Paris Treats: The Ooey Gooey Edition
By Theadora Brack
This week, let’s talk turkey! Grocery store chains may be your best bets for cutting costs while living in Paris, and they’re perfectly fine and dandy for long-term stays. But what if you’re visiting for just a week or two? Well then, I say, live it up like there’s no tomorrow. “Queen For A Day!” has always been my mantra while holiday.
When visiting one of the finest food capitals of the world—a place chock-full of bountiful “Bon Produits” (specialty shops), all managed by certified experts who are more than willing to share their vast wealth of knowledge—it is absolutely not the time to stoop to shopping at chain grocery stores just to save a few centimes. If you’re in Paris long-term, sure, but if it’s just for a week or two, then take in all those wonderful boulangeries, pâtisseries, chocolatiers, confiseries, glaciers, éspiceries, fromageries, charcuteries, poissonneries, caves, and cafés with a clear conscience. That’s what you’re here for.
And don’t be shy. Ask for recommendations, and in the process you’ll take home more than the receipt. Make every meal an experience! After all, it was Julia Child’s very first lunch in France that changed her life, and set her cookbook project in motion. Years later she wrote, “I can still almost taste it. And thinking back on it now reminds me that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite!”
I completely agree. Here are a few of my favorite little pleasures not to miss while you’re in Paris. Grab a fork, and let’s dig in! Bon Appétit!
1. Baguette Sandwiches
On my very first trip to Paris, I ate practically nothing but baguette sandwiches, night and day. I was hooked. Still, after all these years, my love is here to stay. And what’s not to adore? Individually wrapped, often in beautifully illustrated bags, they’re delectable, affordable, and portable. My favorite award-winning boulangeries are all located in Montmartre on rue des Abbesses: Au Levain d’Antan (at #6), Le Coquelicot (#24), and Le Grenier à Pain (#38). And I’m not just partial because their in my ’hood—they regularly rank tops in the annual city-wide bake-offs.
How are the baguettes dressed this season? Take heed, indeed! They are dressed to fill: Baguette Cantal Beurre (with Cantal cheese and butter), Baguette Jambon Beurre Gruyère (ham, butter and Gruyère cheese), Baguette Thon Crudités Oeufs (tuna, lettuce, tomato and hard-boiled eggs), Baguette Salami (salami and butter), Baguette Poulet Crudités (chicken, lettuce and tomato), Baguette Camembert (Camembert cheese), and Baguette Saucisson Sec (with cured sausage).
2. Brillat-Savarin Cheese
Butter. Brillat. Butter. Brillat. That’s what he said. With torrid glances, I thank my cheesemonger friend Ishai (extraordinaire!), for introducing me to this very velvety, voluptuous beauty. I’m a fool for fresh salted butter, and Brillat-Savarin lies just above that line, so for me it was love at first bite. In fact, I squealed. Read my hips. Bells were ringing and rippling! On the up and up, this decadent triple-cream cheese from Rouen contains a whopping 75% butterfat and about 40% fat overall.
Yes, this little piggy will be returning to the market for more. Serve it with a sparkling wine or a palate-cleansing beer. The carbonation will cut the fat, while enhancing its milky mushroom flavor. While in Paris, sample Brillat-Savarin as a fresh young’un, I scream. Heck, we all scream for triple cream. Moo, la la.
Psst! Pâtisseries are on practically every block in the city, so keep your head and be selective. I recommend starting your pie quest with a little “window licking” (faire du lèche-vitrine) because often it is possible to judge a shop by is cover—or window display. Keep your eyes peeled for a line of customers snaking out the door, too. That’s always a good sign.
My favorite dinner parties always end with slices from heaven from Les Petits Mitrons. Located in Abbesses-Montmartre at 26 rue Lepic, this little pink pie shop is just up the street from the Moulin Rouge. You can’t beat Chef Samie Didda’s caramelized but light and fluffy bottoms. Single portions are available, too. His soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies are also to dive for, my friend.
“We all have sins to confess!” That’s what she said. She being Catherine de Medici, whose Italian pastry master chefs introduced the macaron to France in the 16th century, and they’ve been a dessert staple in old Parigi ever since.
My heart belongs to the macarons by Gérard Mulot. Bold and beautiful is how he rolls. Pouring on the pizazz with a vibrant palette since 1975, from the get-glow, Mulot’s shops, macaroons, and gift boxes have been bursting with his trademark set of fluorescent colors. Tours of the flagship store and workshop at 93 Rue Glacière are offered. Contact the shop prior to your visit.
Confession: When I’m out tasking in Paris, I always carry at least one meringue in my trench coat pocket or bag at all times. Sweet and crunchy, it’s the ultimate instant sugar rush, making the perfect portable snack. Be choosy! Goldilocks was right—size does matter—so I recommend going with a medium-sized chunk because the smaller ones are sometimes on the dry side, and the larger ones are occasionally too soft.
You’ll find ceiling-high piles of photogenic meringues in pâtisseries throughout the city. My current favorite sweet spot is the Boulangerie de Rennes at 101 rue de Rennes. You can’t miss them. Here the pretties hold court in the shop’s street side vitrine. They’ve never failed to stop me in my fast-prancing, post-Zara shopping tracks. There, I’ve said it.
I felt the earth move in my hand, the first time I tried one of Christophe Roussel’s chocolate-dipped macarons. Located in Montmartre, the shop’s interior is trippy, boasting a tie-dyed, psychedelic color scheme in pink, green, purple and orange. Here I definitely feel a “Groovitational” pull and—in a fit of rave—I always buy too many to count.
In 2010 Christophe received Paris’s “Salon du Chocolat Prix Spécial Innovation” and he’s still famous for adding signature twists to his confections. Like sirens, they sing to me. Lately, I’ve been crushing on his candy lips (inspired by Man Ray and Lee Miller), along with the lollipop, lollipop-shaped macarons—totally squealed in a Chordettes sort of way, I assure you.
Is it possible to have too many addictions or loves? I don’t think so.
As Julia Child herself said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation!”