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La Graineterie du Marché

Graineterie du Marche

There are a number of “have-to” lists in Paris, places where people just have to go while they’re here. Often people have limited time, and I hear ya, so I might suggest the departments stores on the Boulevard Haussman, Printempts and Galeries Lafayette (although even since Printemps started charging €1,5 to use the restrooms, I’m inclined to go to the Galeries Lafayette, just on principle.) Some of the well-known chocolatiers and pastry shops have kiosks in those stores, so you can hit the “big names” in one fell swoop. If that’s your thing.

French honey
Winter thyme

For those wishing to shop on a smaller scale, there’s La Graineterie du Marché at the excellent Marché d’Aligre. It’s the only outdoor market in Paris that’s open every day, except Monday, and in the center of the market, you’ll find José Ferré tending to his lovely, old-fashioned dry goods shop.

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French Honey

french honey

I had to put a moratorium on jam-making this year because I realized I had enough jam to last a normal person, who doesn’t have a French partner, at least ten years. (I’m not naming any names, but one Frenchman in particular can go through half a jar at one breakfast alone.) But one thing I can’t make is honey, in spite of the fact that I am certainly capable of giving a nasty sting every once in a while. It wasn’t until I moved to France that I fell in love with the stuff.

When I led tours, I’d bring guests to honey shops and people would just kind of look around – or look over me, perhaps wondering when we were getting to the chocolate – as I started to explain fabulous wonders of French honey. And am not sure how convincing I was, but since I have a captive audience here (don’t touch that mouse!), as well as a cabinet-full of the stuff, I decided that as I started to clean out my honey larder, I’d also come clean about my love for the stuff.

Various honeys are said to have various properties. I don’t sit down to breakfast and think about all the polyhydroxy phenols and bioflavonoids, or how my body is going through phagocytosis or endocytosis while I eat my toast and sip my orange juice and wonder how the heck I’m going to make it through another day. (And I have nothing against polyhydroxy pheols or phagocytosis, it’s just that they’re not popular topics at my breakfast table.) On the whole, I eat pretty healthy stuff and am not one to think about the health benefits of food. I don’t need justification, ie: antioxidants, to eat chocolate. I just eat it – and thinking that you’re going to get healthy from eating cheesecake because you put a tablet of vitamin C in it is kind of ridiculous, if you ask me. So geez, just eat!

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La Ruche qui dit Oui!

washing kale

The word “non” is often the response of choice in France. And while it makes for funny snickering from outsiders, chuckling at complicated and arcane bureaucracy, it’s become a serious hindrance to innovation and small businesses, which have been having a particularly tough time lately. And there’s a younger generation of entrepreneurial talent, who have new ideas and are striving to be innovative and inventive, who want to succeed in their home country.

cheese

The group, Les Pigeons was recently founded by French web entrepreneurs, who felt used by politicians by increasing their taxes, who call themselves “pigeons” – which has been translated as “chumps“, a reference to the difficulties they’re having, feeling like they’re being taken for granted.

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Turkey Melon

turkey melon

Not long ago, I mentioned the Lamb Melons I saw at a butcher stand at the Marché d’Anvers in Paris. Since it’s an afternoon market, I thought it might be fun to mosey over there at my leisure and pick one up for Sunday lunch. However I was surprised to see the market completely packed. Since there are less than a few dozen stands, it’s not surprising I suppose. Plus we had a holiday weekend ahead of us.

french radishesAnvers French market Paris
potato chipscherry tomatoes

I did my usual quick scan of everything and found the produce selection rather limited, although there were a few interesting things here and there. I picked up a musty-looking Selles–sur-Cher goat cheese from a woman who makes her own goat cheeses, and each one was sold by how ‘ripe’ you want it.

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Lamb Melons

melon d'agneau

I was walking down the Avenue Trudaine the other morning, on the way to Kooka Boora for yet another coffee, and they were setting up for the small afternoon market there. Most of the markets in Paris take place in the mornings, which means that people who work don’t get to go to the market except on weekends, when the outdoor markets can resemble the trading floor of a stock exchange. So it’s nice that a few of the markets in the city are open in the afternoons and early evenings, to accommodate those people.

The Marché d’Anvers is a rather compact market, with a few fish stalls, a bread stand, and some vegetables. There is also a butcher that has a very, very long refrigerated counter, which I scanned. I don’t know all that much about meat but I like to look at it. (And, yes, the swarthy butchers are often worth scanning as well and unlike other vendors at the market, women seem to be particularly attracted to them. And even the most reserved Frenchwoman seems to get reduced to a smitten schoolgirl when it’s their turn with the butcher.) When I reached the end of the showcase, I noticed a pile of something called Melons d’agneau.

