La Cigogne

I was realizing lately, while packing up to head to another airport, stressing to make sure I had all my chargers, adaptors, noise-canceling earbuds, credit cards, SIM cards, and travel documents, and getting my luggage ready, fastidiously weighing it, and to make sure I wouldn’t have to pay $150 in excess fees, then checking in and getting my seat assignment, then braving the traffic on the way to the airport, waiting in separate security and passport lines, sitting around for a few hours until it’s time to board the plane, and finally, squeezing myself in a seat that’s made for someone a foot shorter than I am, that travel isn’t as fun as it used to be. (Although I did see a bunch of great movies last month. And found that the food on Air Canada isn’t bad at all.)

So it’s nice to stay home, and discover places where you live. Whether you’re traveling or staying put, whatever city you live in, it’s nice to find new places, which you can do without spending a few days recovering from jet-lag and kicking yourself for not downloading a few movies when you find the entertainment unit in your seat on your long-haul flight wasn’t working, which happened to me once, and made for a very, very long twelve hour-plus flight

I discovered La Cigogne right in my own backyard, so to speak, when my friend Jane asked me if I wouldn’t mind if a shop that sold local and regional foodstuffs supplied treats for a book event I did at her cooking school, La Cuisine, I met Philippe Caumont, the owner of the shop. I tasted some of his superb pâtés, as well as a tipple of Armagnac, and fixed a date when I could visit his épicerie in Paris.

Philippe and his business partner, Pierre Dompnier, founded La Cigogne in 2016. They previously studied agriculture together at a university in Toulouse. During that time, they met many farmers and producteurs, and decided to open a business to feature them. Originally an online shop, their épicierie is now open for business in Paris.

You can tell when French people really like something when they get enthusiastic and say “J’adore ce fromage!” Otherwise, everything else that one is okay with, is considered “Pas mal,” or “not bad.” If you don’t like something, it’s “pas terrible,” which means “not terrible, which perhaps is more polite, or to the exigeantes (discerning) French, means that there’s room for improvement.

These guys love, and are passionate about, everything they sell and I found myself saying J’adore! a lot in their shop. Another expression that’s become popular lately is Made in France (said in English), and their shop is a great example of how many wonderful things are fabriqué en France. Like these dewy, tangy little goat cheeses.

Made from organic milk, each is seasoned with a sprinkle of sel from the Camargue, a region famous for its salt, but also for its pink flamingos. Nearby was a favorite cheese of mine, Beaufort d’été, made from milk that the cows produce after grazing on summer (été) grass and flowers high up in the mountains, which gives their milk a particularly delicious flavor.

As popular as cheese is in France, charcuterie gives it a run for the money. Although I didn’t get a picture of the one I bought from the inside, the duck rillettes with a generous circle of foie gras in the center were a hit when I got them home and served them at a dinner party. To be honest, it takes a lot to elicit excitement or to get a J’adore about charcuterie, in a country where there’s no shortage of mighty fine cured meats, terrines, and pâtés. But this one did.

Another beautiful product was the jambon porc noir from the southwest of France.

This beautiful, gorgeous, and nutty, fat-laced ham is produced from black-furred pigs, the oldest race in France, which feed on acorns, insects, and chestnuts. The ham is cured for at least two years and has to be cut very fine, like it’s Spanish counterparts. Otherwise, it’s tough and not worth what it commands.

I learned that a few years ago when someone gave me a whole one and I had to practice to get it to the right thickness…or thinness, I should say. It’s a rare treat and it took a while for my apartment to stop smelling like cured pork, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I made it through, but it’s easier to leave it to the pros, like Pierre, and buy it here.

Circling back to the cheeses for a moment, this curious Bleu du Vercors Sassenage (below) was surprisingly mild and milky-tasting, with a slightly nutty finish. Blue cheeses can be rather sharp and acidic but the creaminess of this one would lend itself to a raclette or even a fondue. I took a wedge of that home, which ended up being the perfect pairing with some sweet-sour fig chutney.

Also in the dairy case, and not to be missed, is raw milk butter.

The “dry goods” side of the shop yielded lots more finds.

