jalapenos, tortilla chips, and masa harina - can I get them in Paris?
We are planning to move to Paris next year. After spending 13 years in Los Angeles, we are die-hard fans of Mexican food. I've been learning to cook my own since I have never seen a Mexican restaurant during our trips there, and it would probably disappoint anyway. Can I get jalapenos and masa harina in Paris? Tortilla chips would be good, too, but I could make my own if I had the masa --and we won't eat as many if we have to make them ourselves ;)
Also, can Americans tell me of the stores they go to for American products? Not necessarily for processed foods (except tortilla chips), but just for things you can't get in Paris. I know from the David Lebovitz site that certain things are not available - like chicken stock and brown sugar, which I use all the time.
"like chicken stock and brown sugar," - are they really no available?
I can't recall any difficulty getting ingredients myself, and I think I would have noticed if these had been tricky. I found it was simple to get most ingredients or at least good substitutes. Although I imagine if you only use US sources for recipes then it could be tricky, but most of my sources were international. Not certain about highly specialised Mexican foods but most other things were fine. The one thing I never found was Kaffir limes (although I could get the leaves), apparently the EU banned their import.
Kaffir lime is the same as combava/kombawa, which you can find almost in any asian supermarket (Paristore, Tang frères...). They're generally from Thailand. It's funny because the only things I really never found fresh in Paris are kaffir leaves. I found them frozen in the very same supermarkets, but if you have a tip for me about fresh ones, I'm interested :)
Jalapeños are rare, seasonal, and often strangely labeled when you find them. You can easily find them pickled. Chiles from the Maghreb can stand in for some fresh uses. For dried peppers, you'll want to move a good stock with you. You can find them here, but the price/quality will pale compared to LA. Masa harina, and most dried or preserved things, you can get. Tortilla chips, yes, but not very good quality. Quesos and cremas are different here, but 99% of the time you can substitute something nicely.
For general North American things ... alu foil in N Amer is amazing. I don't know of any good source of peanut butter (of the less processed peanuts + salt type, where the oil separates out), but I haven't looked very hard. Baking powder is almost the same stuff as Alsacian levure chimique, but the latter is even harsher tasting than the former; I make my own from baking soda and cream of tartar, and use it for both American and German baked goods. I don't know who David Lebovitz is, but brown sugar and molasses can be found in bio stores. You don't see that vile canned chicken broth that is everywhere in the US, if that's what you're referring to. If I don't have anything home made, I prefer Maggi and Knorr (as you might have guessed from the previous sentence).
For whisky, La Maison du Whisky in the 8e has a decent selection of bourbons and ryes.
I believe I've seen tortilla chips at Lafayette Gourmet and/or Le Grande Epicerie. Both shops have an international food section. To piggyback tmso, bio/organic stores are the way to go for some cooking products that are difficult to find in regular French grocery stores. For example, all of the ingredients from my recent kickass batch of homemade granola all came from the organic stores Biocoop and Naturalia. After living in Europe for 5 years I have simply given up the search for some beloved American foods, so when I go home to the States I load up while I'm there. When you do arrive, you should check out the shop G. Detou on rue Tiquetonne. It's a baker's paradise. Last week I found blueberry syrup of all things, which is a major treat for a pancake freak like me.
My across-the-street Monoprix has tortilla chips
My down-the-street African-Asian place has hot chilies and plantains (and a new such place is opening soon just a bit farther away).
Galeries Lafayette and Bon Marche have sections for Mexican stuff (as does my Monoprix). Thanksgiving has a lot of stuff as does Izrael altho' I've never made a comprehensive assessment.