France is for many synonymous with food, so what could be more natural than to experience this part of the culture with a local who knows the food scene as her own pocket?
The website WithLocals has gathered residents in several cities all over the world, offering various excursions, meals in private homes, and as I was now about to try; food tours. I previously had good experience from this service, so I was very eager to repeat the success. To be completely honest, this was the first thing I checked after the plane tickets were booked.
I instantly fell for the trip “Paris Favourite Food tour: the 10 Tastings” and thought that it had to be the perfect way to be acquainted with the Parisian food culture.
A few weeks later the time was suddenly there. One of my weaknesses is to underestimate how long it takes to go from one place to another in big cities, but Maria waited patiently outside a bakery right next to Marche d’Aligre. This was also where she bought the classic long French baguette that would accompany us through the streets. The first time was in symphony with lovely tapenade from one of the stalls of the Marche d’Aligre. The variations were many, so we were having a really hard time determining which one to choose before we decided to rely on Maria’s taste buds and went for her favorite; Tapenade with basil. We did not regret, and consumed pieces of baguette dipped in tapenade while Maria knowledgeable told us about this historical place. Marche d’Aligre is dating back to the 1700 ‘s, but since it is a wooden construction, parts of it has burned many times. The market hall is a historic building, and therefore has to be rebuilt the same way as the original.
Marche d’Aligre is the local market in District 12. All districts have their own market, but this is the only one in Paris being open throughout the week. Here you will find all kinds of fresh produce from the countryside, depending on the season.
We went for a walk around and looked at all the delights while working up the appetite. Fortunately, next stop was not far away.
Right across the street from the market, we sat down at Charolais, a popular bar among the people working at the market. It is the only place in Paris open for breakfast as early as 06.00. We were way passed that hour now though, and oysters were next on the menu. According to Maria, are these the best oysters in Paris, and are delivered from the market. I have to admit that oysters are not a part of my everyday food, but we enjoyed a few pieces each with a little bit of lemon squeezed on top. Super fresh and delicious!
From salty and bitter, we were now heading for sweet. As we walked through the streets, Maria told us about the area. For the small community it is important to maintain the offers available, so if a bakery had to close down, people who want to start up a new bakery has priority. Thanks to this, it had been a bakery at the premises of our next stop for 150 years.
Paris-Brest is a cake that is inspired by the bicycle race that runs between the two cities. Originally, it was formed like a bicycle wheel with a hole in the middle, but is now available in various shapes. With cream of hazelnut and chestnut, and pastry with almonds, this is not something for nut allergic. For us on the other hand, it was lovely.
French wine was next runner up, pared with cheeses and cured meats. The location was a combined wine shop, bar and gallery, a quiet and comfortable place. They only offer organic wine, so Maria could assure that our teeth would still be white, and we would not get a headache. If consumption was moderate, that is….
The wine was so good that we stayed for a bit longer than planned. Moving on, we continued through narrow passages and around historic sites, and the trendy design- and party area in the 11th District, before we reached a delicate cheese store. It was too much to choose from, so again we relied on Maria’s recommendation; a sharp blue cheese. The baguette that had accompanied us throughout the evening again came to use.
From flavorful cheese it was time for sweet dessert again. The selection of macrons at Maison Georges Larnicol were many, but we were able to coordinate by taking two different flavors each and taste from each other. Heavenly!
Georges Larnicol is originally from the region of Brittany, and followed in his father’s footsteps and became the pastry chef and opened his first pastry shop in the 80’s. He quickly made success and opened more stores in the region. In 2010, he started his first one in Paris, but despite his success, he is one of the few pastry chefs and chocolatiers that keep the prices affordable. He believes that quality should be available to all. A nice philosophy.
The original tour would have continued on to sample some Galette au fromage (a savory crepe made of buckwheat) but we completely fell for the charm of the restaurants in the archways around the Place des Vosges when we passed by earlier, so we decided to go back there instead. The square was built between 1605 and 1612, and is the oldest in Paris. Originally it was named Place Royale, and was an important meeting place for the nobility. After the revolution, the square was renamed to take the name of the first region in France that did not pay the royal tax.
We found a spot by the heating lamps outside Ma Bourgogne. The warm toned lighting under the archways created a unique ambiance while we enjoyed even more French specialties; snails and beef tartar. And a little more French wine, of course.
Maria was the perfect guide, combining the experience of eating our way through Paris with educational facts. Even if Maria is the one designing the tour, she has taught the route to several others who can give you good experiences in this wonderful food universe if she is not available.
Were you tempted by this wonderful dining experience in Paris? The trip “Paris Favourite Food tour: the 10 Tastings” can also be customized, as we ended up doing. Since we chose a more expensive option, we paid the extra at the last restaurant. You can also plan your own version with the guide in advance.
In addition to the food tour, you can also see other experiences in Paris offered by With Locals.