We just returned from three wonderful weeks in France and Spain and I am already nostalgic. I thought that one way to beat my homesickness, would be to share with you what I love to eat and buy when I am in Paris.
Living far away from my hometown gave me higher appreciation of what makes Paris so special. Of course, the culture, history and art is everything but what is maybe even more emblematic is the food. It is funny how I used to take the quality of the food for granted when I lived there, but now that I live in California, I am more appreciative.
Upon arriving in my hometown, eating fresh bread is always a shocker. It is just so good and the quality is far beyond what I am used to here. But this trip, I also noticed how much better produce is in general. Fruits are noticeably tastier, eggs yolks are orange and not yellow as they are in the states and dairy is generally better too.
Because Paris is such a delight for any food lover, I thought I would put together a mini guide of what to eat and where to buy it when in Paris.
It is almost impossible to buy bread that is not good in France. One tip though, when you go to the boulangerie, ask for a Baguette Tradition. By a law enacted in 1993, a baguette tradition can only contain 4 ingredients: flour, leavening, water and salt. It is characterized by its pointy ends. Baguettes are not taken lightly in France. As a matter of fact, each year, a contest crowns the best baguette of Paris. This year’s winner is La Parisienne, 48 rue Madame in Saint-Germain.
I also love Eric Kayser. They have fantastic bread (try the baguette Monge) but also have wonderful pastries and breakfast items, try their financier au chocolat or their Brioche Praline. They have different locations in France.
Ladurée is probably the first name that comes in mind but for equally delicious and maybe a tad less traditional, try Pierre Hermé, located right off Place Saint-Sulpice in the 6th arrondissement. The flavor combinations are truly unique and the taste phenomenal. Try the Mogador macaroon (Chocolate & Passion fruit) or the cake Isaphan (Rose macaroon biscuit, rose petal cream, whole raspberries & litchis), a favorite of ours for birthday celebrations.
For the best ice cream, head to the atmospheric Ile St louis. There you will find the famous Bertillon ice cream. The selection of flavors changes each season. On my last trip, I had Roasted Pineapple with Basil. All the fruit sorbets are truly delicious but the Bitter Chocolate sorbet is out of this world.
We like to get our ice cream at the café just off the bridge and then eat it, looking at Notre-Dame while sitting in it’s lovely gardens.
Favorite food Store
By far, La Grande Epicerie de Paris, which is part of Le Bon Marché. This used to be my go-to store as I lived in the neighborhood (sigh), now when I come as a tourist, I just love browsing the aisles and marvel at all these wonders. They also have fantastic options for lunches (salad and sandwich bar), numerous specialty counters such as Japanese, Italian or Spanish.
The list would go on and on here, but one thing we always appreciate eating when we are in France is Couscous. This is on those rare occasions when I eat meat. My husband always go for the vegetable couscous.
Our favorite couscous restaurant is L’Oriental, avenue Trudaine in the 9th Arrondissement. If you like lamb, the couscous Méchoui is especially tasty.
Natural foods are in the rise in Paris too. A lot of juice stores have popped up here and there. To stock up on natural food such as nuts or grains, go to Naturalia. They also have a good selection for natural cosmetics.
Favorite everyday store
Head to Monoprix, which is the French Target on a very limited scale and Parisians’ favorite store. This is a great one-stop shop to buy all your souvenirs. They have food, but also great clothes and you can stock up on Parisians’ cult brand, such as Petit Bateau. Also look for soaps, such as Le Petit Marseillais, that offers good quality products.
To finish, this is tough call, but here is my Top Ten of what to buy and/or bring back from France. As you can see from my links, you can mostly get everything from the Internet… The global market has its advantages but nevertheless not the same charm.
- I always go to a parapharmacie to stock up on Avène, Bioderma beauty products, Roger et Gallet soaps, Klorane shampoo and other.
- Salt. Go for Fleur de Sel.
- Dijon Mustard. Look for Edmont Fallot, that you will fine in fine groceries.
- Lentils. Look for AOC protected Lentilles vertes Du Puy
- Jams and Preserve from Christine Ferber.
- Artisanal Butter. Seek out Beurre de Baratte for rich and nutty taste.
- Traditional French Market Basket. Food52 has a lovely one.
- Bean-to-bar chocolate, such as Stéphane Bonnat.
- Toiletries, such as Le Petit Marseillais shower soaps.
- Children’s clothes and shoes. For a good quality clothes that last, try the iconic Petit Bateau and I also always buy nice leather shoes for my daughter.
Here are few fun other links on Parisians’ favorite things.
12 foods to bring back from France by Chocolate & Zucchini