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Sep 2, 2012 01:15 AM

Help planning Christmas 2012 - 2 weeks in Paris with a kitchen

Christmas has never been a big thing for me. But, I hope this year will be different. Some stars aligned - cheap plane tickets, extra budget, another kid off to college next year. So we're going to Paris! Our trip theme is living like locals. Mainly we want to eat well, though not necessarily expensively. I found a nice two bedroom apartment with a full kitchen in the Fifth on Rue Val de Grace. Most of the time I would like to go to market and cook.

All of us are really excited (wife, three teenagers, one in NY and two with us in Manila). So, we're planning our itinerary early.

Would it be possible to get some advice and suggestions from the forum? Anyway so far our plans are:

1) Cooking at home - We're very close to some food markets (Port Royal, Mouffetard, Raspail) and shops (Poilane, Hugo Desnoyer). I plan to go to a market almost daily. On one day, we'll probably trek to President Wilson because I read it's the best one. Planning breakfast and one meal at home daily. My kids like good food and dessert, so they want to join the market trips.

Any suggestions for home cooked meals? I'd like to get a bresse chicken, quail or something like that and roast it. We also love sea food, so I plan to get lots of scallops, langoustines and oysters. I've not been to Paris in winter so I don't know what vegetables or fruits are seasonally available or would everything be imported. I'm pretty comfortable in the kitchen (can make fresh pasta, bread, pizza, roast beef, etc. ). I'm going to bring a sharp knife and some spices.

2) Truffles at which market? - Also, would you know where I can buy winter truffles other than Maison de Truffe? Is there a seller in any of the markets?

3) Restaurant suggestions? - We'll probably eat at two 2 star restaurants and 3 good bistros (suggestions? was thinking passage 53, agape substance, epi dupin, la regalade, falafel) . To avoid french food fatigue, I've also marked a couple of good places for ramen. The rest of the time, just simple stuff (crepes, quiche, etc.)

4) Day trips from Paris? - Any worthwhile suggestions in winter? Not sure if Chambord is worth renting a car for. Giverny? I think a 2 hour drive is doable. We don't really need to go anywhere. Right now just Versailles. In paris, just the louvre. Kids want to go back because it was too short last time.

5) Christmas markets My wife likes looking around in flea markets. My kids want to go off on their own, buy souvenirs and try different kinds of food.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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  1. Great way to enjoy Paris. Bravo.

    "1) Cooking at home - We're very close to some food markets (Port Royal, Mouffetard, Raspail) and shops (Poilane, Hugo Desnoyer). I plan to go to a market almost daily. On one day, we'll probably trek to President Wilson because I read it's the best one."

    Each arrondissement has several markets. You do not schlep across town esp for your daily food marketing. And no way can the Prédient Wilson market be better than Raspail. Not knowing the exact location of your rental, from your listed markets Could you specify? We won't stalk you. :-)
    The Maubert market is also excellent.
    Doing your food shopping in markets everyday is certainly the right way to appreciate the best of Paris. Again, I emphasize, there must be a couple of markets near you. Taking a metro cross town every day to another arrondissement's market is not necessary in terms of quality. However, you may want to go to, say, the Bastille market, just to see what an animated big market is like. For me, Raspail is plenty big an danimated and fun already.

    "Any suggestions for home cooked meals? I'd like to get a bresse chicken, quail or something like that and roast it."

    Toasting? Do you mean getting them cooked and heating them up? Or do you truly mean "home cooked"? If they are raw, toasting them won't work.
    When I am on holiday, I also like to cook, but nothing elaborate. it is no fun to spend all day in the kitchen when one is on holiday. In Med countries, the easiest home meals are just getting sausages from a good butcher.
    Often in Paris, a good roast chicken stand is better than most roast chickens in restaurnats. Stake out a stand where everyone queue up. On such stands, you need even to "book" a chicken: ask for one roasted for a given hour, and you come back to get it.

    "We also love sea food, so I plan to get lots of scallops, langoustines and oysters. I've not been to Paris in winter so I don't know what vegetables or fruits are seasonally available"

    They are, or Parisians would have rioted worse than in 1870.
    Here is a website with a table of veg and fruits in season for every month:
    The veg and fruits in season in December are:
    betterave, cardon, carotte, céleri-rave, chou (de Bruxelles, rouge, blanc, frisé, chinois), courges (courge, citrouille, potiron, potimarron...), endive, igname, navet, panais, poireau, pomme de terre (de conservation), salsifis, topinambour, mâche, cresson, oignons, radis...
    châtaigne, citron, clémentine, fruit de la passion, datte, kaki, kiwi, mandarine, mangue, noix, orange, pamplemousse, poire, pomme
    You can now start your recipe research.

