Oh, Florent. Gone but hardly forgotten. Memories of your great meals, your wonderful ambience live on. When Nick first took me here for dinner in 1985, the neighborhood was still grungy and dark, Florent’s Christmas lights in the distance acting as a beacon, way down questionable Gansevoort Street. Now, it’s Stella McCartney and Diane von Furstenberg all the way from one end of the expanding Meatpacking District to the other. (And don’t even get me started on the High Line!) Florent, home of affordable French food before the word bistro became overused and laughable. Prix-fixe dinners at $16.95! Steak frites, rillettes, escargots, boudin noir, paté de campagne...all served in a tricked-out remodeled diner with dozens of framed maps on the wall adding an international suggestion of faraway places. Eating at the counter was always a special treat for Jay and me, allowing us to think of Florent as “our place.” Alas, as the 1980s gave way to the ’90s, more and more young people dressed in black turned up late night and the place (open 24 hours) became somewhat chic. Suddenly crowded and the hub of a downtown “scene,” its food remained memorable even as its outsider status gave way to trendy. Through it all, certain traditions remained solid: Florent Morellet still dressed up as Marie Antoinette and paraded around each year on Bastille Day. Alas, loyal crowds, drag royalty and wonderful food were no match for greedy landlords and astronomical (7x) rent hikes...and Florent served its last crème caramel on June 29, 2008. M. Morellet auctioned all those maps on eBay, generously split up the proceeds among his staff and moved on.