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Food shopping in Paris -- what is worthy to schlep home?

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I'm going to be in Paris for the first time for a long weekend and have set aside one day to shop. Whenever I go to Italy, my favorite thing to do is find a good grocery store and roam the isles finding all kinds of fun things to bring home for myself (I love to cook) and as gifts. Things as simple as olive paste or imaginative bullion cube flavors make me so happy. So here's my question -- what would you bring home from France? I've heard a lot about mustards there, any specific brand recs? How about sweets? Any great candies? Really, just tell me any little yummy things you would stash in your suitcase (to be checked, of course, since it seems like most things these days aren't making it through as carry ons) if you were going to be in Paris. Also -- any great grocery store recs? Thanks in advance!!

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  1. Go to the food hall at Bon Marche and Galerie Layfayette--you will find amazing stuff. I always bring home some fleur du sel and other foodie goodies from those places. For wonderful honey go to the place just off Place Madeleine (can't remember the name). If you can find it Christine Ferber jam is a revelation--try Pierre Herve they sometimes have it. While you are there pick up some macarons. I go to the Monoprix for other French food products. While not food, check out the toilet paper options at the super market--great gifts.
    I usually pick up dried mushrooms, at very good prices at Monoprix. Oh and while in Place Madeleine for honey dash into Maille for violet mustard--still not available in NA as far as I know. Aside from that you can go to one or more of the shopping streets like rue Cler, rue Buci or rue Mouffetarde. Check out which markets are open. My favourite is on Blvd. Richard Lenoir, near the Bastille. Have fun--walk, look, learn and watch.

    1. Maille mustard: The Madeleine boutique actually offers 30+ varieties of mustard alone - plus vinegars, cornichons, etc. They also dispense classic Dijon on tap into stoneware pots sealed with parchment paper and widemouth corks. It must be vacuum sealed to survive the flight - even carry-on - ask them or a cheese shop very nicely to seal it for you (no guarantees but I've done it).

      Christine Ferber jam: She creates a few special and seasonal jams exclusively for Pierre Herme, but Lafayette Gourmet at Galeries Lafayette (Haussmann location only) carries the largest selection in Paris. While you're there, do eat at the best food court in the city - arguably the best anywhere - from artisanal baguette sandwiches at Maison Kayser to matcha green tea mille-feuille at Patisserie Aoki.

      Paris Opera house honey: Courtesy of the bees that live on the roof of the Paris Opera Garnier (not Bastille) Their honey is a uniquely Parisian produced product - though relatively expensive. It's occasionally available at the Opera house and Fauchon - the luxury grocer, Madeleine location only. Honey shops include La Maison du Miel (near Madeleine), Les Ruchers de Roy, and Les Abeilles.

      Jean-Paul Hevin chocolate: Paris chocolate shops can be intimidating - in price and service - but Hevin (one of the greatest chocolatiers in the world) created a casual, self-service, alternative boutique - Hevin 2. It's chock-full of child-like treats - if you're childhood was incredibly privileged. His chocolate macaroons are the best - actually better than Pierre Herme (we're just comparing chocolate macaroons). Hevin is also infamous for his cheese filled chocolates - meant to be enjoyed as aperitifs - they are cheesy and chocolatey.

      I always bring back three things from Paris for my friends and family - bread, cheese, and absinthe. Get a whole round loaf from Poilane; seasonal cheese from Marie-Anne Cantin; and absinthe from Vert d'Absinthe.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Louisa Chu

        Wow! I've cut and paste this reply and put it on my "Paris Notes" page, which of course will be coming with me on my trip. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. I'm not sure if I'm more excited about the trip now or about the gifts and goodies I'll be bringing back!

        1. re: Louisa Chu

          this was the best post ever and it makes me want to go back to Paris ASAP.