    "or would everything be imported"

    some would be, in the supermarkets and some lower-quality market stalls. The provenance of the ingredients are indicated.

    "I'm pretty comfortable in the kitchen (can make fresh pasta, bread, pizza, roast beef, etc. ). I'm going to bring a sharp knife and some spices."

    Why bring spices? What's wrong with getting fresh spices?

    "Truffles at which market? - Also, would you know where I can buy winter truffles other than Maison de Truffe? Is there a seller in any of the markets?"

    I get truffles from a farm I trust in the Dordogne, so I don't know where to get truffles in Paris. Others can answer this better.

    "3) Restaurant suggestions? - We'll probably eat at two 2 star restaurants and 3 good bistros (suggestions? was thinking passage 53, agape substance, epi dupin, la regalade, falafel) ."

    Epi Dupin? You can do better.
    A good sud-ouest place that is not so far from Mouffetard is Dans Les Landes, and its tapas-format means that the various sizes of dishes are very user-friendly for a group or family with varying appetites.

    "To avoid french food fatigue, I've also marked a couple of good places for ramen."

    2 weeks and you get French food fatigue? If you really think your food habits are that … specifically focused, why not try a couscous place. It's a nice winter dish, and many north African restos in Paris do it well. You can easily research on this board under "paris couscous".

    "Day trips and Christmas markets"

    I have a great deal of opinions and recommandations to share, but can't do so here. such non-food posts will be deleted by the mods.

    25 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Thanks Parigi. I appreciate the detailed comments.

      We're staying near one or two blocks from the Val de Grace church, with a view of that church as I understand it. You're right, I think most of the time we will shop from the nearby food markets. I did want to get a couple of truffles for a Christmas day dinner when my other son joins us from New York. I read somewhere that they sometimes show up in one of the markets.

      On the chickens, there is supposed to be a working oven. You are right it's much more convenient to buy the cooked chicken. We'll do that. But I am tempted to buy a couple of the more famous breeds and roast them. On the spices, well I want to bring some basics (salt, pepper, etc) to save money. We try to teach our kids to be careful spenders. But certainly fresh herbs, garlic, good olive oil, and other ingredients is a big part of the whole trip.

      We'll try that restaurant you suggested. On the french food fatigue, I guess what I said could be read that way. We really do love france. But, the food is quite rich. So once in a while we'd like something simple or something Asian. We like Japanese food because it tends to be lighter.


      1. re: jojogumabew

        salt and pepper are dirt cheap in France, and many markets have stalls that sell spices in bulk, so you can buy as much or as little as you want.

        If you just can't stand traveling without spices -- go buy a pillminder at the pharmacy with the largest compartments you can find. Put your spices in that, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap, and you're good to go.

        ETA: Thanks for that *great* link, Parigi. Bookmarked and in process of being devoured! (along with the mirabelles and quetsches from this morning's purchase)

        1. re: jojogumabew

          "the food is quite rich. So once in a while we'd like something simple or something Asian. We like Japanese food because it tends to be lighter"

          That I understand. We love to holiday in the Lot and Dordogne, in short. After 10 days of death by foie gras, I only dream of one thing: a nice good pho.
          There are good Japanese noodle restaurants on rue Ste Anne. One of my faves is Kunitoraya.

          "fresh herbs, garlic, good olive oil, and other ingredients is a big part of the whole trip."

          Those you can get extremely fresh in the markets. The aromatic herbs are not always on display. You can ask for the rosemary, theme, basil, etc., on the veg stands. Why would you want to bring in less fresh ingredients?

          “You are right it's much more convenient to buy the cooked chicken. We'll do that. But I am tempted to buy a couple of the more famous breeds and roast them.”

          Oh I get it. You made a typo and said you wanted to buy a Bress chicken and "toast" it, which elicitied my imagination-challenged reply.
          Yes by all means get a "pedigreed" chicken and roast it yourself.
          There are a couple of seminal threads on roasting chicken on this board:

          And Ptipois added this chicken Koran (my apologies to religious hounds):

