Beauty comes in many guises.

Appropriately for a restaurant in full view of Notre Dame and its mythical hunchback, the dining room of the Tour d’Argent in Paris resembles the prow of a ship sailing off into the sunset. Some critics say its reputation for good food departed some time ago. An auction in December 2009 cleaned out its wine cellar, the better offerings hidden from the Nazis by a false wall built during their occupation of France.

These ugly, dusty bottles sold for thousands of euros, the proceeds of which went to charity. And La Tour modernized its wine offerings.

The Tour first served food in 1582 and much history swished back and forth in front of its rather nondescript front entrance, including catering to German officers. The Germans garnered over 80% of the meat that came into the markets of Paris. A chilling comment by a German writer and officer named Ernst Jünger sums up the situation. Junger, who often climbed the stairs to the top floor of the Tour d’Argent restaurant for delicious, filling meals, wrote of his “diabolical satisfaction” of looking down from the glorified heights of the restaurant, the “grey ocean of roof tops under which the starving tried to keep body and soul together.”

Dietrich von Choltitz, German Governor of Paris, August 1944

Fortunately, Dietrich von Choltitz, German Governor of Paris, didn’t view Paris so cynically and he allegedly refused to obey several direct orders from Hitler to leave Paris in ruins.

Through the window at La Tour d'Argent, Paris (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)

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I am a cook who loves to write. And I am a writer who loves to cook.

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