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Shopping for Local Produce in Paris

Shopping in Paris, especially for food-lovers, can be an exhilarating experience. There’s lovely outdoor markets just about every day of the week, bountiful with fresh produce. For those who like to support local farmers and agriculture, one often needs to look past the displays of fruits and vegetables heaped on the tables to see where they are from (EU regulations require sellers to display that information prominently.) And folks are often surprised to learn that quite a bit of the produce is from elsewhere, whether in France or outside of the country, or continent.

I asked my friend Phyllis Flick, who writes about eating around Paris on her blog My Paris Notebook, where she offers shopping tips and les bonnes adresses, highlighting places in Paris where one can find local produce and restaurants where young chefs are serving the local harvest.

Because she is so good about sleuthing out these places and resources, I am happy to welcome this guest post by Phyllis on Shopping for Local Produce in Paris. -David


Why buy local?
I try to buy locally as much as possible. For one I want to support independent farmers and avoid big agriculture, but it’s mostly a question of taste. Since it doesn’t have to travel far, local produce is fresher and more likely to have been picked when ripe – which means more flavor and more nutrients. By the time industrially grown produce reaches the supermarket it’s likely to have traveled many miles and sat in distribution centers, meaning it’s no longer very fresh. Vegetables rapidly lose their nutrients once picked—spinach looses 75% of its vitamin C within days of being harvested—so if you’re not buying local, you may be better off buying frozen vegetables.

Local produce is also less likely to have been chemically treated in order to withstand long travel times. In addition, a recent study found that fruits and vegetables coming from outside of France had alarming traces of pesticides, some of which are banned in France, so buying fruits and vegetables from countries with lower environmental standards may expose you dangerous pesticides.

So now that you know why it’s better to buy local produce, here’s are some resources and marketing tips on where to find it in Paris:

At the Market

Outdoor markets in Paris are not farmers markets, which means that shopping at your weekly market doesn’t guarantee that your produce even comes from France. You’ll have to read the labels to know what’s local and what’s not. Fortunately, every product sold in France must be labelled according to its origin, so you’ll know if the apples you want are from the Loire Valley, Spain, or even China, if you take the time to look.

If you want to buy direct from the source, look for the words “producteur-maraîcher“. You’ll also want to look for someone who only has a small selection of seasonal produce. If it’s winter and you see tomatoes and strawberries, it’s not local.

But even if a vegetable seller buys their goods from Rungis, the immense wholesale market outside Paris where most food in Paris is bought and sold, it could have very well come from their “producer pavilion” where the area’s producers gather to sell to restaurateurs and retailers who then resell their products in Paris. You’ll know if something is local if it’s marked “Ile de France” or displays the name or number of one of the departments in Île-de-France (75, 77, 78, 91, 93, 94, 95). For local organic vegetables head to the Marché Biologique on Saturdays at Batignolles (Métro: Rome) or the Marché Biologique on Sundays at Raspail (Métro: Rennes, or Sèvres-Babylon). But again, you need to look at the labels. Buying organic strawberries shipped from Chile seems to be missing the point.

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Visit to a Paris Market (Video)

Everyday in Paris (except Monday), there are outdoor markets taking place in the various neighborhoods spread out across the city. Each market has its own distinct personality – and personalities – and like many residents of Paris, I like to do my shopping at an outdoor market.

As a dedicated market shopper, I find myself gravitating toward my favorite stands and sellers, such as the friendly gent who sells potatoes (and who wears just a t-shirt all year long, no matter how freezing cold it gets) and the people who come bearing gooey wedges of locally made Brie as well as unbelievably delicious crème fraîche, the kind you just can’t get anywhere else but in France. There are sturdy metal tables heaped with plenty of ice to keep all the pristine seafood and shellfish fresh, and come fall, when I don’t pick them myself, I rifle through bins of irregular apples to find just the right ones to bring home and caramelize in a warm tarte Tatin.

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Sunday Paris Market

apricotspoulet fermier chèvreboulangerie

Summer was kind of a bust in Paris this year. True, I did spend three weeks away. But from what everyone told me, Paris was just like the city I came home to; gray and overcast. One of the rewards of living in Paris is summer. After surviving the bleak, cold winter, the payoff is sitting in outdoor cafés drinking cold rosé in the heat or engaging in un pique-nique with friends by the Seine, taking advantage of the extra long days.

crustacean

Most businesses in Paris shut down for summer holidays, usually beginning around the end of July and re-opening later in August. In the past few years, since the economy hasn’t been so fabulous, more and more places have stayed open. Another factor is unrest in many French-speaking countries outside of France where the French have traditionally taken their vacations. Plus the weather hasn’t been so great in the rest of France either. So spending a few weeks on a chilly beach in Brittany or under the clouds on the shores of la Côte Basque isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. And as you know, many Europeans wear Speedo-style bathing suits and, well, let’s fact it – not many men want to be lounging around on a very chilly beach in a soul-baring swimsuit, myself included.

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