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Snails Have Seven Lives at L'Escargot Montorgueil

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Just how many lives does a snail have? Seven, at L'Escargot Montorgueil, Paris' premier snail restaurant, where your shell might have served many guests.

You may not like the idea of eating snails, but you have to visit l'Escargot Montorgueil in Paris. This beautiful late 19th century snail restaurant is all about snails, with its huge golden snail sign landmark. Until 2004, it was owned by a cousin of Claude Terrail, owner of La Tour D'argent.

Snails have a long history in France, and I had read in Les Métiers Oubliés de Paris (Forgotten Professions of Paris), that in the 19th century there were snail shell collectors 'Marchands de coquilles d'escargots' who rummaged through fine restaurants' trash to collect used snail hells. They resold them to cheaper restaurants. The shells were not cleaned so that the remaining butter sauce would flavor the cheap grease used in the second restaurant and they could be sold to the hoi polloi as 'escargots au beurre'.

Naturally, when I next ate at L'Escargot, I told my friends this story and we inspected the shells to see if the 'Marchand de coquilles d'escargots' was indeed a lost trade. Clearly, L'Escargot doesn't buy discarded shells but at Rungis. But still, I noticed at least three different degrees of burnt sauce on the shell. Tiny little flecks, but undoubtedly these shells had been used before.

So I chatted a bit with the waiter. 'You must be happy to hear some French spoken once in a while, right?', I started. 'Yes Monsieur, indeed'. Apart from us, the restaurant was full of non-French speaking tourists and he was indeed quite happy to speak French. I ventured further and asked 'Between you and me, how many times do you recycle the shells?'. The waiter was too surprised to make anything up and candidly replied 'Oh Monsieur, four to five times. A good shell will last you seven times.'

Before you rush to the toilets, let me say that they wash the shells in the dishwasher, so it's no more disgusting than eating with the same fork that some other guy used the day before, or than reusing scallops shells. And yet, I don't think most patrons think the shells are reused.

I had much worse at my school. The cook recycled his chipolata skewers. Not just the skewers, but the sausages too, which were served up to three times. Each time they were darker. So I convinced my friends to break any leftover sausage and wooden skewer to defeat this evil cook. It worked - or maybe they just ended up in the soup.

L'Escargot Montorgueil is a fine restaurant and I would not hesitate to go back. The best time to visit is on a Sunday morning when the entire Montorgueil street turns into a food market. They also propose Duck à l'Orange and a few other non-gastropodic dishes for the less adventurous.

L'Escargot Montorgueil
www.escargot-montorgueil.com
38 rue Montorgueil
75001 Paris
+33 (0) 1 42 36 83 51

Published 02/04/2007
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15 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Kenny Koala
  • on: 04/04/2007
A most interesting article - it's good to know the French are pushing the boundaries of recycling. No fear of global warming or environmental disaster with them about. Might I also say it was extremely well-written too. And in English! Do you use one of those automatic translator sites like Dictionary.com- Translator or pay somebody to render it into the foreign tongue? You might be interested to know that here in Australia we have a dish called "Pie Floater L'Escargot" which is a meat pie swimming in pea soup, topped with a drizzle of tomato sauce and crowned with two escargots rampant. This, of course, is the sophisticated rendition - as found at some of the country's finest restaurants. Those who aren't sure about the difference between a pussy and a cat go for the basic version and dispense with the snails. Culture in this country has got a long way to go.On a technical matter - just as a matter of interest - do you moderate these comments before they are posted or could someone just write what they like and see it appear unedited? I, for instance, have a large number of cartoons of religious leaders which you might find interesting.All the best - The Koala
  • #2
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 05/04/2007
The Koala is too nice. Yes, me write English without online translator. That's really flattering - an Escargot Pie Floater now, makes one wish to be transported down under to taste the New World's delicacies. Indeed culture has a long way to go but they say sheeps are very friendly too down there.

