“Olivier Desaintmartin was but a wide-eyed country pup from Picardy when he saw his first gleaming “presse” at La Tour d’Argent in Paris. As a 16-year-old cooking-school grunt doing his weekend turn as a student-server in that luxurious bastion of old-school French gastronomy, it’s easy to see how this diabolical instrument of culinary pleasure would have caught his eye.
Posed tableside, with a silver-plated wheel screwing down like a vise into a canister and crushing everything inside to a bloody pulp, it looks more like a medieval torture device than something to set a gourmand atwitter. It is definitely not for the squeamish. But once a roasted wild duck carcass and its innards are submitted to its pitiless embrace, the dark spirit that streams from its little spout becomes the essence of one of the most prized and precious dishes in French cuisine.
It’s no wonder Desaintmartin, now a 49-year-old kitchen vet, snapped up a genuine antique presse on an eBay discount to become the centerpiece for his Zinc Bistro à Vins.”