Archive | April, 2012

My top 10: The best addresses for cheese shopping and finding a good coffee in Paris

30 Apr

It’s about time I shared the love. Two of my great loves are of course: coffee… and the other you already know — cheese. Not necessarily together or in that order! I’m often asked for tips and addresses on both of these subjects so I have compiled my top 10 and made interactive maps for both the lists. After all, what trip to Paris is complete without eating too much cheese? Then after all the fun of running around buying and tasting it, you will be needing a good coffee to pick you back up again if you want to make it on your last legs to that pastry shop…

Coffee and latte in Paris

COFFEE:

Let’s start with coffee, since it’s rather problematic in this city. A good friend of mine recently moved for a six-week stay in Paris and called me in a panic: “All the coffee is so aaaaawful here… what am I going to dooooo?? Why can’t I just go into a café and drink a decent latte?”

And she’s absolutely right. Unlike cheese, the good stuff is simply not common and easily available in this city, in fact, getting a real coffee is more like a treasure hunt — you almost need to plan your day/meeting around it to make sure you get your fix in one of the very few places that know how to make it. There has been a lot of press on the issue recently, and the scene is quickly changing for the better thanks to French-Australian partnerships who are raising the bar, such as Café Lomi who supply most of the places on my list.

So here is the list I gave my latte-longing friend. There is hope, I promise.

Where to get a good Latte / drink real coffee in Paris:

Café Lomi Paris 18eme
Black Market – Paris 18eme
Le Bal Café – Paris 18eme Clichy
KB Café Shop (formerly Kooka Boora) – Paris 9eme
Coutume Café – Paris 7eme
Sugarplum Cakeshop and Café – Paris 5eme
L’inconnu Bar/Café – Paris 10eme
Ten Belles – Paris 10eme
Télescope (great coffee in a central part of town) – Paris 1eme
Vélo Café (mobile coffee cart at Place de la Bourse) – Paris 2eme
Alto Café (mobile coffee cart at Galeries Lafayette and Passage du Havre) – Paris 9eme.

cafe lomi latte

L’art du Cafe at Lomi, Paris. Image © Rachel Bajada

CHEESE:

First things first, I need to lay down the rules of engagement here: no cheating and buying cheese at the supermarket! Sure, you may be able to find a decent fresh chèvre or biodynamic faisselle in the dairy isle, maybe even the occasional genuine AOC Camembert, but the vast majority of cheeses sold in big chains like Monoprix, Carrefour and Franprix are industrially processed, inferior, pasteurized milk cheeses which are actually slowly killing the real artisanal cheese industry in this country. Sadly, a growing number of French cheeses become extinct every year due to the industrialisation of the French dairy industry so please be a conscious cheese shopper and support artisanal cheese makers and small businesses by favouring quality over convenience and bargain basement price tags.

There is only one time and one reason only when you have an excuse to buy in the supermarket, and that’s if it’s your last stop in Paris and you’re buying cheese to take on the flight home. This leads me to my next important piece of advice and a common question:

Can I take raw milk French cheese back through Australian customs?

The answer is YES, you sure can! There is just one catch. Firstly, you must of course declare it on your arrival card, but as long as the cheese you bring in is “commercially prepared and packaged and originate from countries free from foot and mouth disease” you are allowed to bring it in. And don’t worry, as long as you wrap it in lots of layers of plastic and foil to avoid your entire luggage smelling of cheese, it will certainly last and wont spoil during the long journey home.

Because of this, you can’t just go to the farmers markets and buy a fresh unpackaged cheese to take overseas; so this is when the supermarket may be your only option. I have done this numerous times without problems but usually I stop at Galleries Lafayette Gourmand or la Grande Epicerie where they stock a good range of quality raw milk cheeses with sufficient labelling and packaging to keep you off Border Control at prime time. If you do however find yourself in a sticky situation with customs, here is how to successfully talk your way out of it.

The full details on Australian quarantine regulations can be found at the daff.gov.au site here. I regret that I don’t know enough about current regulations in the US, UK and Canada etc. to provide them but if you know please drop a comment below.

My favourite places to buy and taste cheese in Paris:

Fromagerie SecrétanParis 19eme (owners are extremely friendly and helpful and they stock a range of beautiful seasonal and special cheeses)

Galerie Fayette Gourmande – For the pre-flight stock-up to take home

Market bio 17eme and Marche bio Raspail. Excellent organic/biodynamic producers of goats cheeses and nearly every French cheese you could dream of. More expensive but worth it, make sure you get there before midday. The markets are my weekend sport.Hah.

La Ferme Saint Hubert FromagerieParis 9eme. You will smell it before you find it. This is a good thing. Very traditional with a great range.
A memorable shopping experience.

Quatre Hommes CrèmerieParis 7eme. A top quality cheese shop which also produces and sells exciting new cheese varieties such as Pistachio Brie.

