Paris Gastronomy Tour

Doing a culinary tour in Paris is always fun, because not only do I get to meet some new people and make new friends (important…since the old ones keep deserting me), but I get to revisit my favorite places in Paris. And this week, we made a detour in Lyon as well. So there was a lot more to see, and eat…

bernachon chocolates

Lyon is a wonderful city. Kind of a miniature version of Paris, but younger, more spacious, and more relaxed. The people are plus cool, and in less of a rush—perhaps because they are so busy digesting all that rich food down there.

thermometer dial chocolategrinder

I’ve written about Bernachon before, and this trip, we had an especially warm greeting in their adjacent café, starting with puffy brioche and warmed pitchers of hot chocolate, made with the famed bean-to-bar chocolate that’s fabricated just a few doors away.

brioche copper pots

It’s no secret that I love Bernachon chocolate.


But can we talk about their copper collection? I swear, if I could have fit one under my shirt, and on the overhead bin of the TGV train, I would have.

copper pot

Speaking of guess-what’s-under-the-shirt, Chef Pascal, their head chocolatier, gave us a wonderful look in the chocolate production room and kitchens, where this world-renown chocolate is made.

chef pascal

There was chocolate everywhere…

shaved chocolate

But man, nor woman, cannot live by chocolate alone…

madagascar beans lunch at bouchon

So we headed off with Lucy, to Abel Café Comptoir, a bouchon, one of those only-in-Lyon places that seem to be frozen in time, and serves gut-busting dishes with little attention to dietary trends.

bouchon

Yes, that’s my chicken, somewhere under the thick blanket of cream. But since the French live longer than we do, I figured they know something that I don’t know, so I dug out a creamy morsel, which went down fairly easily, courtesy of a cellar-temperature pot of Côte du Rhône.

creamy chicken

For those who preferred something lighter, there were andouillette sausages bathed with buttery mustard sauce. Yet don’t be alarmed: the style of eating in Lyon is en famille, and the big bowls of food that they set down on the table are (usually) meant to be shared.

sausages

After we waddled off, we strolled around Les Halles, a great food market trapped in an ugly modern building (an unfortunate French paradox), which you’d never guess stockpiled the best of the locally-produced meats and cheeses, especially the creamy-soft disks of Saint Marcellin cheese and fat, plump, meaty sausages.

On that train back to Paris everyone would’ve slept had it not been for them keeping a close eye on their Bernachon bags, because I’d warned them that I had sticky fingers and one guest beat me at my own game, swooping up a majority of the salted butter caramel-filled Kalouga bars before I could. The master is outfoxed by his pupils.

Still, believe it or not, some people managed to get some winks in before landing at the gare de Lyon.

the happy couple

And after verifying the contents of their bags, a few of us hardy souls gathered up the strength to tuck in a bit more food, and hit l’Europeen, just across from the station for oysters and chilly glasses of Mâcon, a full-bodied Burgundian chardonnay that was so good, I proposed to one of my guests right then and there. And she accepted.

jacques genin

Aside from planning our upcoming nuptials, other highlights of the week that was happened on Monday, our first day in the laboratoire of Jacques Genin. Mort Rosenblum explained what Jacques does, while Jacques spent his time picking on me, much to the delight and amusement of all.

Except me. And I still have the marks on my neck from when he tried to choke me a few weeks prior. But I forgive him because he makes great chocolate. And brings out his best 21 year old Japanese whiskey just for us.

Another highlight of the week, and slightly less-hazardous to my health, was a market tour and cooking class with Paule Caillat of Promenades Gourmandes.

I can’t reveal too much, but let’s just say that my group got to experience a French paradox or two for themselves. Such as being told at the start of a cheese-tasting that it was interdit to make a sandwich out of the cheese.

Then our chef du jour proceeded to slide a morsel of cheese in between a piece of baguette, and pop it in her mouth.

