Shops & Markets

Grocery Store Staples

Staples

I don’t really mind waiting in line at the grocery store. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t choose the slowest cashier on purpose: that usually happens without any special effort on my part. But I do enjoy this idle time, during which I can study the latest chewing-gum innovations (they seem to come up with new ones every other week), mentally review my shopping list (and make the occasional frantic dash for that one capital item I forgot), and more importantly, peek into other people’s baskets and try to picture their life from the mundane little things they’re buying.

It was a particularly long wait the other day (someone hadn’t weighed his apples, or perhaps was applying for a membership card and wanting to hear all the details, I forget), so much so that I ran out of strangers’ baskets to study, and had no choice but to turn to mine. It dawned on me then that I hardly ever mention grocery store products here on C&Z. Suddenly all the little guys in my basket were staring at me with a sour look. “Yeah, why is that?”, they cried accusingly, “Why the injustice? Don’t we deserve a kind word once in a while? A bit of recognition for all the hard work? For heaven’s sake, is that too much to ask?”

A bit flustered, faintly worried that they might start a riot then and there, I had to promise I would write a post and turn the spotlight on those loyal supermarket favorites. That seemed to appease them, and we were able to proceed through the register without further grievance.

So. If you find yourself in line behind me one day and crane your neck, chances are my basket will contain:

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Christmas in Paris: Shopping

Holiday Shopping

This is the third and final part of our special series of holiday tips for New York (thanks to the Manhattan User’s Guide), London (thanks to Urban Junkies) and Paris, and this one is all about shopping and gifts!

[New York Shopping] [London Shopping]

Food gifts

If you’re unable to attend the previously mentioned Salon Saveurs but still want to find food gifts that will travel well, the classic recommendations are La Grande Epicerie de Paris and Lafayette Gourmet: these never disappoint and the broadness of their product range will guarantee you don’t come out empty-handed. If you feel more comfortable in smaller shops, Da Rosa is a great purveyor of interesting condiments, vinegars and spices, and I have to put in a good word for G. Detou as well, which specializes in baking supplies sold in bulk, but also offers regular-sized and very reasonably-priced fine goods — chocolate, mustard and a variety of canned items.

La Grande Epicerie de Paris
38 rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris
01 44 39 81 00
Lafayette Gourmet
48 bd Haussmann, 75009 Paris
01 40 23 52 25
Da Rosa
62 rue de Seine, 75006 Paris
01 40 51 00 09
G. Detou
58 rue Tiquetonne, 75002 Paris
01 42 36 54 67

Les Créateurs des Abbesses

For non-food presents — you know, clothes, jewelry, decoration items, we need those too — you can opt for the unique experience of being squished to death in the insanely crowded department stores (Le Bon Marché, Le Printemps, Les Galeries Lafayette, Le BHV — note that La Samaritaine is now closed because the building threatened to collapse, which was kind of a problem), or you can choose to take a walking and shopping tour of the small designer stores nested in the streets of Montmartre. Rue des Martyrs (start at the very bottom, in the 9th), rue Houdon, rue d’Orsel, rue des Abbesses, rue Yvonne-Le-Tac, rue des Trois-Frères, rue de la Vieuville, all of them are peppered with little boutiques where you will find unique gifts and stocking-stuffers.

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Christmas in Paris: Food

Holiday Food

No one needs to be reminded that food is an essential part of the holiday celebrations, and for this second part of our tri-city series, let me recommend a few places to eat some of the delicacies that epitomize Christmas in Paris.

[New York Food] [London Food]

Oysters!

A traditional treat to open a holiday feast is the platter of oysters, freshly delivered from the ocean and freshly opened by whoever is brave enough to risk slashing his left palm open. Oysters are most often served in the shell on a bed of crushed ice — although some purists argue that this dulls their flavor — with thin slices of rye bread, salted butter, and lemon juice. Besides the many classic Parisian brasseries which proudly display their selection on sidewalk stands, a good place to eat oysters is L’Ecaille de la Fontaine in the 2nd. It is owned by the über-famous actor Depardieu, who also operates La Fontaine Gaillon, just a few steps away. L’Ecaille is the marine annex to this pricier venue, and offers a daily selection of ultrafresh shellfish and related dishes. Their oysters can be tasted in the 19€ formula (9 oysters, a dessert and a glass of wine) or in the larger variety platter (62€ for 2). The restaurant is closed on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, but they will be open for New Year’s Eve with an 80€ menu (make your reservation asap).

