Paris Part III: Au Marché

Aside from a few specialty shops and farmers markets, the ritual of procuring ones food in America consists of one all-encompassing trip to your local supermarket. No frills, no fuss, you know what you’re getting before you even set off the automatic doors. Fill the cart up to the brim, scan it, bag it, done. For most, grocery shopping is a forgettable, perhaps even forced task. Now this is where I go into why shopping for your groceries in France is so much better than America, yes you all know where I’m going. Of course, France has its own grocery stores filled with all the necessities, as well as the obligatory fluorescent lights. However this is only a small piece of the proverbial puzzle. Not to be outdone are the outdoor markets, where vendors from all over set up shop on Saturdays in the median of a busy street. You won’t find toiletries, and laundry detergent here. No this market is dedicated to all things edible. From prepared foods, raw ingredients, as well as street food vendors cooking right there on the sidewalk, this market had, literally, anything you could ask for. We visited in the late morning, and the market was abuzz with activity. Older women were rummaging through vast seas of greens and root vegetables. Chefs from some of the surrounding restaurants were eying the fresh whole rabbit, duck filet, and the freshly caught fish.

One could spend all day at the mushroom stand, piled high with more mushroom species than you could shake a shitake at (we did come away with a nice bundle of fresh çepes or porcini for a meal later on). The thing that amazed me was the just how fresh everything had to be. I mean we were in the middle of a city street, literally feet from traffic on either side of the narrow market, there were no refrigerated storage rooms to bring all the perishables to when the day was over. Everything was as fresh as one can possibly get without harvesting the veggies, or butchering the meat yourself. It all had the most unbelievable color to it, almost unreal. Speaking of unreal, take a look below. This man was selling poulet roti and pommes de terre (rotisserie chicken and potatoes), simple enough right?. The genius takes place at the bottom of the cooking unit. See that pool of dark golden liquid? That’s the drippings from the chicken, the flavors of which are then infused into the potatoes as they bathe comfortably in the jus. My god if that isn’t perfection I don’t know what is. That man should be given a medal of some sort. The chicken was just so succulent, with crispy skin, and moist meat. And those potatoes…never have I eaten a potato with that kind of flavor, creamy, savory, meaty, just fantastic.

Accompanying all of this was a wide array of homemade patés and confits, various offal, some wrapped in caul fat, escargots, and even fresh antipasto.

Of course there was also a creperie nestled between the sweet custard tarts and the enormous tuna filets. Naturally I had to sample a crepe from the market, and one in particular caught my eye, the Brocéliande (of course it was the most ridiculous, but why not?). It consisted of cheese, lardons, mushrooms, and a béchemel type creme. I don’t think I need to describe it, the ingredients speak for themselves.

So if anyone has found a cool farmers market, or has been to one and enjoyed some tasty treats, feel free to send us some shots or even an experience or two and we’ll throw ’em up here. The more we support our local markets, the more of them there will be, supply and demand folks. Until next time!


Paris Part II: Fromage

Cheese, a staple of the French diet, and an absolute “must-eat” item when visiting France. We made a point of always having a healthy amount of cheese on hand whenever the urge to indulge in the golden goo hit us. Our supplier was a small fromagerie called Barthélemy tucked away at 51 Rue de Grenelle.

Never, in my life, have I seen a cheese shop as amazing as this. I literally smelled the shop before I saw it. I would venture to guess that you could not find most of these cheeses in America (due to pasteurization laws), save for a few high end French restaurants. Up until my visit to Barthélemy, I was unaware that this many varieties of cheese even existed. Of the myriads of smelly delights “Nicole” had on display, we sampled Morbier, Pont L’eveque, Roquefort, Reblochon, real Camembert, and many types of Chevre (I’m sure I’m forgetting a few). As you can see, the consumption of these cheeses, along with a glass or two of red wine, Saucisson a L’ail (garlic sausage), and a fresh baguette, was a daily ritual. Even a small block of Foie Gras de Canard snuck in one day. The cheeses were incredibly smelly (a great thing!) and began to melt the second we removed them from their wrapping. Each had a distinct personality, some subtle, some kicked you straight in the back of your jaw with such a tang. The Reblochon and Morbier were stand outs of the group.

Every cheese was above and beyond anything I’ve had in the States. However there was one that stood above all the others as the single finest cheese I have ever tasted. Mont d’Or, or the Mountain of Gold, was an absolute revelation. When my father signaled for the Mont d’Or, the shop keeper seemed to give us a slight nod of approval and raised his eyebrows a bit as if to say, “my friends, you have found the cheese of cheeses”, like he knew what we were in for. He even went out of his way to run to the door and hold it open, thanking us profusely on our way out. Contained in a small wooden circle to keep it from oozing away too soon, the Mont d’Or was something of an experience for us. We all looked at each other in unison, and it was understood that this was something special. It had the consistency of melted mozzarella, except it was at room temperature. There really is no good way to describe what it tasted like aside from extremely creamy, and smooth with a little bite at the finish. All I can say is that I wish there had been no bottom to it because I could have eaten myself into a coma on Mont d’Or alone. I would put this cheese on the level of Foie Gras and truffles as one of the most luxuriant foods available.

Now I won’t suggest to anyone to try to seek out these cheeses at their local Whole Foods or independent grocer as I wouldn’t want people being driven to frustration. But if you ever find yourself in Paris, make it a goal to find yourself a nice little fromagerie, or even head to Barthélemy. I promise you, cheese will never be the same again.

Meal of the week

Not too much to say except that we’d love all of you to get involved and leave some comments and feedback. Possiby subscribe to our flog (foodblog) and tell a friend who might not know us. Anything is better than nothing. I think. Today I had some things in my head that I really felt I needed to put on a plate or in a bowl. I could not stop thinking about This spicy Asian tomato garlic sauce. I was watching an old episode of Top Chef  when they were in Singapore and were eating street food as a prelude to a challenge. They sampled many things, but my attention was stirred the most by the chili crab, which had a tomato based sauce. I attempted to create something similar to go with tempura eggplant. Also some scratch made pork shumai and Logans house fried rice with Chinese sausage. Accompanied by jazmint lime iced tea. I hope Kristen liked it. I thought it was acceptable.