette, add a swipe of Dijon mustard and you have one of the world's most extraordinary sandwiches. No-one understands this better than the staff at Le Petit Vendôme in Paris, a boisterous Auvergnat café around the corner from the Hotel Ritz.
Every day, office workers from the area cheerfully line up in front of its takeout window for the best sandwiches in town, made with baguette à l'ancienne from the bakery Julien (one-time supplier to the Elysée Palace) and products brought in directly from the Auvergne. Famed for its cured hams, sausages and Cantal, this once-volcanic region in central France has little time for vegetables: its year-round accompaniment to any meat is aligot, a stringy purée of potato, crème fraîche and fresh tomme cheese. Thus, the only nod to this food group you will find here is the occasional gherkin.
Bite into its jambon-beurre or jambon-cantal*, though, and you will probably agree that in this case a lettuce leaf, or heaven forbid a slice of tomato, would only get in the way of the star ingredients. Men in suits cluster around the bar, savoring every perfectly balanced bite, while those with heartier appetites squeeze into the dining room and order a hefty steak or pungent andouillette with piping-hot frites that taste reassuringly of animal fat (be warned that sandwiches are not served at the tables). Even the rough house Gamay goes down easily in this no-nonsense setting, at least after the first mouth-puckering sip.
* How picture-worthy is this sandwich? Very, but you'll have to take my word for it since my camera's battery ran out at the most inconvenient time.
Le Petit Vendôme, 8 rue des Capucines, 1st, 01.42.61.05.88.
14 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.
Any place you fnid with folks lined up outside is a GOOD sign. No matter what they are waiting in line for. I'm imagining the sandwich right now......of course just to eat a truly fabulous baguette would make my heart flutter.
Let's just say, Eileen, that it's the best thing in the world - at least when you're in a certain mood.
I'm thrilled to find someone else who loves this sandwich! My first one was 18 years ago on my first trip to Paris, and I STILL remember it. Simple ingredients, simply prepared. Magnifique!
Perhaps you can explain something for me. Every time I have had a baguette sandwich in Paris, the density and sharp edges of the crust have left my mouth in pain for a couple of days. Am I the only one with this problem? Am I frequenting the wrong boulangeries?
Kate, I often think the French are not as creative as they could be with sandwiches, but the perfection of this one makes up for it!
Ron, I know what you mean, and sometimes when I'm not in the mood for something so crunchy I ask for the "pain au lait" sandwich instead, which is much softer. But, since most Parisians eat baguette just about every day, I would think that the mouth adapts!
lunch ce midi au " Petit Vendôme" ! Delicious : saucisson sec d 'Auvergne as appetizer, baguette, butter ... After, as entrée : a " double pied de cochon grilled " with French fries perfectly cooked AND to drink, the simple house wine : the Saint Pourçain ( Gamay ) à la ficelle ... Perfect meal : 20 euros !
Is the ham in Petit Vendome's sandwiches cooked? I have the feeling that it's not so don't think I'd let my granddaughter eat one. Hopefully, I'm wrong.....
Sandy, I believe the sandwich is available with cured ham or cooked ham, cooked ham being the most classic version of the traditional jambon-beurre.