L’Ecaille de la Fontaine
15 rue Gaillon, 75002 Paris
01 47 42 02 99
Closed on Sat-Sun.

Game!

The hunting season officially opens in early September and closes in late February. Regardless of how you feel about hunting — a higly controversial topic, I know — the discerning palate will appreciate the unique flavors that game provides, whether it’s deer (daim or biche), boar (sanglier or marcassin), wild ducks (col-vert or sauvageon) or other birds (palombes or cailles). Two excellent restaurants feature those animals prominently on their seasonal menus: Chez Michel in the 10th, which mainly focuses on Brittany-inspired cuisine, and L’Ami Jean in the 7th, a South-West gastro-bistro.

Chez Michel
10 rue de Belzunce, 75010 Paris
01 44 53 06 20
Closed on Sat-Sun and Mon. for lunch.
L’Ami Jean
27 rue Malar, 75007 Paris
01 47 05 86 89
Closed between Dec. 24 to Jan. 3.

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Chestnut Honey Madeleines

Madeleines

One bite in these unassuming madeleines and the hair in your nape will stand to attention, as you suddenly register the intensity of the chestnut honey aroma, and the smooth, moist, melting texture of the crumb dissolving in your mouth. You will taste it again to make sure it wasn’t just a fluke or a tastebud hallucination, and to your amazement it will get even better with each bite, until the madeleine is entirely consumed. You will lick the remaining sweetness from your lips and smile with satisfaction, happy to have found such a delicious treat, but wisely deciding that you will keep some for tomorrow and the day after that.

If you want to be punctilious (and who would blame you) these are not , striclty speaking, madeleines: in addition to chesnut honey from the Cévennes (a region in the South of France), flour, butter, sugar and eggs — that’s it — they are made with almond powder, an ingredient that is key to their wonderful texture but altogether absent from the classic madeleine recipe (honey is tolerated). These are, in fact, madeleine-shaped, honey-flavored financiers. But let me ask you this: do we care? Not really.

These madeleines come from a store I have mentioned in the past called Bellota-Bellota, which specializes in rare and luxurious food items*, imported from Spain for the largest part.

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Pierre Hermé Fall/Winter Collection 2005

Emotion Mahogany

Ah, fall is right around the corner and you know what that means: colder days, longer nights, and a new collection of pastries by Pierre Hermé. This new collection, which was officially presented to the press in Tokyo, appeared in Parisian stores this past Thursday, and Louisa and I were there to greet it (and no, we didn’t sleep on the doorstep).

Pierre Hermé’s range of products includes entremets, tarts and classic French pastries, layered desserts in glasses (the Emotion line), cakes on a stick (the Mr H line), macarons, chocolate bites, bars and truffles, fruit pastes, little cookies and travel cakes, a line of viennoiseries (croissants, etc.) and one of ice-cream. Not all of these change at every new collection of course, but twice a year a dozen or so new items are introduced, replacing creations from the previous season, or adding to the corpus of “classics”.

To make things easier for you when you step inside the boutique (dazed by the baking smells and confused by the multitude of items competing for your attention, waving their little arms and calling your name with their silent sugar voices), pastries from the new collection are indicated by blue labels. I am nowhere near having tasted all items from the permanent collection, but when I get a chance I like to taste the new creations because they’re what the chef spent the past months on, they reflect his current inspirations and interests, and they are usually more daring, on a trial run for popularity.

Louisa and I chose a few of those new items and walked out to the Café de la Mairie, which serves as the unofficial salon de thé for Pierre Hermé aficionados, since the waiters will let you eat your purchases at their tables, provided you order a drink of course. This is so un-French it never ceases to amaze me, but I guess those guys know which side their entremet is glazed on.

So we sat at the terrace, ordered our token coffee and tea with glasses of water (very important), and proceeded to taste our selection.

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