People ask if my eating habits have changed since moving to France, assuming that Americans live off processed junk and shop in giant supermarkets. Thankfully my upbringing was nothing like that and not all that different from how I eat in France.
My mother worked full time, but managed to make a home-cooked dinner for four kids every night. We had a milk man who left fresh milk and eggs on our porch and a butcher named Tony who wrapped my mom’s packages in brown paper, tied up with string. My parents weren’t foodies, but for some reason we never bought meat from the supermarket, only from the butcher. I remember one night my father asking with suspicion if my mom had bought that night’s steak at the Acme, and you knew from the tone of his voice that this was not something you wanted to do. Produce came from the Amish farmers market up the street and we had a vegetable garden in the summer. We had all sorts of tomatoes in that garden and I have never tasted better tomatoes than the one’s my father grew. I learned that eating fresh local food was better. No one told me it was better, but it certainly tasted better.
There’s a myth that everyone in France shops at outdoor markets or their neighbourhood butcher, cheesemonger and baker. Sadly this isn’t always the case. While many still shop at family run shops, more and more people are opting for the ease and convenience of hypermarchés or giant supermarkets just like Americans. And even if you do shop at outdoor markets in France, it is by no means a guarantee that what you’re buying is from a local farm and may very well be from some industrial farm in Spain. Click Here To Keep Reading
I was craving udon soup this weekend and headed towards one of my favourite noodle places on rue Sainte Anne, a street where you’ll find a plethora of restaurants serving ramen and other noodle dishes. After lunch, as I headed north on rue Sainte-Anne, I discovered that in addition to Japanese noodle bars and grocers you can now buy top-notch spices on rue Sainte-Anne. Olivier Roellinger, it seems, the French chef known for his use of spices who made headlines in 2008 for giving up his three Michelin stars, has recently opened a chic spice boutique in this Asian-centric neighbourhood.
The handsome, though somewhat austere, shop houses an impressive array of unusual spices. You’ll find Roellinger’s own blends, each labelled according to how you might use them. There’s a mixture of nutmeg, coriander, green anis, cardamom and other spices to be used with marinated fish or cold vegetables; nutmeg flower, lemon zest, and cinnamon is recommended for soups and broths; sesame, sumac, cinnamon, and thyme for lentils and cauliflower. There’s even a spice mixture to add to hot chocolate and another to sprinkle over strawberries. For purists you’ll find unadulterated “brute spices”, including some 17 different rare peppers with suggestions on how to serve them, several kinds of salt blends, 12 different vanilla beans, and a nice selection of oils, mustards and vinegars.
Roellinger’s is, of course, not the only spice shop in town. Another shop I like for spices is L’Epicerie de Bruno, a tiny store bursting with a remarkable selection of spices, chillies, specialty sugars, rice and unusual condiments. This is one of the only places I know of in Paris where you can find whole dried chilli peppers like anchos and chilpotles. They even carry cute ready-to-make bags filled with all of the ingredients you’ll need to make a spicy bean dish, risotto or even caramel rice pudding.
Another favorite is Goumanyat, a gourmet shop not far from Republique, where I could spend hours looking through the unusual ingredients and cooking utensils. The shop is owned by the Thiercelin family, who have been in the spice business since 1809 and are especially known for their saffron. It’s rumoured that Pierre Gagnaire and Alain Ducasse buy their spices here.
I’ve also gone to Izrael Le Monde des Epices, a shop crammed from floor to ceiling with spices and various products from around the world—I even remember seeing Domino’s brown sugar once, albeit it was rock hard. However I can’t recommend it whole-heartedly because on several occasions it’s been closed when I’ve gone, so I gave up and now go elsewhere, but I think it’s a shop worth visiting if you catch them when they’re open.
Lastly, if you’re looking for Indian spices head towards La Chapelle where you’ll find many Indian Grocers (Manikandan, V.S.& Co., and Cash and Carry to name a few). A bit farther south is Velan, a great shop filled with exotic spices, located in the colourful Passage Brady, which is worth visiting in itself.
