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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...http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/...

    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...http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7097... 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 location....my 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 times....in 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. http://marchedaligre.free.fr/
                  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. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6076..., 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: www.picard.fr 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!

                  2. A few comments:

                    Monoprix is OK for basics and some items but it isn't an outstanding store for a lot of produce. The stores also vary a lot between branches, a good one is OK, but an old one can be quite poor. Parisians tend to shop a range of places rather than get everything from one source. It is also worth noting that the big supermarkets aren't in the centre so ranges are limited.

                    Why worry about the size of the freezer? The art of shopping in Paris is to buy a small amount daily, rather than do a weekly shop. Lots of places take pride in selling you produce that is in prime condition for eating soon after it has be bought. Good cheese shops, for example, will ask you when it is for, today, or tommorrow? It will make a diffeence to what they sell you. And Parisians buy their baguettes fresh when they need them as they go stale in a few hours, for breakfast it is nice to get up and head to the bakery and buy a warm baguette and some croissants then go home and enjoy them.

                    Picard is great frozen food and useful if you have a 9 to 6 job and then need to commute across Paris to get home (shops usually close at 7:00). But you will be wandering around Paris during the day so you can pick up things as you see them, or head home through a shopping area.

                    I agree with the comments on cookware in apartments, don't expect a lot, the kitchems are often equipped very very cheaply. Like others I usually take a good knife, and decent corkscrew, and if it is a long stay I usually buy a couple of decent wine glasses (there is a Habitat store at 8 Rue du Pont Neuf which has decent cheap ones).

                    Advice on what to buy - the grocery list - is simple. Just buy what looks the best when you are in the market. Produce in France is very seasonal, if there is lots of it on sale and it looks good then go for it. We tended to have a rough idea what sort of food we wanted then let the produce guide us when we got to the shop/market.

                    Don't miss La Grande Epicerie at Le Bon Marche it is a superb food hall with all sorts of wonderful treats under one roof (the designer clothes sections are pretty good as well!). The quality is superb and it is a very stylish shop. And contrary to popular opinion it isn't much more expensive than regular shops e.g I remember milk being cheaper there than my local Monoprix.

                    .....and lastly, whilst self catering is good, part of the fun of Paris is the atmosphere in restaurants and the sparkle and vibrancy of cafes and bars. Miss that and you miss a lot of what Paris is really about.

                    1. Ahh, quelle grande idees!!! Merci, merci...Please continue!! I will attempt to respond at least in part to some of the commentary.
                      I will be located approximately equidistant from the following metro stops: Chatelet Les Halles, Etienne Marcel , and Rambuteau.
                      The idea of shopping seasonally is quite entrancing, shop every day or two, be creative with simple dishes, few ingredients. I loved Laura Calder's recipes. Eek! I feel a possible blog coming on: Cook from French recipes all summer and then go practice the real thing in the real place. Tips are great, take a rollup cutting mat, as well as a couple le creuset spatuals and whisks. I am such a dyed-in-the-wool carryon person that the beautiful knives will have to remain at home. ;(. The bottled soup...who knew! Fantastic idea...And yes, I WILL dine out a time or two, d'accord. (My French is mysteriously reappearing)!

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: mobius981

                        Also rent apartments and share the complaint about lack of nice cooking equipment in rental places (which is not a complaint really, as it is understood). I also agree that Le Bon Marche is a great place to go if you're a cook at all...wonderful place to shop the day before leaving. I always bring back many treats from there...
                        Although at kind of the opposite end of the spectrum, the Marche d'Aligre is my favorite market. The stall inside the covered market that has the olive oils in barrels...to die for. I would kill for something like that in the States! I usually dine out for most meals when I'm lucky enough to be in Paris, but have also spent several New Year's there, and have relied on the roasted chickens and wonderful seafood to produce meals that I only dream of in the states. the oysters alone...wow. I know you'll be there in summer...perhaps no oysters, but think of all the fresh produce and other seafood...! Enjoy!

