“Food Trip”, the yummy way to visit Paris – Meanderings through France n° 139
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Obviously food is an important matter when on holidays in France and finding local specialities and craftsmen’s shops where to buy them is quite easy in the provinces’ villages. But it may come as a much difficult task to get to the right places when in Paris. The “Food Trip” has been especially designed to help you go to the right shops and restaurants, and have tasteful walks through Paris.
The “Food Trip” was created by a bunch of French school friends who, when travelling abroad had that exact same problem. How can a tourist find fine products while visiting the capital city of a foreign country? Even if you prepare your journey way in advance and are an expert of internet searches, you won’t necessarily discover where to get these delicious cookies, rare wines, or homemade chocolates and other tasty treats such as… frog legs (actually only 50% of French people have ever tasted frog legs and none would ever dare taste turtle soup that in France is considered as a typical British favourite!).
The “Food Trip” will also take you to Parisian districts preferably far from beaten track where tourists seldom go and where “real” Parisians live and shop, and it will make you feel like an insider. First you need to book your “Food Passport” online. You can buy a 6 or a 12-tasting passport (35 Euros for 6 tasting or 45 Euros for 12 and one passport per person), then you will receive a confirmation email with a list of shops where, once in Paris, you will be able to ask for your “Food Passport”. In it you will find maps of five different districts where several shops have been selected and a list of 25 different craftsmen and produce. Are you ready to discover or re-discover Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Le Marais, Montmartre, Montorgueil and Le Champ-de-Mars? Have your map or download the “Food Trip” app that will help you find your way from one shop to the other, and your gastronomic tour can begin. (If you get lost “Food Trip” offers 24/7 assistance by mail or whatsapp).
In the food passport, each of the 25 shops is briefly described and it indicates the name of the product tasted, the quantity that you will taste, the shop’s location and nearest metro station and the opening hours (make sure to check these since a few shops are closed for lunch). You will also often be able to meet the owners and talk with them. Most of them speak English and will be delighted to share their passion for their products with you. You will not only taste good products you will also have very pleasant moments.
While testing “Food Trip” I first went to the Champ-de-Mars district, which is at walking distance from the Eiffel Tower, but unfortunately tourists don’t take time to discover this lively area. I first stopped at “Maison Dubernet” that makes foie gras and other savouries in South-western France since 1864. They breed their own ducks and use old recipes to cook delicious foie gras, patés or sausages. I had a nibble of foie gras (could be a little bit more generous…) and went on to my next stop, “Le Petit Duc”.
This tiny shop is heaven for people with a sweet tooth. Its speciality is the calisson, a wonderful sweet from Provence, made with candied melon, orange peel and ground almonds. It’s been my favourite sweet as a child but over the years I lost interest in them since quality has constantly been decreasing. This is why it came as a wonderful surprise to taste the calissons at “Le Petit Duc”. Their calissons have been like a Proust’s Madeleine to me, and savouring them took me back to my childhood’s enjoyment. So, even if you never had calissons, this is the right place to go to enjoy perfect ones. “Le Petit Duc” has its own workshop in Avignon and they also make delicious nougats and all kinds of creative chocolates without any preservative or other food additive.
Next stop was at “Les Petits Domaines”, the “Small Wine Estates”. Isabelle Larenaudie created this wine shop in the heart of Paris’ 7th district four years ago and manages to gather in a small space dozens of French wines (and only French wines) that she carefully selects when she travels all over France to meet small wine growers (mostly family businesses). Isabelle speaks very good English and will make you discover one of her last “wine crushes” according to your preferences. And if you also have a crush Isabelle can arrange a delivery to your home, even if you live abroad.
The Montorgueil area is a lively shopping district that can be easily visited by foot if you decide to venture into the streets surrounding “Les Halles” shopping centre. Forget all the fast food restaurants available in this big mall and get ready to discover new tastes. Jean Hwang Carrant was born in America after her parents decided to leave Taiwan for a new life in the USA. Love led her to Paris 25 years ago and, after eating too many bad cookies in French shops, she now intends to make us discover what really good cookies taste like. Jean is as sweet as her cookies and she will personally welcome you in her spotless shop and tearoom. Her cookies are both crunchy on the outside and smooth inside and she never stops creating new recipes mixing American and Asian flavours. Of course the difficult part is choosing which cookie you want to taste, but no one said you couldn’t have more! White chocolate and matcha tea, black sesame and oat, salted butter caramel, ginger, Thai spices… or traditional chocolate chips cookies are all freshly baked in the small kitchen in the back of the tearoom.
Now, be bold and have a snail! “Comptoir 43” is a delicatessen created by Valerie. She carefully selects fine products, mostly organic, from all over France and proposes to the Food Trip’s visitors, Burgundy style snails tasting. Almost 500 millions snails are consumed every year in France, but most of them are imported. Valerie only sells snails bred and cooked in France. The burgundy style snail is served in its shell with a sauce made with butter, herbs and garlic and if you overcome a certain apprehension you may find out that you like it!
“Kodama” is no ordinary tearoom. Vincent and Martin created this unique teahouse in 2015. They brew tea in cold spring water thus allowing the flavours to be slowly released. Green, white, blue or black teas are infused with herbs, flowers or spices. Vincent and Martin have created their own recipes and you will be able to taste three of their creations such as “Poids Plume”, (Feather Light) made with Sencha green tea, basil and citrus, “Mille et une Nuits”, (Thousand and One Night) a blend of black Ceylon tea, dates and almonds, “Septieme Ciel”,(Seventh Heaven), a mix of Roibos red tea, orange peel and verbena and several other inspiring mixtures.
“Les Artizans” is a restaurant in Montorgueil St that has two chefs. One makes all the savoury dishes and the second one, Mathieu Mandard, is an excellent pastry chef. Here you will be able to eat one of his delicious macarons. The cakes on display in the restaurant window look both sophisticated and tasty. All cakes are freshly baked and you can be sure that your macaron was never frozen (it does make a difference!).
Next I went to Saint-Germain-des-Pres district and had a generous tasting of Beaufort, a cheese made in French Savoy. “La Coop” is a shop that sells only produce from the French Alps including cheeses, savouries and wines. Although the “Food Trip” ticket is only valid for the cheese tasting you can ask and pay for a glass of wine that will perfectly match your cheese. “La Coop” is a very pleasant place next to the Luxembourg Garden, with a nice tasting room set in a beautiful vaulted cellar.
« Maison Bremond » founded in 1830 I Aix-en-Provence and opened a shop in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés a few years ago. Hidden in a little alleyway, this beautifully decorated shop sells a quality selection of typical products from Provence: olive oils, colourful jams, tinned sardines, biscuits, candies… With your Food Trip ticket you will get a glass of Pastis and Navettes. Pastis is the famous and strong anise-based spirit made in southern France. The Pastis you will be served at “Maison Bremond” is a crafted one made with over 50 different herbs and spices. Navettes are tasty biscuits originally made in Marseille. The recipe includes orange-flower water and they are very crunchy. Mixing Pastis and Navette blends all these different flavours and instantly take you to Provence.
There are many other places and tastes to discover on the “Food Trip” list. Honeys from Lozere, pastis and biscuits from Provence, frog legs, coffee and tea, waffles from Brittany, pastel de nata from Portugal, olive oil from Provence, chocolate, jams… make your choice and let tasty food be your guide through Paris.
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny & Annick Dournes