Yes I do moderate these comments and the Koala is a friend of mine who wrote his comment, as I do mine, as a friendly joke.
  • #3
  • Comment by Artyom
  • on: 23/04/2007
Hi, I want to offer You natural etable snails from Armenia. Everything is certified by an official medical organisation.All interested firms can contact me by the following e-mail: art_avetisyan@msn.comor mob: +37491 402559
  • #4
  • Comment by esmeralda
  • on: 14/07/2007
Hello, como estas mira los escargots?
  • #5
  • Comment by Mitchell
  • on: 19/03/2008
Hello, interesting article on escargot. Why do they reuse shells if they are going to clean out the oil/seasoning? Or is there flavor in the shells themselves that is imparted to the snails when cooked? Is that why they reuse shells rather than use the original shells the snails are in along with possibility of one shell being more presentable than another? This process seems similar to when Chinese cooks boil chicken in a pot containing  water used to boil previous chicken such that flavor left in the water compounds with each boil and imparts more flavor into the chicken.
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 24/03/2008
Mitchell, restaurant-grade shells are much harder to produce than edible snail flesh, so restaurants buy them separately in big bags and try to recycle them much as they would plates or cutlery as many times as they can. As for the chicken water, this is exactly how a French chef would make chicken stock to boil another chicken. The great cycle of life!
  • #7
  • Comment by Mr wang escargot snail Helix aspersa
  • on: 07/08/2008
 We are Beijing Jinmengxuan Snail Breeding Co., Ltd., of Beijing chian, We breeding snails Escargot Helix aspersa more than 17years ,  from a small farm become the largest professional breeding snail’s farm of china.
we can offer the fresh snails in the four season , important:we breeding the snails in the room in winter, so we can offer enough alive snails in winter and in four season
Now  we have already established wholesale snail farm and breeding snail in tunisia, so customers can buy the alive snails from tunisia very easy .
best regards
Mr. wang
Tel: 86-10-88807022
Email:snails8080@yahoo.com.cn
Que son unos cochinos. Como se les ocurre servir sobre lo que han dejado otros? GAS!!!
  • #9
  • Comment by KelliSue
  • on: 16/01/2009
I laughed out loud when I saw the snail on the little scooter.

I prepared escargots at home one day whilst I was pregnant with my 2 year old daughter. My 6 year old thought they were button mushrooms sautee'd in butter and garlic sauce, and commenced eating most of them while I was finishing a second pan at the stove. He was surprised to find they were snails, not fungi. Without missing a beat he volunteered to gather garden snails from our farm. I declined, citing we only eat French snails.  He was last seen picking up little snails, inquiring Parlez Vous Francais? and listening intently. I assured him only if he heard Oui, oui, I'd cook them. When I made Grasshopper (creme de menthe) brownies a few days later, he declined, saying he didn't really feel like eating grasshoppers today.  I'm just doing my part to introduce the family to a broad variety of foods.  Your blog makes for interesting conversations at our house. Our ducks are safe from eating after seeing the pressed duck article.
  • FX's answer→ Kelli Sue it is you who made me laugh today with the tale of your son asking if the snail speak French - that's a good one! Now many snails are edible and you could very well find good snails out there. Just remember to let them eat salad and milk in a box for at least 3 days so that their stomach is cleared of any potentially toxic content. And please don't cover them in salt while alive, this is cruel and unecessary. Have fun!

  • #11
  • Comment by aseniserare omowunmi
  • on: 23/06/2009
Hi, i have never seen where snail is being served with it shell.in my own country nigeria we served snail in plate as fried, roasted, boil and also serve with vegetables as soup.
i want to offer you alive natural eatable snail from nigeria.any interested hotel, resturant, or person can contact me on this address:

caromart nigeria enterprises
104, sagamu road ikorodu
lagos state
Nigeria
phone number:+2348037600617

 
  • #12
  • Comment by kathy agona
  • on: 21/07/2009
we were recently in Beaune, France and had the most amazing dish: Escargot & puff pastry in pea soup. I would like to make it at home, but I need a recipe.Any ideas? Thanks.
  • #13
  • Comment by Robert
  • on: 01/12/2009
Ate at the L'Escargot Montorgueil at an outdoor table with friends on a beautiful warm and sunny spring day.  Had the snail sampler, the the snails in curry sauce were excellent.  This restaurant is on a wonderful shopping steet.  Make sure you check out Sthorer Pastry shop down the street...famous for the rum baba.
Also, the licquor shop with the Calvados with the apple in the bottle.

Wonderful, wonderful find in Paris.

Enjoy.

Robert
  • FX's answer→ Yes this is a fun street with many food shops, but the overal ambience of Les Halles has been going down the pits for years. Continue to explore Paris and you'll find many enjoyable corners!

  • #15
  • Comment by john a johnson
  • on: 21/04/2011
I had the great occasion to have eaten there. I had the
snails as appetizers and ordered the Duck.  I discovered to much dissatisfaction that poulty is not cooked as we cook in the US to a certain temp in order to make sure it is done. This duck was med. rare if that. I sent it back and I think it may still have had its festhers on and could have done so on its on accord. I then ordered a dozen snails and enjoyed my meal despite the duck. I would go back there to eat anytime.

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