Epices Roellinger, 51 bis rue Sainte-Anne, Paris 2nd; Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10h00-19h00
L’Epicerie de Bruno, 30 rue de la Tiquetonne, Paris 2nd ; Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10h30-14h30 and 15h30-19h30
Goumanyat & Son Royaume, 3 rue Charles-Francois Dupuis, Paris 3rd; 01 44 78 96 74; open Tuesday-Saturday 11h00-19h00
Velan , 83 Passage Brady, Paris 10th, 01 42 46 06 06
It seems that yogurt bars are becoming quite trendy in Paris with a newly opened yogurt bar in Saint Germain and pop-up yogurt bars appearing at both Colette and the Bon Marché just in time for summer.
It Mylk, a cute boutique recently opened by two young fashionistas on the rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, serves fresh and frozen yogurt with a nice selection of toppings, all made with first-rate ingredients including local farm-fresh milk from la ferme de Viltain, seasonal fruit, granola, homemade compotes, crumble, chocolate and more.
They also serve homemade cakes made by award-winning pastry chef Gabrielle Jones. I had a taste of the vanilla frozen yogurt sweeten with agave nector and can attest that it was creamy and delicious.
Fans of the French yogurt Mamie Nova will want to reserve a spot at Colette, the hyper-branchée Parisian concept store, on 16 June for the release of Mamie’s latest flavours: green apple and kiwi, prune, and pistachio. To animate the festivities, they’ve invited starred chef Hélène Darroze to be on hand to reinterpret some of their most popular flavours.
And finally, Michel and Augustin, who you might know from their line of gourmet boxed cookies, are getting into the yogurt business as well and have set up shop until 3 July in the Grande Epicierie at la Bon Marché with an impressive ephemeral yogurt bar where you can create your own flavours from a base of plain, vanilla or raspberry blueberry yogurt with a possibility of 21 different combinations.
Where to find them:
It Mylk, 15 rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, Paris 6th
Colette, 213 Rue Saint-Honoré, Paris 1st
La Grande Epicerie de Paris, 38 rue de Sèvres, Paris 7th.
Exceptional cooking requires outstanding products and even in a city like Paris where markets abound, they are not always easy to find. Even worse, the products often used in three-star kitchens like Le Meurice and Astrance are just not available to the public.
Luckily this weekend, you have the chance to buy some of the best products available in Paris at Spring Boutique, thanks to Alexandre Drouard and Samuel Nahon of Terroirs d’Avenir, a Parisian based company which sources the best artisanal products in France–often local and hard to find.
If you are lucky enough to be alerted to one of their “marchés éphemères (pop-up markets), you might find “Jacky Mercier’s beautiful heirloom tomatoes, Laurent Berrurier’s incredible choux de Pontoise (cabbage) or, real champignons de Paris, which have been cultivated by the Spinelli family for over 3 generations and taste nothing like ordinary white button mushrooms.
This weekend at Spring Boutique, Alexandre and Samuel will be selling Berrurier’s wonderful small production Argenteuil asparagus, for 14 € a kilo.
In addition, Spring Boutique always carries many of their products including their intense dried peppermint from the Milly forest which makes an incredible tisane, Brigitte Verdaguer Rancio white wine vinegar which will transform your salad dressings, or the only real jambon de Paris, made in the 11th arrondissement. I have tried most of their products and they are truly outstanding.
So, if you want to buy some excellent asparagus, don’t miss this marché éphemère on Saturday.
52 rue de l’Arbre Sec,
More about Spring Boutique can be found here
Tucked into a funky street in a seldomly visited part of the 10th, not too far from the Canal, you’ll find La Tête dans Les Olives, where Cédric Casanova, a former tight-rope walker, sells amazing hand-picked Sicilian olive oil and other seasonal products.
The shop itself is miniscule, with shiny metal vats lining the walls, tagged with names like Angelo, Bianca and Nunzio, evoking the artisans who produced these fragrant, delicious olive oils, each with their own distinctive taste. Depending on the season you might also find organic lemons, wild oregano, fennel seeds, pink peppercorns, heads of garlic, divine sun-dried tomatoes, salted capers, ricotta salata, bresaola and bottarga of tuna, and—not surprisingly—olives. Each product has a story and name behind it and you get the sense that Casanova knows each producer well.