        2. The place for honey that faijay mentions is La Maison du Miel (24, rue Vignon). We have gotten wonderful honey there. One of the guides they have for their honeys specifies what ailment it is good for. I never knew it had medicinal uses other than to soothe a sore throat.
          It is within several blocks of Maille. We bought a 500g crock which was filled by pump with mustard at Maille. Then you bring the empty crock back and they will refill it. Since they recommend it travel in the cabin rather than in your checked luggage I will not be able to do that anymore. Sad times. Also near there is Lavinia which is a marvelous wine and liquor store. We had lunch there and my husband drooled over the wall which had multiple years of Armagnac

          In Paris we go to G Detou which is a restaurant supply store at 58, rue Tiquetonne. There I get containers of dried mushrooms-cepes, chanterelles, etc. for very reasonable prices. This upcoming trip I want to go back to Huierie J. Leblanc (6, rue Jacob) and get another bottle of their fabulous Champagne Vinegar. Their oils are great too, especially the pistachio oil.
          We also pick up a bottle of Framboise liqueur. When the raspberries are ripe in my yard I take a bunch of them, cover them with sugar and let them stand overnight. The next morning I put the whole bottle of Framboise over them and shake it up. It sits in the fridge until Thanksgiving when we use the liqueur and raspberries in Champagne. Yummy.

          The last few times we have been in France we have visited Provence. We always go to the grocery stores there and stock up on tapenade, pistou and other goodies.

          1. Rue Cler in the 7th has really great shops. La Maison du Jambon has pate, cheeses, hams, all kinds of to go prepared gourmet food. Really great stuff for a picnic. The fomagerie has an unbeliable selection of cheeses, I think over 400 cheeses. Olivier & Co. sells oils and gourmet foods from all over France, I bought a white truffle oil that was to die for. They have sundried tomaotes, anchovies, dried herbs, peppers, great stuff to bring home. Great Chocolate shop, and there "super market" across the street from Cafe Du Marche has some great deals on saffron, peppers, all kinds of herbs, that are so inexpensive. You will find some great things to take back home with you.

            5 Replies
            1. re: kittykatkid

              I have a question regarding Rue Cler. Is the selection on Sunday mornings as good as the selection on Saturdays? Will be there late April and I'm trying to catch as much local produce as I can.

              1. re: Porthos

                Sunday morning should be fine, by 1 o'clock on Sundays things start to close up, and Monday uis a very quite day. Saturday you would have 100 percent of everything open all day into the night.

                1. re: Porthos

                  Actually, no. Rue Cler is not a market - vendors just set up stands in front of their storefronts. And it's not a farmers' market - they buy their produce from the wholesale market as do the grocery stores. By Sunday their at the end of their week - you can some good bargains, but not great produce. On Sundays go to the organic market in the 6th on Raspail. Here's a list of all Paris food markets by arrondissement - with locations, days/hours, and Metro stop:

                  1. re: Louisa Chu

                    Good to know! Any markets that you would recommend in particular? Especially ones in the 7th or 17th?

                    1. re: Porthos

                      Just across the river from the 7th, in the 16th:
                      Marché Président Wilson
                      Av. du Pdt Wilson between rue Debrousse and Place d’Iéna.
                      Wednesdays, 7h to 14h30 and Saturdays, 7h to 15h
                      Métro Alma-Marceau, Iéna
                      - see Joël Thiébault - the master produce vendor

                      Borderline 17th, in the 8th - Batignolles, organic market on Saturdays:
                      Marché spécialisé biologique Batignolles
                      Terre-plein bd des Batignolles
                      Saturdays, 9h to 14h
                      Métro Rome or Place Clichy

              2. in addition the the vinegars and mustards and honeys and jams, the two things I was most excited to bring back from Paris were:
                -Penje pepper (from Le Grand Epiciere)
                -Splenda in pellet dispensers

                I wish I could have brought back more preserved meats (salamis) and the San Pelligrino Blood Orange soda

                1. What great suggestions! Anyone have thoughts about Hediard (on place Madeleine) and L'Epicerie on the Ile st Louis? Thanks!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: FataMagistra

                    Nice places to visit, I understand the appeal of the packaging as souvenirs, but otherwise don't bother.

                  2. I heartily agree with the Maille rec. I picked up a 2 jars of the mustard on tap on my last visit and liked it so much that just yesterday I bought the largest crock and had it filled with moutarde au vin blanc. It actually doesn't have to be vaccum-sealed to make it home. And someone I know recently carried home 2 crocks in checked luggage -- just make sure it's VERY well wrapped.

                    G. Detou has some nice items such as candied violets and Valhrona cocoa that are less expensive that what you'd find at home.

                    I also bought 6 jars of Christine Ferber. La Grande Epicerie currently has a large selection, including banana-passion fruit (great on yogurt) and peche des vignes (which seemed to be going fast!).