          "Finally it all depends on what you wish to do with your chicken.
          This is an attempt at a classification which may serve as a (modifiable) basis for French chickens. I expect Souphie to alter it and improve it as he wishes.
          Poaching (no stuffing): Bresse (including poularde and chapon) and gauloise blanche, Houdan and other scrawny country fowls, Norman (long-bone) market chicken, black-skinned chicken (nègre-soie, this one particularly for simmering in stock with spices and herbs).
          Poule au pot (whole, stuffed): all of the above except the black-skinned, special emphasis on the Houdan and the géline de Touraine, poulet du Patis, poularde de Bresse, any good-quality hen (poule).
          Simmering in a sauce (poulet chasseur, poulet basquaise, poulet au blanc, coq au riesling, etc.): all chickens are good with emphasis on the tougher ones: Patis, Houdan, Norman and other farm-raised chickens. Yellow Landes recommended for Southwestern dishes. Bresse (not poularde, just chicken, long-boned) recommended for coq au riesling and all creamed dishes. Coq au vin: any farm-raised bird but, also, high-quality supermarket stuff like Poulet blanc d'Auvergne (bought already jointed), and large specimens (I mean large legs and thighs) of ready-cut Landes, Challans or Janzé. If you find rooster (cut-up) on markets or even in supermarkets, go for it for coq au vin, any style (this includes coq au riesling).
          Roasting (whole - I am not an advocate of cutting up the chicken before or during oven-roasting, for this becomes jointed roasted chicken which is a different thing): Landes yellow, and grass-fed and corn-fed chicken from the Southwest, is my all-time favorite. Country breeds like the Barbezieux evoked by Souphie above. Bresse when you can get a good one. Poulet de Janzé and to a lesser extent poulet de Challans. Norman farm-raised or any farm-raised bought on markets, but these have to be stuffed. Landes does not necessarily have to, being more tender. Coucou de Rennes and Coucou de Malines. Poulet blanc d'Auvergne. Some pattes-noires (black-legged), properly raised, are good. Norman farm chicken or any sturdy farm-raised bird can be a base for the excellent roast chicken dish "farc normand".
          Grilling/broiling (after marinating), or broiled-stewed chicken dishes like yassa: smaller specimens of Landes yellow, Janzé or Challans. White Auvergne. With plenty of marinating the scrawny Houdans, gauloise blanche and Patis may be tried this way and slow-broiled on a barbecue, for they'd reproduce the conditions of African poulet-bicyclette. Bring your teeth.
          AVOID : anything else in plastic wrap with a brand name (not an origin). At the very least look for the Label Rouge. However, avoid the generic Leader Price chicken in spite of its Label Rouge. Be a little suspicious of whole chicken sold in "magasins bio" (Naturalia, etc.) or chicken labeled as "Bio", for a few of us have found them to be lacking in taste and texture. Some, as Souphie wrote above, are good, keep track of them. Avoid Loué. That's about it.

          Whoops, forgot to add this:
          For Chinese-style steamed chicken with onion-ginger sauce, Hainan chicken or crystal-boiled chicken: nothing beats yellow Landes chickens. For crystal boiling, the fattier the better.
          For grilling on a plancha, it's yellow Landes chicken again.
          Yellow Janzé and Challans also do the job. All these chickens have a sweetish taste which reacts perfectly to these types of cooking.
          You'll understand from all I've written above that, in the current state of things and with little access to farms and country markets, I hold yellow Landes chicken above everything else.
          ADDENDUM for chicken tajine or couscous, remember that good halal butchers in France are used to the situation and have specially-raised "poulets fermiers" which don't look like much but lend themselves beautifully to those preparations which require firm, lean and tasty chicken. Don't look for their average-quality chickens but head for their "poulets fermiers".

          Coq au vin

          The problem often arises from the use of tough, tasteless birds in way of coq. Also serving the breast requires some precautions that apparently are seldom taken.
          If I'm not in the countryside or in a region of the world where rooster meat is taken seriously (i.e. Greece) I'll refrain from using rooster. Most of what I've bought that had the "coq" tag on it seemed to have run several marathons during its lifetime.
          Use a large, grown-up chicken. Regional breeds like poulet de Houdan, poulet fermier de Rouen or gauloise blanche (the non-fattened type) do well. Wine should be full-bodied gamay (the original recipe is Coq au chanturgue from Auvergne, so if you can't get chanturgue, use a dense beaujolais like moulin-à-vent, or better - a côtes-roannaises or a châteaugay). Chicken should be well browned and there should be plenty of onions and garlic. Wine should be well reduced and the cooking (with lots of aromatics) lengthy enough but indeed not too long and breast (on the bone, cut into pieces) added about 15-20 minutes before the end of cooking, together with the garniture of fried lardons, glacé onions and sautéed button mushrooms. A square of dark chocolate to bind the sauce towards the end of cooking.
          Since coq au vin (far more than bourguignon which is more easygoing) is all about precautions and requires very careful cooking, I refrain from ordering it in restaurants — unless I am in a cheap countryside joint where I know it will be done the right way."