While people don’t think the French eat pre-prepared foods, they do, such as jarred confit de canard (preserved duck) and cassoulet. For those who want to dress it up, they even sell cassoles, the Gascon pottery dishes to bake it in.

A few weeks ago they had a cassoulet night in the shop. Anyone was welcome to could come and dig into a bowl of the famed bean-based casserole baked, along with a glass of wine. I was felled by the flu and couldn’t make it for that one, but you can find out about other events, like their recent Raclette Night, on their Instagram feed.

One particular curiosity to me on the shelves were these perky pods (below) of ail d’ours (bear’s garlic, similar to ramps). I make a super-garlicky pesto out of the leaves when I find them fresh, but these pickles made from the flower buds were vinegary and sharp, which tames the garlic, but just a little.

They’d be really (really) good with pâté, a plate of country ham, or even slipped into a sandwich. Or chopped up in mayonnaise. Or as a base for tartar sauce. Or added to tapenade. Think of the possibilities!

The French also have their own version of dulce de leche, called confiture de lait, or milk jam. This one is made by a milk and cheese producer in the Vercors Massif, a mountainous area that straddles the Drôme and Isère.

Sticking with the Made in France theme, there’s a line-up of “balsamic vinegars” from a woman who produces it in the Ardeche. They’re not the same as those made in Modena, hence the quotation marks (for those keeping track of those things), but made from the juice of four varieties of grapes.

There are various types of balsamic, with different degrees of moût (grape must, composed of skins and seeds) added, which determines the thickness and the flavor. We tasted all three.

One Made in France product that I’m particularly enamored of is Archibald tonic water. It’s proudly made from all-French ingredients, so it gets its bitterness from gentian, grown in the Auvergne, rather than quinine imported from elsewhere.

Pineau is cognac’s more sippable offspring, a mix of grape juice (or must) and cognac. If you’ve not tried it, it’s a lovely apéritif, served chilled, perhaps with an ice cube, or not. This one is from Bourgoin Cognac, a small producer, and is barrel-aged for a year before bottling. La Cigogne also carries their highly regarded cognacs and in spite of my reluctance to do any more traveling for a while, I hope to get down to their distillery one day.

Armagnac is cognac’s raffish cousin. It’s only distilled once (cognac is distilled twice) and is more brazen than cognac. Armagnac producers don’t have marketing budgets like some of the big cognac brands, so it’s less-known. Cognac is great stuff for sure, but Armagnac has its own force and beauty.

When buying Armagnac, one shouldn’t necessarily be persuaded by age. It’s the cépage (variety of grape used), and other factors, that determine its quality. That was evident when I smelled the various bottles they had on hand, including one from 1942, which smelled lovely, but not as terrific (to my taste, or nose) as the one from 1975, which was truly spectacular.

It had been a long day, on the day I visited La Cigogne, one that started at 6am on a scavenger hunt to try and find a fitting for my broken kitchen faucet, so I’d have water to perform daily functions, which ended in near-tears (and me having to buy a whole new faucet, which doesn’t work very well), but at least I had Armagnac.

The only problem I have with La Cigogne is that it’s not actually in my backyard. But it gave me an excuse to get out and do some exploring. The shop is open most evenings until 10pm (check the website before heading out as hours can change), and they have a seating area that’s très charmante, where you can déguster (taste) and order several of the things they have on offer, including a glass of wine from their cave, or maybe a sip of Armagnac, if it’s on the menu.

La Cigogne
6, rue Saint-Lazare (9th)
Métro: Saint-Georges or Notre-Dame-de-Lorette
Tél: 09 86 43 37 91

(The shop hours are on their website. La Cigogne also has an extensive list of items they will ship within France.)

La Cigogne

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  • Teddi
    April 3, 2019 8:27pm

    I own a small business and travel to conferences quite often. We go to Europe at least once a year, occasionally travel to Asia and go all over the US/Canada. I don’t know if it is still available or if we were grandfathered in, but when we signed up for T-Mobile we got a package allowing us to travel anywhere without the whole SIM card mess. Email and texting is the same as if we were home, and calls home are $0.10 a minute. One less hassle. Cheers!

