Sunday, October 9, 2011
My Parisian Food Tour...Sa Bonne
As you all know, my recent travels to France, Germany and the UK have certainly brought on some exciting food adventures. One particular one I wanted to highlight here was the Gourmet French Food tour I took of the Latin Quarter. It stands as one of the big highlights of my weekend there, as I got a glimpse of the local food scene from the perspective of a local.
When I arrived in Paris for work, I knew I had to get business out of the way during the week, but the weekend was for fun and exploration. I craved to uncover the amazing eats this city had to offer, but very much like in NY, you have to know where to find the good stuff.
I perused the web for interesting (and last minute) food programs and found this really neat sounding walking tour on Classic French Food on viator.com. This site offers many other tours besides food related ones, and I ended up booking another bike tour of the city later that weekend. But back to the food...
Easy instructions led me to the Latin Quarter in Paris, not far from the St. Germain neighborhood where we met our tour guide, Yves. We took a few minutes to get acquainted with the group, which consisted of a healthy mix of Europeans and Americans. You could pick the latter out without much effort, and even though they played up the stereotype pretty well, they were a sweet, older couple who seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves.
After the pleasantries, we were off to explore the amazing world of French food, starting with the open food market near the Maubert/Mutualite metro stop. After that, we strolled to about 4 or 5 different places of interest for food and also saw some really cool architectural sights and a few secret hidden gems that only our tour guide knew about. The whole thing was quite cool, and I'd highly suggest it if you're curious about not only French food but also culture.
I couldn't be happier with our guide, Yves. He was charismatic, intelligent and so so passionate about Paris and all the amazing things it had to offer. It was obvious he had a deep appreciation for food, but I think he also genuinely enjoyed showing us those secret little nuggets of Paris that only a true Parisian would know about.
In fact, I liked the tour so much that I joined him later that day for another tour of Montmartre, a beautiful part of Paris known for the breathtaking Sacre Coeur church and the Moulin Rouge of course.
The star ingredient of this tour was no doubt the food. We hit up the open market, which was small yet lovely, with tons of fresh produce, some of which you see showcased in the above pictures. Yves explained that while some of the produce was locally grown, not all of it fell into this category, and it was obvious by looking at the prices. The fact that Yves paid about 6 Euro for a pint of gorgeous (but not local) raspberries was astounding. $8 for raspberries...you gotta be kidding me!
A very cool food artisan that Yves introduced us to was the saucisson man - yep, that would be the sausage man. The variety of cured sausages he displayed in his booth was just amazing, and we got to taste a lot of different varieties. One in particular that stole my tastebuds was the fig thyme that had a little hint of sweetness at the finish and an overall sophisticated flavor. I've never tasted anything like it and was only regretful I couldn't bring some home.
We also visited a beautiful little coffee shop that brews their own coffee and grinds the beans in this big, old fashioned pressure grinder. It was just wild to see, and the end result was fantastic. I had a cafe Americano, which smelled and tasted divine - it was strong and fragrant and really didn't need much of anything including milk, because the intense flavor was just too good to dilute.
The main highlight of the tour however was at the end, when we got to do a cheese and foie gras tasting. Yves took us to Pierre Champion, a foie gras shop, where we got to taste wonderful duck foie on some really amazing crusty dark bread that we picked up along the way. As for the cheese, we got this just a few doors down at Androuet, where we helped ourselves to a sampling of both hard and soft cheeses out of which the comte (a hard cheese with a slightly sweet finish), and the goat (tangy, creamy and earthy) were some my favorites.
Considering how rich in taste, culture and fulfillment this tour was, the price of 90 Euro was more than worth it. I met some lovely people, tasted amazing food and immersed myself in French culture. Tres magnifique!
To try this tour our on your own next time you're in Paris, visit Viator.com