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10 things to eat in Paris

10 things to eat in Paris

by Caroline Morrish 07 January 2019

Caroline Morrish eats her way around the French capital, picking out ten must-try specialities for anyone visiting the beautiful food-obsessed city and where to buy them.

Paris is a food lover’s paradise. Known for for its Michelin-starred restaurants and fine dining scene, it is also home to some of the finest food shops and markets in Europe; you can spend many happy hours wandering round the city sampling food as you go. From exquisite pâtisserie and confectionery to artisan cheese and rustic breads, here’s my guide to the most quintessential of Parisian foods, and where best to find them. Bon appetit!

1. Baguette

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The traditional, uniquely shaped French bread is made from a recipe that is defined by French law, using only wheat flour, water, yeast and salt. More than just a delicious crust to have for breakfast or lunch, the humble stick has cultural significance with President Emmanuel Macron saying: ‘The French baguette should be listed as a UNESCO intangible cultural treasure as it is the envy of the whole world.’ You’ll find excellent examples of the baguette tradition in neighbourhood boulangeries across the city, but the bread with the official title of best baguette in Paris is this year’s winner of the Grand Prix de la Baguette – Boulangerie 2M in the 14th arrondissement.

2. Cheese

You can buy some pretty decent cheese from Paris’s various supermarkets and food retailers, however a dedicated fromagerie is where you’ll find the most interesting artisanal French varieties. These dedicated cheesemongers pride themselves on sourcing the best regional cheeses and staff are highly knowledgeable on all things dairy. Laurent Dubois has the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France (the highest classification of cheesemonger in the country) and owns three shops across the city. Here cheeses are aged in caves beneath the stores, many for longer than the usual length of time to give an extra depth of flavour and complexity of texture. Upstairs, the shelves are stacked with cheese from all over France, with a special focus on Comté and a signature Roquefort which is layered with rich, sweet quince paste.

3. Croissant

No trip to Paris would be complete without sampling this classic flaky pastry for breakfast and most bakeries in the city make their own version on the premises. For one of the best examples head to the well-known Du Pain et Des Idees. This pretty boulangerie dates back to 1870, and specialises in traditionally made breads and pastries. Buy a croissant to devour immediately and a pain des amis, a wood-fired loaf made with heritage grains, for later. However, if you’re looking to get your croissant fix on a weekend this address, along with most of the traditional boulangeries in Paris, will be closed. Instead head ten minutes up the road to the excellent modern bakery Utopie which is open Tuesday to Sunday. This small, award-winning shop has a fantastic range of breakfast pastries, including croissants and their rather special charcoal sesame swirls.

4. Rum Baba

This sweet sponge saturated with rum and vanilla syrup and topped with cream is said to have been introduced to France by King Stanislaus of Poland who, after being exiled to the Lorraine in the eighteenth century, asked his chef Nicolas Stohrer to recreate the raisin brioches, usually served with Tokaji wine, he had enjoyed at home. He named Stohrer’s creations ‘rum baba’ because of his love of Arabian Nights stories. His pastry chef then went on to open his own patisserie Stohrer in Paris after moving to the city, and the shop still stands there today. Something of a visitor attraction, the food emporium on rue Montorgueil is picture perfect, retaining its antique facade and interior. Pick up a sticky rum baba and one of its glistening eclairs or tarts, too.

5. Chocolate

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French chocolate-making is an art form and Paris is home to many high-end chocolatiers. These artisanal shops look more like swanky jewellery stores than food outlets, with perfect, polished chocolate creations presented in gleaming cabinets and handled by irreverent staff with white gloves. One such church to chocolate is Jacques Genin in the Marais. All the confections here are made on the premises in the laboratoire kitchens upstairs, using the finest ingredients. Customers can choose from luxurious tablets of milk or dark chocolate, or make up their own boxes from the exquisite selection of interesting flavours on offer, such as the signature Roma which is a hazelnut praline infused with raspberry. The store also sells glorious, smooth caramel sweets and is a great place to enjoy another Paris speciality, chocolate chaud (see below).

6. Chocolat chaud

Forget the thin, sweet brown drink you think you know as hot chocolate, the Parisian version is something completely different. Rich, dark and as close to drinking a bar of chocolate as you can get, chocolat chaud falls somewhere between a pudding and a beverage. Jacques Genin gives the drink the afternoon tea treatment, serving the luxurious, warm, velvety liquid in a teapot with whipped cream and a couple of their gourmet chocolates on the side. Or head to genteel Angelina, the cafe institution situated a stone’s throw from the Louvre and order ‘the African’. Made to a secret recipe, from a blend of three kinds of chocolate, the silky drink is served in a cup and saucer.

7. Galettes

You can pick up a warm, made-to-order pancake from stands around Paris for a few euros. With basic fillings such as ham and cheese they make a great on-the-go snack. But to enjoy a meal of galettes, served in the traditional way with a glass of cider, try one of the capital’s dedicated restaurants. Les Freres Breton, near the Eiffel Tower, has a great menu of savoury pancakes with fillings such as ham, egg and Emmental, or goat’s cheese, fried onions and salad and sweet crepes with lemon, sugar, or caramel for pudding.

8. Macarons

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Pretty in their pastel hues, these French delicacies are probably some of the most recognised treats in the world. Macarons themselves were originally introduced to France by Italian Queen Catherine de’Medici who married Henry II of France in 1533. However, the distinctive meringue sandwich we now know as the macaron, with a buttercream or ganache filling between two almond meringue shells, is said to have been invented by the patissiers of Paris, and is sometimes known as the Paris Macaron. You can’t talk about macarons without mentioning Laduree, the largest macaron house in the world, which is often credited with popularising the little sweets. However, another contender for the macaron crown is Maison Pierre Herme which has a clutch of macaron shops across Paris and beyond, or for a more modern twist seek out the Japanese-inspired creations of Sadaharu Aoki.

9. Jambon-beurre

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After falling out of favour for many years, this most traditional of Parisian snacks has come back into fashion. This is thanks to a new wave of purveyors that are serving artisanal versions of the two-ingredient baguette, using only the best bread, ham and butter to simple perfection. The family run L’Epicerie Julhes deli and grocery store in the 11th arrondissement makes a great version of the sandwich – a rustic baguette spread with large pats of salted or unsalted butter and freshly sliced Parisian jambon blanc.

10. Rotisserie chicken

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Rotisserie ovens are a constant installation at food markets and outside butchers’ shops in Paris (and cities across France). Whole chickens, threaded onto a spit, rotate as they cook until they reach peak golden deliciousness and are ready to be bought and taken home. But if you want to enjoy some poulet roti while you are visiting your best bet is to head to a rotisserie restaurant, many of which bring their own special spin and flavourings to the simple roast bird. Le Coq Rico in Montmatre sources heritage breed birds direct from farmers, which are slow-cooked in broth to make them super tender before being roasted to crispy perfection. Whole birds are served to share with fries or macaroni gratin and salad.

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