Happily, the store has begun doubling as a table d’hôte during lunch and dinner with one—yes one—lone table of five squeezed into the middle of the shop. The 30€ menu takes you through most, if not all, the offerings Casanova has on hand. If you want to try the tuna and anchovies, it will cost a bit more, but not much.
On the day that I visited, Marco presented us with an antipasti of olives, tomatoes, tapenade, cucunci, and oil-soaked bread infused with salt, oregano and fennel seed. Next up was minted carrots and ricotta salta, stuffed mushrooms, and a truly incredible Sicilian sweet and sour pumpkin. We opted to try the fish plate with anchovies, and two types of tuna–bresaola and a tuna “saucisson” –all caught by Captain Cangemi, a fisherman Casanova met in Italy. Then, miraculously, our host Marco whipped up some buccoli pasta with tomatoes, eggplant, pesto and ricotta salata, all this with no real kitchen in sight and only a hot plate to cook on. We lingered a bit with espresso and almond cookies, taking in the unique experience.
I was a bit worried that with one single table it might be impossible to get in, but at least for now it didn’t seem too difficult. Perhaps the fact that you need to have a party of five in order to book is a detterent.
To reserve send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
La Tête dans Les Olives
Lunch served from 12-13h30 (the shop opens at 14h00)
Dinner from 20h00
Closed: Sunday and Monday
2 rue Sainte Marthe, Paris 10th.
Strangely, it appears that honey bees the world over are suffering from a mysterious illness named Colony Collapse Disorder and are disappearing at a rather alarming rate. Bee keepers are finding their bee hives disserted and speculate that pesticides may be destroying the bee’s natural homing powers leaving them unable to find their way home. You may wonder why this is such a big deal, but bees are a pretty big part of the food chain and play a major role in agriculture by pollinating crops. In other words–no bees, no crops. Interestingly, at the same time country bees are disappearing, their urban neighbors seem to be thriving and more and more city dwellers are getting into apiculture.
Paris, with all of its magnificent parks, turns out to be a perfect place to be a bee and hives are being found throughout the city. In fact, there are said to be some 300 registered hives in Paris. I had already heard of the glamorous honey bees found on the rooftops of the Paris Opera and Grand Palais, but was delighted to find an even closer producer in my own backyard thanks to Spring Boutique who carries Remy Vanbremeersch’s honey.
Vanbremeersch’s honey is produced in hives found in the 19th and 20th arrondissements of Paris and, in addition to Spring Boutique, it can be found on certain days at his stand at the marché aux Place des Fêtes. Thanks to the thousands of species of plants and flowers which can be found in Paris parks, the honey has a delicious fragrant taste, which is unlike the honey of bees who often feast on mono-culture crops.
If you insist on the more chic honey from the Opéra de Paris, it can be bought at the Opera’s boutique and also from Fauchon. You can also find Parisian honey at Les Abeilles a shop devoted to all things bee related in the charming Buttes aux Cailles. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until autumn of 2010 to taste the “miel de Grand Palais” whose hives were only installed this past May.
Place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris
21, rue de la Butte-aux-Cailles, 75013 Paris
Daniel Rose’s latest endeavour “Spring Boutique” opened earlier this month just a few steps from the Seine on the rue de l’Arbre Sec.
Opening night was mobbed and so I decided to go back this weekend to get a better look at the products Daniel and Marie-Aude have on hand. As you might imagine, its shelves are lined with hard-to-find, top-of-the-line products. I came away with Soluna Peruvian coffee, organic flour, D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes, which are grown in the Agro Sarnese Nocerino region of Italy and are said to be the world’s best tomatoes for sauce, Valrhona Araguani chocolate disks for soon-to-be-made chocolate chip cookies, haricots de soissons and some very local honey. They also stock Spanish olive oil, mustard, an assortment of vinegars, several varieties of fleur de sel, organic local vegetables, and a very nice selection of wines with a focus on small producers chosen by Josh Adler.
I will definitely be back to try more of Daniel and Marie-Aude’s finds.
52 Rue de l’Arbre Sec
01 58 62 44 30