                    Vacherin Mont D'Or is currently in season and I picked up a wonderful specimen at the cheese shop on rue Cler. It's probably too difficult to bring home, but if you love strong, runny cheeses, definitely get one while you're here! As a side note, I've noticed that the French Vacherins I've bought in Paris tend to be very mild (as opposed to the Swiss ones) and not what I'm looking for.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: emily

                      A properly ripe Vacherin Mont d'Or should be thick and creamy, not runny, and no, not that strong - pungent yes, but blow the top of your head off strong, no. If you're near rue Cler, go to Marie-Anne Cantin. She supplies to the best restaurants too. And actually the wooden box makes it perfect to travel with - she will vacuum seal them.

                      1. re: Louisa Chu

                        Well, when we asked the woman in the shop for one that was ready to eat, she gave us one that was, yes, runny. It was pungent and delicious. So, it may not have been "properly ripe" by your definition, but it was by hers and mine.

                    2. I had a lot of fun looking at the teas in the plain old supermarket. I bought some blackberry black tea, and some with peach and passion fruit. They sit in my pantry with boxes I bought for three times the price at gourmet markets here in the U.S., and they are just as good.

                      1. This is a small item but one I really enjoy. The bottles of Herbes de Provence that the Monoprix stores sell is very good... and very inexpensive. I use a lot of it so that's always on my list to bring back home. My son always requests some caviar (I raised this man?)and Fauchon does a good job of mailing it off.

                        1. Another idea: a box of Laduree macaroons. (www.laduree.fr)

                          1. If you like tea, a visit to Mariage Freres is a must. As a bonus, tea is light, easy to pack, and won't get you in trouble as customs.

                            1. Oh My! what an embarrassment of riches you all have listed! I love shopping in Paris! AND in other French cities as well. But because I live in New York, I try to only bring back things I cannot get here. So, I think for recommendations, it would depend upon where you live, and what French imports are available to you there. I always used to bring back Fleur de Sel, for instance. Now, it's available at Whole Foods and a lot of other places.

                              Unfortunately you will probably not be allowed to bring back the exquisite cheeses and Laduree's or Herme's macarons.... now that they're considered "dangerous contraband."

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: ChefJune

                                even Macarons now?!

                                it's true about the Camargue Fleur de Sel, I actually bought some at our local food boutique for about 1/3 the price of what I paid at Le Grand Epicierie.

                                1. re: orangewasabi

                                  A friend just bought back macaroons - I believe he packed them well as advised. I think anything you pack well that isnt fruit and check in will get through.

                                2. re: ChefJune

                                  I have never had any trouble bringing back cheese with me so far on my two or three times a year back to the states. Just make sure it is well wrapped up in plastic wrap and then in tupper ware and then in something else to keep the smell in. The customs people would rather take away your clementines than your cheese.

                                  1. re: ChefJune

                                    Macaroons and other baked goods are perfectly legal. Raw milk cheeses aged less than 60 days are not, but they have been allowed through (again, no guarantees).
                                    U.S. Customs Prohibited and Restricted Items:

                                  2. A few thoughts, in no particular order. I've visited Paris only twice, but it was heaven. I agree with the person who suggested going to Galeries Lafayette. Crowded, festive, too many wonderful things to mention, food everywhere.
                                    Memory fails, I can't recall the name, but a mom and pop fromagerie, small, was an unforgettable experience. The people could not have been more gracious and kind. They provided generous samples of cheese, overlooked my poor French, and, I learned, if you ask them to recommend cheeses and wines, they will be delighted to do so, and they won't steer you wrong. There are similar shops all over Paris, seek and ye shall find.
                                    I was not able to visit any of the open-air markets in Paris, but I had the opportunity to go to the one in Cannes. It was astonishing. Fleur de Sel in more than a dozen flavors, lavender, orange, lemon, herbal. Herbes du Provence in large quantities for a few Euros. I have heard that the Paris markets are much the same.
                                    Your inquiry specifically mentioned foods, but anyone who loves cooking would be well-advised to find time to visit Dehillerin, about a mile north of the Louvre www.e-dehillerin.fr
                                    Their inventory of cookware and kitchen tools is vast. Commercial-grade copper pans, the real thing, not copper-coated, are treasures, and will last a lifetime. Every time I use my Mauviel saute pan, wonderful memories of Paris and magnificent meals come to mind. These pans are not kitchen equipment, they are heirlooms, I couldn't imagine leaving Paris without buying one, and they cost a fraction of the Sur La Table price.
                                    It's a shame you can't stay in Paris longer, have a safe and glorious trip.

