The tour I choose for us is run by the crew from Parisian food review website, Paris by Mouth. To say they know their stuff is a bit of an understatement. Out tour was run by Catherine, an American ex-pat living in Paris and writing about food, glorious (French) food. She's surely living the dream right?
Our tour kicks off at Laurent Dubois Fromagerie (47 ter St Germaine Blvd). I knew that I wanted to eat A LOT of French cheese whilst in Paris and this seemed like a GREAT place to start my cheese dream, and the food tour. By the way if you're watching this season of Masterchef then you would’ve seen this store on their Paris episode.
I was REALLY keen to try Fromage Au Lait Cru, or raw milk cheese, as it's something we don't get at home. I actually thought that Fromage Au Lait Cru was just one type of cheese - you know like cheddar, but it turns out that a whole BUNCH of cheese are made from raw milk (or unpasteurized milk) and we tried a full gamut of them, Chèvre (Sheep's milk cheese), Comté, Roquefort, Camembert with stewed apples in side...or lordly! HEAVEN on earth.
For me the raw milk cheese tasted...more real, more like it comes from an animal that eats grass, grass that has flavours affected by the seasons. It tasted more pure, more old-worldy, and also other-worldy at the same time. The cheese tasted earthy, raw and of animal...in a good way. I felt like I was eating REAL food that hadn't been messed about by over-processing and the like.
We tried a cheese that was so oozy and so stinky that I thought The Boy had taken off his socks in order to air them out (it was good cheese by the way).
I kinda loose my mind in this shop - running around like a crazed mouse gaping opened mouthed at all the cheese and stuffing my mouth with any samples I see laying around! Visiting this store, and trying all these raw milk cheeses was one of my food dreams come true!
|Here I am, scoffing ALL the cheese samples!|
Next stop was right next door – Charcuteire St Germaine. In fact there are a bunch of GREAT food stores right next door to each other and 47 ter St Germain Blvd is a GREAT place to do some shopping for a picnic, or dinner in your apartment.
I guess a charcuterie is best described as a “cured meat” shop that also sells some other things like delicious salads. It’s not a butchers shop – more like a cheeseless deli. If butchery was the domain of the Frenchman-of-the-house then charcuterie, or curing meats was the domain of the woman. We were told that Charcuteries developed as a business after the French Revolution when all the chefs/cooks to the fancy pants royalty found themselves out of work…
The Boy and I discussed the “foie gras situation” before we left home – would we eat it given we’re not happy with the farming practices that produce it? We decided that if was put in front of us in France, the home of foie gras, we’d try it. I mainly wanted to see what all the fuss is about and to see if the farming practices of force-feeding the geese until their livers are so HUGE that they simple cannot stand up produces something so amazing that we simple must have it no matter what. Is the flavour of foie gras so mind-blowingly delicious that we turn a blind eye to a bit of animal suffering?
For me, nope it’s not. It fact it doesn’t even rate up there in the top 100 things I’ve ever eaten. I totally don’t get what all the fuss is about – the texture is like hard just-out-of-the-fridge butter and the flavour is, well kind of “meh” to be honest – like pate, but (to me) not as nice at pate (and yes, this was the good stuff! Made in-house and by hand by the crew in this charcuterie. They also only use pure liver – no fillers of other stuff that you may find elsewhere).
Now rillette on the other hand. OH. MY. GOD! This stuff is amazing – I’ve always liked it, but a week in Paris has upgraded my rillette liking into a pure addiction. It may look like cat vomit, but this salted, shredded goose meat (or pork or duck) is wonderful. It’s fatty, salty, unctuous and I was eating it as often as I could (yes, even for breakfast smeared on my morning baguette). The rillette we tried on the tour was goose and it was FANTASTIC (forget foie gras people, rillette is where it’s at)!
So if you have cheese and cured meats you’re going to need some bread, right? We head up the road to one of Paris’ many many boulangeries! Bread is SO important to Parisians that when the whole city basically shuts up shop for the month of August (for their mass exodus for the summer) there is a government department who coordinates the holidays of all the boulangeries to ensure that each neighbourhood is not left breadless. I kid you not.
On the tour we learnt the best way to identify a “hand-made” baguette and also how to order a croissant made with butter (as many are made with margarine – quelle horror)! Both of these tips came in handy during our stay in Paris.
Oh, you want to know the tips too? Well, your baguette should have a smooth base with a material imprint (indicating it’s not been on a conveyor belt), it should be firm, not floppy with uneven air bubbles inside and have a real “crack” when you break it in half. And as for the croissant, a straight shaped croissant is usually made with butter, whilst the margarine impostors are the crescent shaped ones. If in doubt ask for a “un croissant au beurre, s'il vous plait”.
Whilst we were the boulangerie I quickly ordered a few treats that I’ve been wanting to try – a Madeline (tastes like a little sponge cake), canelé and choux topped with sugar crystals (puff pastry type of thing). I LOVED the canelé as it was so moist and dense and had a great rich, smoky flavour from the use of rum in the mixture. I could take or leave the other too - I guess cheese, not pastry, is more my thing.
It would be remiss to have a Paris food tour without stopping at a chocolate shop (or two). Patrick Roger is famous for a few things Firstly his unusual flavours such as basil and lime; and secondly for his enormous animal sculptures made out of chocolate! Sounds weird but he uses the sculptures as a way of drawing attention to the plight of our endangered animals (he’s even made full-sized elephant out of chocolate – wow)!
Henri Le Roux is famous, we’re told, as he is the creator of what must now be the world’s most favourite sweet – salted caramel.
We get to try some of the salted caramel sweets and The Boy buys a big old jar of the stuff to have drizzled over ice-cream once we get home.
Our tour finishes up at a little wine bar (cave de vin) in the back streets of St Germaine. We ensconce ourselves in the back room and sip on wine was our guide Catherine busts out her bags of cheeses, meats, breads and sweets.
It’s a GREAT way to end the tour as we all sit around and relax as we enjoy each morsel of food presented to you.
Places visited during our Taste of the Left Bank food tour:
- Laurent Dubois fromagerie at 47 Boulevard Saint-Germain
- Patrick Roger chocolate at 108 boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006
- Eric Kayser bakery at 14 Rue Monge, 75006
- La Dernière Goutte wine shop at 6 rue Bourbon le Château, 75006
- Henri Le Roux chocolate & caramels at 1 rue de Bourbon le Château, 75006