I covered, explaining it was the ‘chef’s prerogative’, but there are ten additional people out there now that know that I make none of this up. And when we were done, all my guests told me that our day and class with her was one of their favorite parts of the week. Which goes to show why we love the French, and all their quirks and charms. (Well, except my cable company.)

cooking class

I had also insisted that she make her famous French tart dough recipe, which everyone loves, but man cannot live by butter-rich pastries alone, and while I poached some quince to go into the almond-based tart filling, she led us past the cheese tasting before our lunch, which began with twice-baked soufflés, surrounded with “Just a little bit of cream”, Paule said—while, of course, pouring it on. And we feasted around her gorgeously-set dining table on braised pintade (guineau fowl) and fresh fennel, sautéed then finished and glazed with reduced chicken stock.

Other days included visits to the macaron-making kitchen of Gerard Mulot, a wine tasting and dinner in the loft of Olivier Magny of O-Château, a comprehensive cheese tasting in a fromagerie, a generous sampling of Spanish ham and silky strips of Italian lardo, then finishing it all off with heaping cups and cones of Grom chocolate and coffee gelato.

candied ginger

The last day we ended up at Fouquet, before our private dinner with the fine folks at Hidden Kitchen. Which was after a backstage visit to Fouquet.

fouquet chocolate candymaking

Fouquet is one of my favorite candy shops in Paris and one of the few that makes everything right on the premises, behind their classically-restrained wooden shop on the rue Lafitte.

chocolate molds

They were just ramping up for Christmas, the biggest holiday of the year for chocolatiers in France. (I asked about Valentine’s Day, and they told me “Rien“, or “It’s nothing”, in France.)

And while I had thought that I’d tasted everything in the shop on previous visits, genial owner Frédéric Chambeau, pulled down a box of les croustillants, very crisp almond cookies with a hint of cinnamon enrobed in dark chocolate. They were as thin as playing cards and I wished I was playing with a full-hand.

It was like the whole room stopped, and we all agreed that these were really le top du top, the best of the best. And I remedied the situation by having them pack up a bag for us for a little after lunch snack later on.

croquante

I thought I was a know-it-all, but I didn’t know that Fouquet makes their own vinegars in the basement, and a wicked rum punch à Sidonie, where limes, tropical fruits, and spices are marinated in dark rum for six months, then filtered into bottles and sold in the shop.

I didn’t get one, since Frédéric offered to have me back for a taste. And not that I need a reason to come back, but it is nice to have one.



For those interested in future Paris Chocolate and Gastronomy trips, I offer one or two week-long tours during the year. They fill quickly, but if you subscribe to my mailing list and newsletter, you’ll get notified as they’re announced.



40 comments

  • Intéressant reportage sur la ville où habitent 2 de mes enfants , tu as raison, tellement plus cool et moins stressée que Paris, j’y suis souvent ! Tu n’as pas visité les chocolats Richard c’est bien aussi ! j’ai bien aimé Paule et ses prérogatives avec le fromage !!

  • I love your picture and the stories because you share really well that athmosphere. I can almost smell the flavors of mustard and cream too :)

  • David,

    tu exagères, je ne me suis pas fait un sandwich, mais bon, l’histoire est amusante, comme toujours avec toi, et les photos excellentes !

    Thank you for this wonderful coverage, of little me of course, and of Lyon, which I have been trying to send people to for years, considering my personal attachment to this beautiful city, not only gourmande, but also so rich historically and culturally ! I would love to go there with you and Jeanette, to visit la rue Nicolas Le Bec which just opened.

    Anyway, congratulations for doing such a great job of everything, and I will try very hard to come Wednesday evening.

    Bisous and hope you have a relaxing sunday, you deserve it.

    Paule

  • Mercotte: Oui, nous sommes allé aux Halles, il y a un magasin Richart là bas. C’est bon le chocolat Richard (j’adore leur caramel-beurre-salé, comme M. Le Roux), mais il est difficile après Bernachon…

    Paule: Je n’imagine pas! It was actually two of our guests that pointed out ton petit sandwich. But the cheese and bread we were tasting were so good, we can’t blame you ; )

    Everyone loved the class with you…and the lunch was amazing. Remerci...

  • Wonderful pictures! But, Oh! the problem of do you include Chef Pascal in your upcoming calendar with the *staves*/oyster guys, or publish two, one indoor Paris/one outside? I feel your pain…lol john

  • David, ca donne envie. All that amazing chocolate is reason enough. Would love to join your tour sometime….

