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May 23, 2010 06:40 PM

Two-week vacation in Paris; self-catering apartment; meal/food/cooking tips invited.

You may scoff at this request, or you might have a lot of fun! Finally, I go to Paris in September 2010. One week is not enough so two it is. I will have a lovely apartment in the heart of Paris, so far so good, 1st Ar. In order to have more money to spend on this museum of a city, and because I am an independent little cuss, I plan to cook most of my meals, or at least prepare them. My first effort after getting to the apartment will be a quick grocery trip, to the Monoprix, because I arrive on a Saturday, and want to make it thrugh til Monday. I plan to walk, pack picnic lunches, and energy snacks, have petit dejeuner in the lovely apartment, and likely eat the evening meal there as well. Now, of course, if I provide my own meals, I could purchase nicer ingredients. I could go to all the fun markets, bakeries, boulangeries, and so on. So there is an argument to be made for the idea of immersing in the culture by cooking for yourself. I will, I am sure, enjoy a meal out here or there, but not as a rule, just for the experience of the fantastic location mostly (e.g. lunch at the Musee d"Orsay perhaps).

I have traveled extensively in Europe as a child and and adult, and I usually rent an apartment and spend a week in a chosen capitol (unpack once!), so I am not completly new to this idea, but I am new to Paris (which I have always thought a bit daunting for me, ergo the two weeks to get THAT worked out).

I am writing to get input: meal planning, picnic suggestions, grocery/market suggestions, grocery lists in particular. The apartment has a small fridge AND a similar sized (dare I say it) freezer. It also has an oven and four burner stove(!). I assume, of course, that they work. Yes, it does lack an automatic dishwasher, so there. ;)

I look forward to any and all suggestions. As you might imagine, I have nearly as much fun planning as I will going, and being there. Thank you in advance!

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  1. Local Monoprix is ok as far as it goes, but check this out...

    Also. Rue Cler and Montorgueil have great shops available nearly everyday.

    And, those roasted chickens available in many blocks are wonderful when eaten with good salad, meager dressings, some potatoes or grain, fine pastries and decent bread.

    Finally, you might like to read how my wife and I survived this last trip and entertained in-laws from Germany in the process... Yes, we did spend some money on places on the rise and not as yet "discovered." Read the threads and you can pick out the good places and not waste money on the "found" places. For example, read up on what John Talbott says.

    PS We have been to Paris many times and have yet to stay in a hotel for your very reasons...only the very best chefs in the world can cook as well as you can in your own apartment, given a little skill, enough garlic, some decent pans and the spices and foods available in Paris.

    1. Agree with hychka and that is a wonderful travel plan, but don't have any disdain for the high-quality pre-prepared food available in Paris. Or Picard surgelés, which will change your opinion of frozen foods. Some of the Vietnamese takeaway places are very good as well - google "traîteurs vietnamiens or asiatiques" for reviews.

      Unless you are a serious athlete training or a person with a medical condition "energy snacks" are not really a concept common to French everyday cooking.

      But unless you are on a very tight budget, do indulge yourself in some kind of typical Parisian meals. Most varied; explore this board and others. Rue Cler is out of your way in the 1st. Montorgueil is right there and there are others close by in the Marais.

      1. Okay, your responses are already great!!! I almost forgot the garlic on my short list. I may post the shopping list and let folks add if they want...Also, the energy snacks are, you know, dried fruit, granola, nuts, that I can mix myself and put in my day pack along with some fruit juice in those nice cardboard cartons, the quart size ones...just don't want to get cranky in the middle of the Louvre or waiting in line somewhere! The roasted chicken idea is great, then sandwiches the next day, then soup as mentioned, and so on!!! The take out/prepared food will be wonderful also, I hear Picarde is fabulous, and then I don't overbuy for one (often an issue)! And I promise to indulge in the restaurant scene, I will!!

        1. Which markets:
          Not knowing where you will be staying in the 1st arrondissement, I highly recommend the weekly maraîcher market Sunday morning on rue Montmartre outside the St Eustache church.
          Another two markets that are fun and should not be far from you:
          - the Baudoyer market, east of the Hotel de ville, wednesday afternoion
          - the Enfants Rouges market, with many different lunch stalls. In fact it is more of a lunch place than a real market although it does have veg and fruit stands. But rue de Bretagne (where the Enfants Rouges market is) is full of good food shops: butchers, bakers, etc.
          All of the markets mentioned above are on the webpage that Hychka gave.