CantinParis 7eme. Run by cheese queen Marie-Anne Cantin fromager de tradition and Affineur with 7 impressive caves, the shop has been open since her father set it up in 1950.

Marche BastilleParis 11eme. Here you will find a few great stands with excellent cheeses. My favourite is the best Burrata I have found in Paris from the Spanish and Italian food stall. You can also find more exotic cheeses such as Guinness Cheddar and Goats Milk blue. Photos here

Alléosse Paris 17eme. Stocks an impressive array of artisanal AOC cheeses such as camemberts, Saint Marcellins, a large choice of chèvres and the best part- a selection of rare, hard to find cheeses such as Persillé de Tignes made by the last remaining producers of their kind in the country.

Mmmozza – Italian Mozarella and cheeses – Paris 3eme. A great spot to buy giant buffalo burrata, fresh burrata from Puglia, smoked and classic Mozzarella and Treccia, other Italian cheeses and excellent Prosciutto and Parma hams, in the heart of the Marais and a stroll from Marche des Enfants Rouge.

The ultimate cheese selection at Edouard Loubet, Bonnieux France. Photo courtesy of Arturo Zavala Haag www.arturozavala.com

Ready for the suitcase: Black Truffle Brie at Lafayette Gourmet, Paris

The art of Easter. Chocolate egg design reaches new heights in Paris

8 Apr

Paris at Easter kind of reminds me of the characters in desperate housewives. Just as Gabrielle and Marcia would secretly aim to outdo each other with their good-willed neighbourly ‘bake-offs’, the designer chocolate boutiques in Paris launch full-scale campaigns to boast the most impressive designer Easter egg display in town. There is no mucking around in this city– ‘Haute chocolat’ at Easter in Paris is rather serious, not to mention – lucrative business.

This year’s designs are particularly extravagant and the window displays in every chocolate shop are filled with outrageously gigantic, painstakingly sculpted designer chocolate eggs and fantastical themed window displays as the stores are packed to the rafters with excited Parisian chocoholics purchasing designer eggs and gifts aimed to impress. So impressive in fact, I doubt many of these eggs ever actually get eaten. Here’s a selection of some of my favourite designs from this year, and some scenes from the streets of Paris this Easter.

2012 paris designer chocolate easter eggs

The Designer Dozen. Paris' most impressive designer chocolate eggs on display for Easter 2012. Clockwise from top left: Painting Pots by Jadis et Gourmande, Patrick Roger, Jean-Paul Hevin, Dalloyau, L’Avocat Surprise Des Gâteaux & Du Pain, La Duree Anniversary Limited Edition, Pollock framed by Jadis et Gourmande, Mazet flower egg, Marcolini "Chef d'Oeuf", L’Œuf de Tortue de Jean-Paul Hévin, Pollock egg by Monoprix, Hédiard Œuf Zèbre

chef-oeuf-marcolini-2012

One of my personal favorites. The Marcolini "Chef d'Oeuf" is made of dark chocolate with a pralinated puffed rice base. At 89€ a piece, it seems I have expensive taste...
Image © Pierre Marcolini

Patrickrogereaster-2

Simple elegance. Less is more with the class and style of Master chocolatier Patrick Roger. 
Image © Patrick Roger

jean paul hevin easter egg

Sculpture meets chocolate. The "Œuf de Tortue" (Turtle Rgg) by Jean-Paul Hévin.
Image © Jean-Paul Hévin

laduree oeuf petale

More than just macarons. Ladurée's anniversary limited edition celebrates 150 years. The stunning Oeuf Petale design is adorned with pralinated flower petals.
Image © Ladurée

oeuf_pollock_20_cm_avec_cadre_2012

Chocolate art. Literally. The Pollock framed collection by Jadis et Gourmande comes in small, medium and HUGE. Image © Jadis et Gourmande

Dalloyau easter egg

The intricate design by Dalloyau is complete with a tiny singing nightingale etched into pearly chocolate. It's very pretty, and very pricey. Starting at 70€.
Image © Dalloyau

Maison Mazet is first a confectionery that Leon Mazet bought 107 years ago. In their Easter window display are 3 giant "Prasline de Montargis" caramelised almond eggs. Image © Rachel Bajada

kids in paris shop window

The giant praline eggs at Mazet confectioners literally stop curious passers-by in their tracks. Image © Rachel Bajada

window display at maison la mère de famille

The 2012 Easter window display at la Maison la mère de famille - Paris' oldest chocolate shop.    Image © Rachel Bajada

Chocolate filled hens eggs

          The real deal. Chocolate praline filled hens eggs at Jadis et Gourmande, Paris.                                 Image © Rachel Bajada

Paris dog in chocolate shop

A parisien dog waits patiently at the door of the Mazet boutique as his owner buys him a fancy   Easter treat. Image © Rachel Bajada

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