In France, French onion soup is simply called onion soup. Butter is quite possibly considered a food group, and cheeses, some meats and wine have an ‘appellation’….A patisserie sells pastries, eclairs and macarons and a boulangerie sells bread, baguettes and pains. A viennoiserie sells a mixture of the two… kind of like sweeter breads, what is known as Vienna bread in Europe is what we call a Danish pastry in Australia…Confused yet? I was! So where do you buy a croissant? What’s the difference between a bistro and a brasserie? I learned a lot on this 3.5 hour tour of the Marais in Paris.
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- Jean-Paul Hévan
- Marché de Infants Rouges
- Sacha Finkelsztjan
- Bistrôt La Chaise Au Plafond.
- La Ville De Rodez
- Maison Aleph
- Le Cave Saint Paul
- How to book
I had landed in Paris, from Australia, a mere 24 hours earlier and due to the time difference I was awake at 3:00am! So, by the time the Paris Ultimate Food Tour started at 2:30pm, I was pretty darn tired but the food kept me going. There are eight stops on this tour, each one showcasing something local, delicious and (almost) typically French.
Our first stop is Poilâne, a boulangerie famous for its round loaves with a signature P on top. When the store first opened in 1932, round loaves were unfashionable, people preferred baguettes. But Pierre Poilâne believed in his product – a round loaf is much easier to store and to slice to make a sandwich with. Now owned by a third generation Poilâne, the boulangerie is famed throughout Paris.
The loaves of bread look grand, very artisan, and of course the smell of freshly baked bread is driving us all crazy… However, we are not here to try their famous bread but a croissant and a pain au chocolat. Yes, a boulangerie is where you would buy a croissant and not at a patisserie (although you could get them from a Viennoiserie…)
Originating in Vienna…(what the?)… it was the French who added the copious amounts of butter (ah OK) to perfect the croissant we know today. Our guide explains how croissants are made by demonstrating with a piece of paper, folding and rolling and folding and rolling each time adding more butter. I don’t think about the amount of butter involved because I am enjoying the croissant too much. While many boulangeries use par-cooked, mass produced, then frozen croissant, here at Poilâne the product is baked from scratch. It’s fresh and tasty and oh so buttery.
Our second bite to taste is a pain au chocolat, that’s pronounced ‘sho-cor-lah’ we are advised. My French is pretty bad, but our guide explains that if the word had an ‘e’ on the end then you would pronounce the ‘t’, without the ‘e’ the ‘t’ is then silent. Someone asks what about how to pronounce words that end in ‘x’ like gateaux… our brains hurt, so we will leave that one. The pain au chocolat is like the croissant but obviously a lot richer from the chocolate ganache in the middle. It’s flakey but doesn’t crumb everywhere, held together nicely.
Jean-Paul Hévan has been creating chocolates and macarons since his career began in 1974. He is a master of the art and has been winning many awards since. There are several stores around Paris as well as Taipei, Hong Kong and several throughout Japan. He is considered a master of his art.
While chocolate may be considered the main event at Jean-Paul Hévan, it is the macarons that pique my interest. Sixteen flavour combinations to choose from which include:
– Normandy – Chocolate ganache and salted butter caramel
– Pistach’in – Chocolate ganache with marzipan and pistacchio; and,
– Yuzu’in – Asian citrus fruit Yuzu flavoured with ganache
I choose the Passion’in – passionfruit and dark chocolate – and it seriously tastes like how it’s described. I can taste the passionfruit as if I were eating one fresh but with a light crunch to the top and bottom and slight chewiness of the meringue. The dark chocolate ganache is rich but doesn’t overpower the passionfruit flavour nor the perfect macaron texture.
Marché de Infants Rouges
Marché de Infants Rouges – Market of the Red Children – is located in the Marais where you can not only buy fresh produce but also stop in for a meal. The name comes from an orphanage that was located near the site 300 years ago where all the children were dressed in red. The market itself has been open since 1628…. yes, you read right, 1628, and is the oldest covered market in Paris.
We are given some time to wander around and while there are the usual suspects at the market, meats, cheese and seafood, I am most captivated by organic produce one stall sells.
As it turns out this is the store we all meet back at and I can’t get over the vibrancy of the fresh berries. I buy a punnet of the raspberries and they are so full of flavour! But its not the raspberries that I only try…
It’s also the strawberries…I may honestly say I have never had strawberries with such flavour… Well, maybe I now can because I ate about four of these tasty beauties!
Also known as Le Boutique Jaune – The Yellow Shop – Sacha Finkelsztajn was opened in 1946 by Dora and Itzik Finkelsztajn. These days the store is run by their grandson, Sacha.
The façade is painted bright yellow representing the colour of the Star of David, Jewish people in Europe were forced to wear by the Nazi’s from the 1930’s until the end of World War Two. The food here is traditional Jewish fare from Eastern Europe and Russia such as gefilte fish, a variety of meats, breads and pastries.