          However I think the closing hours listed are purely theoretical. For many of the morning markets, the closing hours are marked as 3pm. Don't think so ! In fact when you go to a morning market at 1pm, most vendors will have packed up.
          Also I find the Montorgueil market very colorful but somewhat small in selection and also expensive compared to the weekly markets of St Eustache and Baudoyer.

          What's in season:
          From mid September onward, look out for muscat grapes and mushrooms. In the veg market stands, you will see easily a dozen different kinds of mushrooms. As for muscat grapes, my fave is called muscat de Hambourg. I don't think it means it grows in the city of, but it sure is tasty.

          12 Replies
          1. re: Parigi

            I love the European food markets and Paris may have the best; I could see myself happily going from market to market instead of museum-landmark-museum! Does the market on Rue Montorgueil have a name? I don't see it on the webpage (looking for hours it is open and general location) but I can keep an eye out for it! Also, I did look up Les Enfants Rouge and what a great budget travel tip for lunches in such an historical imagination is stirred by your in season food tips as well...also much appreciate the pointers on more/less expensive markets, as well as the closing town from 9/10 to 9/25, so mid-September is right on.

            1. re: mobius981

              Omg, you are right. The link we gave only gives the weekly markets, or what are considered "real" markets.
              But rue des Martyrs, rue Lepic (both excellent), rue Montorgueil are considered "rues commerçantes" or market streets. The shops there are closed Sunday afternoon and Monday.
              This webpage lists Lepic and Montorgueil.

              O horreur, throw away your energy bar; you are not orbiting in space. In paris you will never, I repeat never, be far from a boulangerie. Do you want to stick to your i-don't-know-what bar, or do you want to taste a croissant aux amandes… ?

              "I love the European food markets and Paris may have the best"

              As much as I love Paris and its markets, my fave markets in France are Villefranche de Rouergue, St Jean de Luz, Cancale.

              1. re: Parigi

                Indeed! I will toss the bar into outer space and stock up on portable boulangerie goodies "aux amandes":). Yes, and an excellent link as well, thank you, Montorgueil is quite close, as are others! While searching CH, I stumbled across this excellent thread, which is over a year ago so may not pop up on a search:
                The idea of "les traiteurs" also sounds excellent; I am getting a French lesson here from the food terms!

                1. re: mobius981

                  Yes, I didn't want to lecture you as a) it is rude and b) I have no idea if you have specific dietary needs, and don't want to know unless you make a specific request, which I'll try to answer with pleasure. It is very rare for Parisians to eat those. I'm over 50 and so are many of my Parisian friends; of course several have various medical needs. It is of course legitimate for a diabetic to have an energy bar on hand, just in case, and serious athletes training have specific regimes, as anywhere. The main advice I'd give anyone with the slightest blood sugar issue is to make sure you have some protein at breakfast - but being in a self-catering apt takes care of that problem. But in general, Parisians don't tend to snack so much. What you need most if walking or cycling a lot is water.

                  If you are a walker, you'll enjoy strolling east to a couple of excellent markets: Le Marché Bastille and Le Marché d'Aligre, in the 11th and 12th arrondissements respectively.

                  Marché d'Aligre is in and around a specific little square, and takes place every day but Monday. You must get there in the morning.
                  métro Ledru-Rollin or Gare de Lyon. I'll try to find you the bus line back to your apartment, easier if you have groceries and just for a hop, but do give us a better idea of where you are (no, we don't want the address, but main streets, bus and métro stops would be useful). This market was one of those featured in the most recent Gourmet special issue on Paris.

                  Parigi, I've also found much better specific markets elsewhere in France, but Paris est incontournable, as we said endlessly a few years ago. Sei un Italiano a Parigi?

                  I'm very pleased to provide a yummy French lesson. "Traiteur" can mean caterer, but can also refer to takeaway shops that have food ready to go. Seems particularly common in descriptions of those little Vietnamese takeaways that are everywhere.

                  1. re: mobius981

                    mobius981 Yes, that's a good thread to resurrect. I think chowhound might wish to add a "read before posting" set of stuff at the top of the France board and this "Poor and Hungry Visitors" should be included., a current listing of all the open air markets, their locations and hours...etc., etc.

                    1. re: mobius981

                      When I go on holiday somewhere I always do recipe research besides resto research.
                      This website has in-season vegetables and related recipes, but it is in French.
                      Other recipe sources - in English but with French ingredients - that may help you out in Paris are:
                      - the Alice B Toklas cookbook. The old girl adapted American recipes to French ingredients. But she also has some good ole French creature comfort recipes. Besides she was always a good read.
                      - Laura Calder's recipes. They tend toward simple yet they deliver. When you are on holiday you don't want to spend all day in the kitchen; her recipes are just right.
                      Bon séjour.