    • April 3, 2019 8:31pm
      David Lebovitz

      My French mobile provider actually allows/includes international calls. But people can’t call me, unless they dial my French phone number, which was a bit of a problem when I went to Vietnam & when I go to the U.S. So it’s easier to get a SIM card, although once I dropped mine down between the seats of the airplane and couldn’t retrieve it, so when I got back to Paris, I had to go to their one store in Paris and it took most of the morning to get it replaced.

  • Susan REDD
    April 3, 2019 8:35pm

    3 April 2019. David Lebovitz, you really gifted us with an encyclopedia of French cuisine with this month’s blog. I love the photos of the cheeses that one can find in France — but horreur, not in the US! Bonne continuation!

    • April 3, 2019 8:39pm
      David Lebovitz

      Glad you liked the post! Fortunately, the U.S. has come a long way in the cheese department and I’ve discovered some great American cheeses on visits. They’re not as common as they are in France, so they need to be tracked down. Crown Finish Caves has some good ones, but there are others worth searching out.

  • chezgloria
    April 3, 2019 8:37pm

    I’d love a book on pate and terrine. Any recommendations?

    • April 3, 2019 8:43pm
      David Lebovitz

      I just noticed that Kitchen Arts & Letters has copies of a French book called Le Grande Livre de la Charcuterie. (It’s in French, of course.) I don’t own any books on the subject in French, or in English, so can’t advise but maybe others have recommendations.

      • Adele
        April 3, 2019 9:53pm

        Try Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery by Jane Grigson.

        • chezgloria
          April 3, 2019 10:10pm

          Oh thank you! I will!

  • Ellen
    April 3, 2019 8:48pm

    Hello we have an apt in the 15th and I would be very grateful if you have either restaurant or shop destinations that you enjoy in the 15th. PS. I thought YOU beat Bobbie Flay. Merci beaucoup

  • sharon mumby
    April 3, 2019 9:05pm

    Fantastic post David, wow wow such beautiful food & drink, really an education, mouth watering!
    Thank you

  • April 3, 2019 9:21pm

    So much deliciousness in this post…merci beaucoup!!

  • Doreen
    April 3, 2019 9:35pm

    Wonderful post and timely, too, as we’ll be in Paris in three weeks (!). I’m looking forward to taking a croissant making class at La Cuisine (!!).

  • Patti Mackin
    April 3, 2019 9:38pm

    So much great stuff.problem for us visitors and I am in Paris regularly, is the difficulty bringing stuff home. Would they be willing to ship to the states on my next visit?
    Thanks for all the tips on the web and in your very useful and wonderful books.

    • April 3, 2019 9:45pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks & glad you like my books! Like most countries, the U.S. has rules about importing fresh meats and other items into the country. That, and the exorbitant shipping costs (plus customers would have to be customs and duties on anything imported), it wouldn’t be financially feasible either. So they can only ship within France.

  • Anne Marie
    April 3, 2019 9:40pm

    Now, I am so hungry. What was under the bay leaf? I would like to take it home.

  • Coral White
    April 3, 2019 9:41pm

    Thanks David! I will be in Paris June 18-23 staying at the Hotel Uno across from the BHV. I am going to sign up for a class! I am so excited!

  • Claire LS
    April 3, 2019 9:51pm

    Living in Canada, Air Canada gets dumped on all the time so I am sure they will appreciate that someone of your caliber thought the food wasn’t bad:)

    I will be in Paris next month and will look up this place. Thank you for all of your suggestions; I have used many on previous trips.

    • April 4, 2019 3:54am
      David Lebovitz

      I took four (4!) flights on Air Canada last month and the staff was very, very nice on all of them, and the food was good. Some of the planes were excellent and a few others, well…were a bit tired. But I was really surprised at how good the food was. I had chicken thighs served over a bed of grains that was actually really good.

  • Arlene of VA
    April 3, 2019 10:42pm

    This post makes me want to visit Paris again! I wonder if Pineau is sold in the USA so that I can try it. I am recommending this article to my friends.

    • April 4, 2019 3:52am
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, it is available in the U.S. A well-stocked liquor store would have it. It makes a lovely apéritif served chilled in a wine glass, with an ice cube floating in it, if you wish. But it’s best chilled.