                        1. re: mobius981

                          mobius, if there are no sharp knives in your rental - I can't live a day without sharp knives, and no I'm not some fetishist or secret slasher - you can buy an Opinel folding knife with a wooden blade at most good-sized street markets - certainly at Bastille, or in the atmospheric little shops in the quartier populaire Barbès (there are big crowds on the sidewalks so be extra-watchful of pickpockets - well, anywhere there are crowds). You could simply leave it there in your rental, or perhaps you could post it home if you wrap it carefully - you'll have to check out the postal rules at both ends. I have Opinels bought in Paris street markets and love them dearly, though remember that kind of knife won't have the triangular "tang" of a chef's knife so not so efficient for chopping - but still, better than a dull crappy knife of any kind. I make a lot of chopped and grated salads, and stir-fries.

                          I have to take other sharp things in with my artist supplies, so carry-on is out for any trip of more than a few days, although I do travel fairly light as I always take public transport to and from airports and railway stations.

                          I shop every day or two here in Montréal too and have a small fridge - our main problem in terms of seasonal shopping is how long and harsh our winters usually are.

                          Marché d'Aligre also has a great "populaire" wine bar where you can also buy regional wines.

                          1. re: lagatta

                            Now I'm reminded that this last year I actually did pack and travel with one knife: not the chef's knife I take elsewhere, but a small plastic handled bread knife by Claude Dozorme and Laguiole. I just couldn't stand hacking the daily baguette into shreds each morning with the lousy (but heavy) knife in the flat. Took little room and weighed next to nothing but made mornings much more pleasant. Also always pack a Swiss Army knife which can cut the Comte and open wine if one finds one in a pinch.

                            1. re: Gman

                              We have what we call the "don't leave home without it" bag, a 6x9 zippered mesh bag in which we carry a good double-hook corkscrew, a champagne plug, an extra cork or two, an Opinel, a short serrated knife, small screwdriver, sewing kit, eyeglass repair kit, superglue, very small scissors and tweezers. It lives in my checked bag and never gets unpacked at home. The answer to just about every travel problem is "It's in the silver bag." (My husband carries the "shipping and handling" supplies: a box-cutter, filament tape, wide Scotch packing tape plus a half dozen 12x18 sheets of bubble pack.)

                              1. re: mangeur

                                Now THAT is an excellent list!! Thank you, I will take whatever will pass carryon and i like the idea of purchasing an Opinel and the corkscrew when I get there....

                                1. re: mobius981

                                  I have heard that box-cutters might not pass carryon rules...

                                  By the way, the cheapening of stuff means that nowadays one may well find useable box-cutters at dollar stores (or euro stores). In that case, just leave it there.

                                  1. re: lagatta

                                    You are ABOSULUTELY CORRECT! Please note that I said that my take-along kit was ALWAYS stashed in a CHECKED bag, as are both the box cutter and filament tape my husband takes along. I learned very early on to think outside the box when culling carry-on stuff after a very efficient TSA at CDG confiscated my $40 Solingen snub-nose manicure scissors. It's been almost 8 years, but I remember it like it was yesterday!

                                    1. re: mangeur

                                      Worse, they wanted to take my antique christophe silver rellish fork (dull,dull). So the woman at the ticket counter who was just engaged got a very nice wedding gift.

                        2. In my board research, I came upon this very useful old thread.
                          After all the contributions to this thread from everyone, I would have loved to get the OP's feedback.
                          What happened? Did Mobius981 cancel his trip at the last minute and is too broken-hearted to tell us?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Parigi

                            My favorite young writer began her career teaching English in LA just before moving to Paris where she works at a bakery and writes the food blog for "A Girl's Guide to Paris." She has this uncanny ability to make you feel that you are shopping and cooking right there with her, opting to mention the occasional omelette that wound up on the floor, and the everyday nuance, (or nuisances) that make Paris soooo wonderful to begin with...