  • I love when you do posts like these. And yes, I’m with you on the copper pots. I love them, and only own one :-(
    Sauces are one of the reasons why I love the French so much–they know how to create a good sauce and use plenty of it.
    Thank you for this…I loved it.

  • Wow – everything looks fantastic. I love the all of the chocolate! When I’m out of high school and able to travel, France is the first place I’m headed =D.

  • Excellent post.
    Abel cafe Comptoir looks like a dream to eat at.

  • I will be thinking about the andouillette sausages bathed with buttery mustard sauce ALL DAY.

  • David,
    I’d love to order some Bernachon chocolate and am not sure what they mean by a visit card for ordering….is there any advice you could give (aside from order a lot–which I plan on!).
    Thanks!

  • If you love chocolate like me, try those of Patrick Roger, it is a great sensation.
    shops in saint germain. he is an artist!
    veronique from the blog http://www.rendezvousaparis.fr

  • Have been following your blogs since enjoying The Sweet Life…! Your 10/24/09 post is the best ever! Bernachon copper? The pot on the stove blew me away! I have several 70+yr old similar pots, but unlined and unusable! Should I plan a trip to France to seek artisans? (Please say YES, but where/contact??) Any suggestions?

  • Glad you said, “I wished I was playing with a full-hand;” and not, “I wished I was playing with a full deck.” (Although we would have understood the sentiment.)
    Thank-you for the post and the lovely photos.

  • Well hello there, Pascal!

  • Thank you again David for your great pictures and prose. Love reading all your posts, blogs, books and tweets!

  • David,
    Was the wine tasting/dinner at Olivier’s old O’Chateau loft or his residence loft….or are they the same loft? Is his new cave not quite suited for a full dinner, yet? I am waiting for your review of the new O’Chateau cave and the Spring Boutique at the same location. It should be great with Daniel Rose’s new Spring location just around the corner in the First from his “boutique” and Olivier’s cellar. It sounds like a good place to offer some “experiments in desserts” that are the results of research for some ex-pat’s new books. It would get a whole lot of “containers of temptation” out of an over-crowded apartment in the Marais.
    The tour sounded like it was worth every calorie.

  • oh David, this is so agonizing to read. Maybe one day I will manage to go on one of your tours….. a gal can dream at least.

  • Perfect timing. On a whirlwind visit in 2 weeks, I’m hitting Paris, Avignon and Lyon. Bringing Sweet Life with me for address references and appreciate the hot tips for Lyon. Any chocolate happening in Avignon?
    Merci mon ami.

  • I love this article and all the chocolates involved. Merci David.

  • Sweet life, indeed!

  • Lizzie: I don’t know what that means either. It must be a odd translation. In their French site, it says carte de visite. I would call, write or send a fax requesting specific information about ordering.

    Véronique: We did stop at Patrick Roger, who is one of my favorite chocolatiers in Paris. But we were too busy eating chocolates to snap any photos!

    Sharon: Sorry, I don’t know Avignon but Lyon is great.

    marianne: If you’re looking to buy vintage copper pots in France, there are a few shops (such as Bachelier Antiquités, up by the Porte de Clignancourt antique market…or take a trip antiquing outside of Paris.)

    If you need retinning: Rocky Mountain Retinning. There are a few other places in the US, and perhaps a Google search will help find them.

    craigkite: Olivier only does private tastings in his loft. The regular tastings are done in his new cave, which is more centrally-located, near the Louvre.

    john: Next time I see him, I’ll ask! : 0

  • David, I had such a good time! I could barely move for two days afterward. The group was delightful. Thank you. Oysters and Macon sound perfect after that long day.

  • David, I am flying to Lyon tomorrow evening and will have only the night and half a day (before taking the train to Beaune to meet friends and check if the Burgundy wines can match the Barolos ;-)) but already have planned every second of it – thanks to you!