          1. re: Parigi

            Please share where you suggest to get wonderful roasted chicken - crispy skin. I am wondering if the unique butter plays a part. Thanks!

            1. re: smilingal

              Parigi is on sabbatical from CH as well as on vacation so others will have to answer.

              1. re: John Talbott

                JT - I welcome input from all of you Parisian experts - and value it!

                1. re: smilingal

                  I was going to suggest my local rotisseur but your response to jojo rules that out.
                  I thought in 1970 that L'Ami Louis had the best (plus the potato galette) but it's become so expensive and filled with visitors that I hesitate to mention it.

                    1. re: smilingal

                      Yup, been around for a while. Me & them.

                      1. re: John Talbott

                        ha! I can relate - but things certainly do change since 1970. I'd like to think I haven't lol!

              2. re: smilingal

                As I recall daguerre market had good roast chickens and I also saw them do a special order (guinea hen). I'm not a local, but my experience is many Fr markets have good roast chicken (and occasionally quail and guinea hen). If higher caste chicken (fermier, blue/black feet) is available, it's worth the premium.

                When you order, the chicken is put in a bag and the skin steams (still good). So your only chance for crispy is to eat it there. Even then, not a guarantee because multiple spits dripping on each other results in flavorful but not necessarily super crisp skin.

                Chez Panisse in Berkeley had fantastic high born, roast crispy chicken when we ate there, as good as anything we've had anywhere.

                Other than that, I'd roast it myself. The key to crispy skin is to air dry the skin in the ref uncovered 1-2 days. When I've bought chickens from specialty butchers in Fr, they've not been wrapped so the skin is quite dry. 325f + convection, breast side down, then half way through cooking, breast up. If you can judge doneness well and not overcook it, a 5 minute blast at 400+ convection will get you there. Alternatively, you can butterfly/debone the chicken, cook skin side down with a weight on top at medium till the sides are done. Then flip to finish cooking.

                I'm psycho about roasting, chickens, ducks, suckling pigs, geese, in the oven, on a spit using natural charcoal, stuffed, unstuffed, stuffing under the skin, skin scored to release fat (ducks and geese). As a result, I've been put on a diet and can now just eat skinless breast meat :(

                1. re: jojogumabew

                  jojo - thanks for your suggestions - I did not make my inquiry clear - I am looking for a restaurant with excellent roast chicken!

            2. re: jojogumabew

              I hesitate to reply since I am primarily a consumer rather than a provider of food, but.....
              "I am tempted to buy a couple of the more famous breeds and roast them."
              I would suggest a coucou de rennes; true Bresse gets all the press, but try it/them.
              "On the spices, well I want to bring some basics (salt, pepper, etc) to save money. We try to teach our kids to be careful spenders."
              OK but weigh schleping vs availability. I must admit (I just looked) I do have some McCormick's Ground Cumin, Crushed Red Pepper and some 5 Spice from who knows where. But you can get cool exotic black peppercorns here and Fleur de Sel a few steps up rom Morton's.
              "the food is quite rich."
              I couldn't disagee more. Here portions are smaller, plates balanced and the stress is on quality not quantity. When In go back to US, my first day I have to remember to order one dish not three. Sure at night (my at home meal, I eat even lighter but I didn't get "food fatigue" and crave Japanese/etc stuff until about 150 days. In the most polite way I can put it, I'd suggest eating at different places than those you're used to that have that sort of "heavy" food.

              1. re: John Talbott

                I also prefer Coucou de Rennes, or Challan (Jancou's and my fave), over Bresse. The magnum opus extract from Pti mentions all of them, including the most elusive Barbezieux, which made it to Paris only once, commissioned by a super-hound from the Ferme de la Ruchotte in Burgundy, delivered to me downstairs.

                Coucou de Rennes is also hard to find. I only know of two places in Paris that have it regularly, one polailler stand in the August Blanqui market, and Marcel's stand across the way from the "nasty cheeses" stand in Marché St Quentin.
                Marcel has many of the pedigreed chickens, including Coucou de Rennes, Géline de Touraine, Challan, Prince, and one "race" of chicken that DH made last night but I forgot the name. And his caille is not shabby at all and such a bright pink it is downright Schiaparelli. But for me the revelation from Marcel is the coquelets, so drippy-juicy.