                      1. re: Parigi

                        I like Elizabeth David, especially 'French Provincial Cooking', though the Toklas fudge recipe is nice.

                        1. re: vielleanglaise

                          I like her book too, dans l'absolut, and my copy of her book is in tatters, but I was choosing a couple of recipe sources that offer simpler recipes, so that the vacationer does not spend all day cooking, what's more, in an unfamiliar kitchen

                          1. re: Parigi

                            You're quite right, but I have to admit the eternal adolescent part of me was using your reference of Toklas to make a reference to cannabis on this board.

                            In the same utilitarian but simple vein as Toklas, Edouard de Pomiane's good too.

                            1. re: Parigi

                              I have an ancient copy of that, also in tatters, but a lot of that is long, slow cooking. Indeed you need simple, quickish recipes while on holiday, and remember that self-catering kitchens may well lack key tools. I always take a sharp knife (a Kuhn-Rihon in its little plastic scabbard is great), a good waiter's corkscrew (with a hinge in the fulcrum, to deal with long Bordeaux corks), a little silicon spatula and a thin flexible chopping surface. Sure, you can pick up anything in Paris but it can take time. I'm never able to travel overseas with just cabin luggage due to all my little sharp things!

                              Un grand merci pour "Recettes et terroirs", Parigi - ou Grazie mille!

                              And agree with the Roast chickens, whether in a classic French or Maghrebi style - you'd have to be very adventurous to opt for a Maghrebi-style lamb's head, but they usually roast pieces of lamb as welll as chickens and heads. And remarkable food in good supermarkets. The cheaper supermarkets are fine for staples.

                              You'll enjoy the walk to Bastille, or to Marché d'Aligre.

                              Here is the Picard site: your postal code is 75001 There don't seem to be any in the 1er arrondissement, but Étienne-Marcel in the 2e is very close by.

                              And vieilleanglaise, I love your webname.

                              1. re: lagatta

                                Thank you for the complient on my moniker, though kudos should go to my Interweb parents who bestowed it upon me.

                                The Pomiane book I was refering to was his "Cooking in ten minutes". As the title suggests, the recipes can all be cooked in ten minutes "le temps qu'il prend à fumer une cigarette", and was originally aimed at young single women and bachelors. The forward of the English edition is by Elizabeth David.

                                1. re: vielleanglaise

                                  I see it has the same title in French: La Cuisine en 10 minutes, Calmann-Lévy, 1961 I'm sure I can find it at a library here in Montréal. I see that he also published a book on wartime cookng: Manger quand même, 1941.

                2. My partner and I have been renting an apartment for a few weeks in Paris every year for five years now. I love to cook. After a couple attempts in a"fancy" but not practical kitchen (horrid knives, thin, tinny pots, etc) I learned about the fabulous Roast Chickens (and even better potatoes roasted underneath them) and other AMAZING foraged food that can be found everywhere. Now it's the only way I go. Many charcuteries have fabulous salads and other prepared foods (Celerie Remoulade is a fave, and a snap to make, but why bother). I say save the time for adventure. Or maybe cook a few meals and buy the others. If I had a better kitchen I would be tremendously tempted by the terrific looking meats and fowl. I second the recommendation of March Baudoyer, and I love the Bastille Market (Richard Lenoir). Can't wait to be back there.... bonne appetite!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Gman

                    You bring up the problem that we have found in rentals. One can't blame landlords for not furnishing top of the line cookware, but trying to cook right with dull knives and shoddy pans is frustrating and disappointing. But, as you say, there is a treasure of bring home and heat foods. Don't overlook the bottled soups available either in the cold/dairy cases or shelved that make a good lunch addition.

                    One of our summer favorites is the gaspacho at the Belota Belota concession at Galleries Lafayette, available by the quart or as part of a lunch package: a pata negra sandwich + a large container (just short of a pint) of gaspacho + an olive oil/anise cookie. It is so good that I have altered my own recipe to mimic the labeled ingredients of this version.

                    1. re: mangeur

                      We have yet seen a need to pack our knives and have stayed in about a dozen apartments. Our preference is a good gas stove, but after a little trial and error one can figure out the electric. So far pans have been acceptable. I did need to buy a cutting board this last time only because we didn't recognize that thing provided and refused to cut on the countertops.

                      OTOH you have to look at travel as if you were camping. It may rain. You may forget something. The store might not have what you buy at home.

                      Hell, we just survived this last trip in the one set of clothes we flew over in for three plus days when I was counting on two changes a day and my wife changes more frequently. It's travel....

                      And, yes, those chickens and potatoes can save the day time and again!