Recently in Food Markets category

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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Poulet rôti

roast chicken / poulet rôti

I’ve been leafing my way through a local culinary magazine whose subject for this particular issue is “Street Food.” And I’m a little confused because every place mentioned is either a storefront or restaurant, not a place where eat food on the street. I kept digging and digging, turning the pages, looking for some stories about people actually serving street food—on an actual street.

jambon aux herbes

The French are good at inventing quirky things, like the Minitel, fast trains, and a machine that spews out a hot-baked baguette in less than a minute, and the magazine quotes French photographer Jean-François Mallet (who documented take-away food in a book of the same name) as saying “The pizza truck is a French invention.”

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Fraises des bois

fraises des bois

When I worked as a baker in California, we’d get three flats of fraises des bois (“strawberries of the woods”, or wild strawberries) for a few precious weeks in the summer, cultivated by a woman who lived about an hour north of San Francisco. Each intensely flavored berry, no bigger than the tip of a pencil eraser, had to be hand-picked and took someone nearly an hour to collect one basket’s worth of them. I don’t remember the exact price of each basket that we paid (was it $6 ?), but they were expensive back in the 80s. Added to that, you must use fraises the bois the same day you get them because they break down pretty quickly, and by the next day, it’s too late to serve them fresh. A few times when I drove up there to pick them up, the heady smell of the tiny, wild strawberries in my car drove me nearly insane.

(I’d often stop on the way home from work really late at night to pick up some local barbecue, and that had the same effect. More than once, I’d have to pull over the grab a rib because the smell driving home was driving me out of my mind, which – I guess – seems to be a theme in my life…the losing my mind part, not just the driving around with food in the car business.)

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Marché des Producteurs

bacon

I was actually thrilled to see a market of producteurs that was happening this weekend in Paris. We have some great food available in Paris but I don’t get the opportunity often to meet and shop directly from the people who are producing the food. This is especially true with meat, which is sold by butchers and not the people who raise it, but I also wanted to see some of the more interesting roots and vegetables that don’t always find their way in to Paris from the countryside.

Generally speaking, a lot of these tasting salons that are held around the year in Paris are well-stocked with three things: foie gras, mountain cheeses, and sausages. Wine doesn’t count as one of the three, as that’s a given.

raw milk butter thyme

There are lots of people offering tastes of wine. It’s one of the few things where samples of it at markets are gladly given. I remember a few years ago at a wine fair I told the seller that I’d take a bottle of his Muscadet, since I was having oysters that night, and he was rather shocked that I didn’t want to try it first. (So I did, just to be polite.) But I’m actually happier sitting in a café and enjoying a glass rather than manoeuvering around other people en masse, Costco-style, jostling for a little sip.

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