                                    1. My wife who is the tea and coffee drinker in the family swears by Verlet,

                                      Torréfacteur Verlet, 256 rue St-Honoré, 1st, near Palais Royal Metro.

                                      open Tues through Sat. 9.30 am to 18.30
                                      (I wouldn't show up at the last moment. They really close at 6.30).

                                      tel. 01 42 60 67 39
                                      fax 01 42 60 05 55

                                      I usually get the whole beans. Some of their teas include grapefruit and blood orange scents.

                                      Another unique Paris product are Jacques Genin's caramels. They are simply amazing melt in the mouth buttery confections like no other caramels in the world. They are not easily findable, but I have bought them at Pain de Sucre, 14, rue Rambuteau.


                                      I would give them a call or email to see what is in stock and when they are open.
                                      My notes on that point are contradictory.

                                      A year ago they were not regularly stocking them, but a call in advance did get them to special order a couple of kilos. They are not cheap, about 70 Euros a Kilo, but they are amazing. I have not found them in the grands epiceries, but they may be available now.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: VivreManger

                                        Pain de Sucre is no longing carrying Genin caramels so there seems now to be no retail outlet. I bought mine directly from him, minimum of 1 kil @ 50 euros, but worth it.

                                      2. I would visit Chocolat Michel Cluizel at 201, rue St-Honore, near jardin des Tuileries. They have wonderful, distinct chocolate gifts,beautifully packaged. My favorite, and a favorite among recipients, was an assortment of metallic-covered dark chocolate balls (teeny, marble-sized) in gold, bronze and silver. I have never seen anything like it here and I am considering ordering more from their website and having them shipped from Paris! I also enjoyed Monoprix, Galeries Lafayette and Bon Marche for odds and ends, small food item, lotions, cosmetics in French-y packaging. Also, that honey store (Maison du Miel) is also great. Hope you haven't gone on your trip yet!

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: thyra

                                          I'm actually leaving Thurs and still taking notes. Thanks!

                                          1. re: vvv03

                                            have a safe and fabulous trip! I just read the whole thread and realized that no one mentioned the Kugelhopf and Madeleines at Lerch in the 5th. I think the Metro Station is Maubert Mutualite, but I'm going on brainpower, and not a book. Best Madeleines I've ever had!

                                            1. re: ChefJune

                                              You can get Maille just about anywhere here in Montréal (and a larger selection at gourmet shops), and it can be difficult bringing back cheeses and certainly cured meats. I've had goat's cheese confiscated. :-( One thing that is worth bringing back is mayonnaise that isn't full of sugar as the North American crap is - you can get it in handy tubes. I often find some small, practical cookbooks we don't get here, but of course that is only useful if you are French-speaking.

                                              Not exactly food, but all kinds of little housewares and dishes - not fancy things, odd little things from hardware stores and little shops. And Opinel folding knives! We do have those here, but they are twice as expensive.

                                              1. re: lagatta

                                                The Maille that I and others mentioned up thread is the fresh, "on tap" mustard only available in Maille's Paris and Dijon stores. Three types are pumped directly into crockery jars to order and then corked. It's never more than 10 days old and supposedly only lasts 6 months, but I've used it for longer. It's quite different from the pre-bottled Maille found worldwide.

                                                1. re: emily

                                                  Let me make one recommendation before you go: shop at your local stores. I brought back almost an entire small suitcase of many of the items mentioned above, only to find them available all over shops in Michigan and Chicago. Everything from artisanal olve oils and cheeses to Maille mustard (including the supposedly "on tap" varieties, some of those are exported to certain markets) to allegedly rare sea salts. Even the hot chocolate mix I bought on Rue Dominique was available at T.J. Maxx at Christmas time! And I've also since found many of the wines I had planned to bring back as well. The French food export business is very sophisticated nowadays, and the Euro means that even small producers can afford to ship here.

                                                  That said, what I brought back that I cannot replicate are a) coffee and tea from Brullerie des Ternes in the Rue Poncelet, which I think is some of the best anywhere b) flavored sea salts and sugars that I found at Bon Marche and c) chocolates from Reine Astrid. I'm not including pastries and other baked goods, but those would not travel well at all, anyway.

                                                  Now I view Paris as a food education. I take many, many notes on preparations and products, and then try to replicate at home. I also make sure to enjoy everything that I taste there, because it isn't just the food itself, it's the atmosphere.