  • David, ca c’est une tournee extraordinaire…J’espere de venir avec vous mais j’apportera plus de insuline et j’ai les point aeroplan. excusez-moi pour mes tenses Francais je demure dans Montreal et j’habite dans le moment alors je suis utilise le present. LOL

  • David, I adore your blog and apparently just missed you one night at one of Susan Herrmann Loomis’ (wonderful) cooking classes. Thank you for the amazing photographs, writing, and insights. And the photo of that pile of chocolate shavings – absolutely mouthwatering: I never really had a “sweet tooth” until I moved to Paris. Hope to run in to you one of these days, perhaps at Daniel Rose’s? All my best wishes for your continued success – BPJ

  • David: Your post has convinced some friends and I to meet in Lyon in a couple weeks and I wondered if you had any recommendations for lodging? I love your blog – it inspires me, makes me laugh and takes me away. You deserve lots of good things to come from it!

  • It seems congratulations on your engagement are in order! Best Wishes!!

  • Congratulations on your engagement! I have chocolate envy from over here in Boston :)

  • Charissa: I don’t have any recommendations since I usually go down for the day. But I have stayed at the Campanile, which is an inexpensive chain hotel near the train station (I was there for the pastry competition and all the hotels were full), and it was clean, well-located, and inexpensive. It’s not fancy..think college dorm-style/Ikea-like rooms.

    Lucy: Glad you enjoyed the group. They were all so nice—such troopers!

    Sarah & Marty: Thanks! Maybe Bernachon can make my wedding cake. And chef Pascal can deliver it : )

  • I’m pretty sure I just gained a pound or two reading this. Also, I would be willing to do serious injury to get my hands on one of those copper pots.

  • This was a beautiful, evocative post. It would have made me happy just to look at pictures of brioche, copper pots, and chocolates, but the narrative made me laugh…and open the refrigerator. Alas. pas de marons…..

  • I think that in a previous life you must have rescued an awful lot of children holding kittens from something pretty awful. Your job and life in general (except for the cable company) sound delightful!

  • loved this post! the chocolates, copper pots and a cooking class…sigh…wish i was closer to paris.

    by the way i am reading your book at the moment and enjoying every bit of it!
    thanks for the “daily trips” to paris!

  • Formidable!

    I very much enjoy your storytelling. Thank you, David.

    My husband and I had the honor and joy several years ago of being treated to a gastronomic tour of sorts by a French chef, Pierre Piquet, who, at the time, owned Aromont, a flavoring company in Reims. We had a divine lunch at a local restaurant where the chef prepared venison with a chocolate sauce, among other extraordinary dishes. I think it is the best meal I’ve had in my life.

    We then had a tour of a champagne house (samples and nibbles), and late afternoon drove back to Paris to the Moulin Rouge for a show and dinner. It was amazing how much food and drink I consumed, but I never felt overly stuffed or miserable.

    It was a long, tiring day (eating takes energy!), but fabulous and one I’ll never forget.

  • I have a cookbook from Rose Levy Beranbaum about her experience with Bernachon. I confess that reading your post was a lot more fun!
    When are you going to move to Lyon? enough of Paris! Les Lyonnais sont tout aussi intéressants!

  • Reading your post was like having a 2nd tour! You represented us well. Fab week with great people, great food and great wines. Amazingly not a pound gained :) Thanks!

  • Sheila (aka Claire): So happy you came along..and kudos to you for swooping down and nabbing those Kalouga bars from under my nose! ; )

    (I like a woman that knows what she wants…)

    Thankfully I have a few left in my personal arsenal. Am glad you had a great time and it was lovely to meet and travel with you. xx David

  • David,

    I must say that I truly would have loved to accompany you on your wonderful tour – and not only do you do a lovely job with your tours, you have excellent taste in women! After all, she IS my daughter!

    Looking forward to booking a tour with you next time. Sorry I missed this one!

  • Merci pour ces photos de ma ville natale….;o))
    Bernachon…comment ne pas craquer pour leurs éclairs au chocolat….sans oublier les fameux palets d’or….
    Abel …LE bouchon lyonnais…
    et le Saint Marcellin….ce petit fromage crémeux à souhait …

    Il est vrai que nous avons beaucoup de chance, nous les lyonnais !!