After a brief look inside, we pop back onto the street and our guide joins us with a tray of Perozhki’s. Similar in shape and size to an empanada but with Eastern European flavours. She asks us to all take a bite, which we gladly do. It’s lovely, the bread like pastry is soft and the inside kind of like the texture of a sausage roll for any Australians reading – but the flavour is quite different. It’s after we have all taken our first bite that we are told it the meat contains a mix of ground beef, liver, onion, salt and parsley. Apparently when groups are told it contains liver before they try it they often turn it down! Nonetheless, I love it.
Bistrôt La Chaise Au Plafond.
La Chaise Au Plafond is a typical French bistrôt – with no ‘e’ on the end, we pronounce it as ‘bistro’…remember our French lesson? The difference between a bistrôt and a brasserie is the bistrôt is small with a few dishes they specialise in, whereas a brasserie is large and has a many items on the menu. The specialty here is onion soup – again, remember our lesson above, in France, French onion soup is simply onion soup, although here there is a slight difference.
The twist with their recipe is instead of using beef broth and brandy, it is made with chicken broth and a splash of white wine. While onion soup (the French style…) should always come with a few large croutons with melted Gruyere cheese, here they use Comté cheese.
This is where we start to understand what an appellation is. Gruyere and Comté both use the same recipe, method and ageing process, however, Gruyere is from Switzerland and Comté comes from the Comté region, west of the Alps. An appellation confirms the the place the product is made. This can have a huge influence on the flavour, especially with cheeses as the livestock will graze on differing pastures.
As well as using French Comté, all of the produce comes from the Occitanie region of southern France which includes 200 kilograms of onions per week! The flavour was quite delicate for what I am used to from a (French) onion soup. The onions are mild and the croutons are soggy. To be brutally honest, I am not the biggest fan, but everyone else in the group seems to love it.
La Ville De Rodez
Cured meats, terrines, foie gras and cheeses. This is the place we learn more about the appellations – Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée and Appellation d’origine protégé.
The terrines look amazing and if it wasn’t for that I am only here for one for night and staying in a hotel without a fridge, I would have bought a slice of each.
Now we’re are talking! Cured meat, ham and cheeses – this is my type of food! Clockwise from the bottom left we have:
– French pork and pepper salami – This is lovely and I don’t find it too heavy on the pepper hit but others in the group do.
– Forme d’Ambert – One of France’s oldest blue cheeses. Our guide says it is mild, but I find the astringency quite powerful.
– St Nectaire – A fruity flavoured cows cheese that almost has nectarine flavours.
– Prince of Paris ham – Ham boiled in salted vegetable broth. This ham is reportedly the best in Paris and it melts in the mouth. I believe it is the type of salt they use, Guérande, which is milder and doesn’t overpower the ham with saltiness.
– Fleur de Breslau – A goats cheese that’s not as all as salty as some goats cheese can be, it may probably my favourite – for a goats cheese.
– Laguiole – Nutty yet floral flavours with slight acidity. This wins for me, its a stunning cheese!
This is a patisserie but with a slight twist. Miriam Sabet grew up in Syria and migrated to Paris. Her signature style is a fusion of Syrian and French flavours.
We are here to try her signature pastry nests. Miriam uses traditional Syrian kadaïf, or angel-hair pastry, moulds them into a nest using clarified butter then adds a gorgeous filling. There are four flavours fo us to choose from: lemon-cardamom, mango-jasmine, white cheese-Damascus rose, and, chocolate-sumac.
My pick is the lemon-cardamon and it is c’est magnifique. Although I find the gelatinous inner quite rich, it is mellowed by the flavoured cream topping. The pastry’s fine strands are heavy, unlike most pastries but together it balances! It’s a work of art and very tasty.
Le Cave Saint Paul
Our last stop is to try some wine. Again, Appellation is explained and it makes better sense. The easiest way to describe it is Champagne come from Champagne, everywhere else it may be known as sparkling wine.
But we’re not here to try Champagne, it’s all about the wine and we learn that there are over 360 grape varieties throughout France but over 1000 varieties throughout the world! So, I ask our guide if she likes Australian wines and the answer is not unexpected. “Australian wines are great, but I prefer French”….
Our first taste is of a Château de Fesles, Le Chapelle, a Chenin Blanc. The Chenin Blanc’s appellation is from the Loire Valley the same region as a French Sauvignon Blanc is from. It’s very mild not too sweet, not too dry. I love it. The second wine is a Merlot from Bordeaux… (Mer-low from Bor-dough… See what I did there? Yes…English has it’s strange pronunciations as well!) and for me it’s great but as you may know, I’m a lover of white wines.
What a wonderful tour of the Marais area of Paris and introduction to French gastronomy. I Highly recommend this tour if you are in Paris. Not only do you taste some fabulous delicacies but learn a lot along the way. Oh and by the way… in France, a French Balcony is simply called… a balcony!
What is it you think you would like to try the most?
How to book
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One Comment Add yours
this sounds like a marvellous tour indeed! Yum to passionfruit and dark chocolate.