1 November 2018
1 November 2018
You don’t have to be a committed foodie to appreciate the countless drool-worthy displays of patisseries, gâteaux, macarons, chocolates, cheeses and other gourmet specialties in the shop windows of Paris. They are mouth-watering like no other, but where to start?
Le Food Trip is a novel concept devised by a small team of passionate locals who have selected 25 of the city’s best food stores and specialist artisans to provide a self-guided tour, complete with tasting coupons and maps of where to find them.
Ordering online, you can choose either six or 12 tasting coupons and then pick up Le Food Passport from a designated participating store. The passport comprises a large fold-out map of Paris marking the five food precincts where the stores are located and smaller, more detailed maps showing the specific addresses with relevant Metro stations. There is a short background story about each shop and a description of the products offered for tasting, plus opening hours – which are worth checking before setting off. (There is also an app you can download to help find the tasting locations.)
Being a Francophile and a foodie, I was quick to pick up a passport with 12 coupons before setting off to discover not only new taste sensations but new neighbourhoods as well.
Delicacies and delights
I was familiar with the precincts of Le Marais, Montorgueil and Saint-Germain-des-Pres where I was staying, but did not know Champ-de-Mars at all.
So I take the Metro to École Militaire for the first stop, Épicerie Fine Rive Gauche, where co-owner Nathalie Mievre shows me around her Aladdin’s cave of 2000 French regional products. I hand her a Le Trip coupon and she presents me with a box of salted butter caramels from Brittany. How decadently divine.
My next treat is a mini merveilleux at Aux Merveilleux de Fred. I’d never heard of these melt-in-the-mouth meringues before. Originally from Lille, two meringues are held together with whipped cream and covered with chocolate shavings.
Next on my map is Le Petit Duc, which specialises in calissons, my favourite French sweet treat from Aix-en-Provence. Traditionally made from marzipan, they also produce other flavours such as pistachio, lavender, ginger, orange, rose and saffron. Who’d have thought you would find them here, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower?
Nearby down a side street is Maison Dubernet, one of the oldest foie gras houses in Paris. Owner Muriel Barouti offers me a generous taste of the most famous of French gastronomic treats, which she prepares with some 14 different spices.
Fortunately, I had checked the opening hours at Les Petits Domaines and make it just in time to sample a few small-batch rosé wines before they close for lunch. Owner Isabel is a most knowledgeable wine merchant specialising in small winegrowers who respect traditional savour-faire.
Rediscovering the classics
Over the next few days, I savour a violet-flavoured macaron at Monsieur Benjamin, a smoked salmon-topped canelé at Aux Deux Canelés plus a pastel de nata or egg tart at Nata Republic in Le Marais; an exemplary madeleine at Épicerie Claus and a whopping black sesame cookie from Jean Hwang Carrant in Montorgueil.
And in Saint-Germain-des-Près, tastings of summer and winter beaufort cheese at La Coop (you can tell the difference), and a fabulously fine waffle from the house of Meert – one of the oldest waffle houses in France, the sweet treat reputedly being former French President Charles de Gaulle’s favourite pastry; and the perfect breakfast roesti, popular in the Alsace region of France, from Épicerie Claus.
Next time, I’m heading for Montmartre to check out award-winning chocolate, buttery Breton biscuits, indulgent duck paté and the most popular of French cheeses, comté – some are matured in the cave of an old French castle. I can’t wait.
By Tricia Welsh