  • Heather
    April 3, 2019 11:22pm

    Merci David, just as I was eating yogurt and drinking tea to avoid End-of-Day temptations by wine & cheese…

    So in brief recap, the score is –
    Wine: 1
    Cheese: 1
    Me: 0

  • Susan
    April 4, 2019 12:27am

    Wonderful post …will print out to have with me on next visit to Paris … Merci beaucoup.
    Also, I have taken many classes at La Cuisine…all sorts of desserts, all have been excellent. Now if I would only make them at home!

  • Christine Anderson
    April 4, 2019 12:46am

    Ii really loved this story. So engaging and the food looked and sounded absolutely wonderful. Thank you David.

  • Francine Helene
    April 4, 2019 3:05am

    Thanks again for this beautiful post. I really miss France, the country of my birth. If you are so inclined, perhaps one day you can do something on Alsatian food. Thanks for all your beautiful work.

  • Maureen in Oakland
    April 4, 2019 5:45am

    MI-AAAAM. This is definitely on my list for my next visit, coming right up the end of this month.

  • April 4, 2019 9:33am

    How many people does a 770g cassoulet serve? One cuisse de canard, one saucisse de Toulouse and one hunk of pork per person…that’s a lot to fit into that jar. We had visitors recently and bought a prepared cassoulet from a butcher in les halles in Carcassonne. It came in the cassole, ready to pop into the oven. We paid a deposit for the dish and were reimbursed when we brought it back. It came out to €7 per person! Quite the bargain. And it was divine.
    I am amazed every time I go to the airport. Despite ever more security controls, the other lines have disappeared. In the period when security increased but technology hadn’t caught up, you had to allow another 30-45 minutes to wait in line to check in. So there’s some progress.

  • peggy
    April 4, 2019 1:35pm

    The packaging alone in France is so splendid. Find I buy all kinds of things just for the lovely, folksy art work on the wrapping. These photos certainly didn’t disappoint.

  • Emma
    April 4, 2019 4:39pm

    Seems great and not to far from my job, except for the Beaufort, I mean 42€/kg ! That is a hefty price tag.
    But the produces look superb, especially the ham, a must try I think.

    • April 4, 2019 10:45pm
      David Lebovitz

      The Beaufort is more expensive than other cheeses, and other Beauforts, but the quality of it is very high and it’s made on a small family farm, hence the elevated price. (Although outside of France, that would be considered a bargain!)

  • Kirsten Herold
    April 4, 2019 5:10pm

    OMG, thanks for helping me avoid my work successfully with such a fantastic post. We usually stay in that area when we are in Paris (less touristy, and much cheaper than some other places) and can’t wait to go back there and visit this fantastic looking shop.

  • Shira McKernan
    April 4, 2019 5:20pm

    I had the opportunity to sample and purchase some delicious charcuterie from La Cignogne at your book signing. I’ve since followed them on Instagram but have yet to make it to the store. I think this post, especially the pictures of the bear’s garlic, will encourage a visit as soon as possible!

    • April 4, 2019 10:41pm
      David Lebovitz

      It’s a nice shop for sure and just tasting their things at the event made me want to go there. Was happy that I did!

  • Meg O
    April 4, 2019 10:26pm

    Wonderful post, thank you so much. But note that La Cigogne is misspelled several times. You will probably need the correct spelling to find it online!

    • April 4, 2019 10:41pm
      David Lebovitz

      Oops! I see I missed a few of the “g”‘s in a couple places. I was focusing so much on all the photos that I overlooked those. – thanks!

  • Kristen
    April 5, 2019 5:24am

    Wonderful pictures and write up. Thanks for sharing.

  • April 6, 2019 2:53pm

    Wow, if that place were in my backyard I’d have a hard time not spending a good chunk of my paycheck there! Everything looks and sounds incredible from your descriptions – definitely bookmarking for my next visit to Paris.

  • Bonnie
    April 7, 2019 6:19am

    Your killing me with your gorgeous picture of not one—but 3 different Beaufort cheeses. I had to go through great difficulties to obtain a large chunk of Beaufort d’été in time for Christmas holidays here in Colorado. It was amazingly yummy. Gotta have it again this year. Quel fromage!