                I agree with JT, as usual. 2 weeks of French food in Paris, I would not have Fench fatigue. 2 weeks of foie gras, yes.
                Bistro food in Paris, unlike regions like Normandy, Lyon, Alsace, etc., tends to be on the lighter side. The classic French cuisine fixtures like cream-based sauces are not much in the mores in the capital.

                1. re: Parigi

                  Parigi, JT,

                  Wow that's great advice, especially on the chickens. I think i will look for the Coucou, and maybe the Challan and Landes. Marche St. Quentin is a bit far from where we are staying. But perhaps will pass by when we are in the area. I've saved it on my googlemap plan for the trip. I did want to give bresse another go. I've had it (in cream sauce) a few years back at a starred restaurant, but did not find it remarkable. I have the Blanqui market on my map.

                  Anyway, I'll look for roasting birds that are not too large (unless you recommend the chapon). My plan is to salt it a few hours ahead, dislocate the bones, spatchcock, bring to room temperature, rub with butter, and roast at high heat with onion, garlic, and a light touch of herbs. I do it this way at home when my wood fired oven temperature is still high, but people are hungry already. It's not the best presentation.But, the skin comes out crisp and the meat very juicy and it cooks in half the time. Since we're there a couple of weeks, I can do something braised the next time, hopefully with different kinds of mushrooms. I noticed you seem to like hainanese-style chicken, which is one of our favorites also. But no plans for that in Paris.

                  On Japanese food, I think we'll probably have this just once or twice in two weeks. Not excessive. We do plan to maximize our eating experience there, including bringing a pack lunch of goodies on the plane back.

                  But I would appreciate more suggestions on restaurants (french cuisine, new and classical). My plan is to eat at two places with a per person spend of 80-100e and three with 30-50e per person. I am not counting places which will cost less, but if you have noteworthy suggestions please share. Do you recommend any for Christmas day itself?

                  On the spices, I may have given the wrong impression again. I grow herbs (italian parsley, basil, sage, rosemary etc) at home. I do try to save money where I can, in the spirit of sending three kids to college, living debt free as much as possible, and spending only on what's really important to us. That may or may not include the hand bags my wife buys.

                  I really appreciate the detailed comments by the way. Apart from chicken, what I like to buy from the markets are stinky cheeses, good bread and butter, mushrooms (morelles, chantrelles, cepes in season?), good pears and other fruit? We love sea food also and I try to buy live scallops and langoustines, oysters, razor clams, etc. I also have on our list Poilane and a couple more famous bread places, and a number of patisseries which I am sure my children will enjoy. We also like wine, mostly good qpr (quality to price ratio at 20-40e per bottle).

                  Anyway, as you can tell I am very excited. Thanks again.

                  1. re: jojogumabew

                    You plant to go to "two 2 star restaurants and 3 good bistros". You plan to eat truffles. And you want to save money by bringing your own herbs? How much do fresh herbs cost in your home country? Here in France they don't cost much.

                    Whoa, don't dine out on xmas. Best make your own feast at home.

                    Let us know the shortlist of restaurants you come up with, and we can evaluate it and make further seuggestions.

                    1. re: Parigi

                      Fresh herbs I will buy. Pepper and salt no. I have a small cooking travel kit ( for check in luggage) if we are staying somewhere with a kitchen. It has tea, salt, pepper, chili flakes, pulltex wine bottle opener, a few splenda packs, our daily vitamin, aspirin and fish oil ration, and a small but very sharp japanese kitchen knife.

                      My friends think I can be really cheap. So I drive 10 year old cars. But at home, I have a nice stove (wolf all gas), nice bicycles. We also have a place on the beach (actually just sold it, but starting to build another one across the street, also with recycled timber, etc). I know, it's a paradox. Makes sense to me, kinda:)

                      Ok good, on xmas dinner. I was thinking that way.

                      1. re: Parigi

                        "Let us know the shortlist of restaurants you come up with, and we can evaluate it and make further seuggestions."
                        I second what Parigi says. There are a ton of threads here that you can consult and 90% of the restaurants & bistros we regular posters mention are in your price range.
                        Regarding Christmas Day or New Year's for that matter, that's when to eat your Asian meal out. Even though the French, like most over here, celebrate Christmas eve, Christmas Day is bleak excepting the Chinatowns.

                        1. re: John Talbott

                          Thanks John. I've gone through a few posts. Will post my choices in a couple of days. I suppose we should reserve in advance.

                          1. re: jojogumabew

                            Yup but not now for XMas except Spring or Frenchie.

                            1. re: John Talbott

                              This is what I've come up with.Should we do dinner or lunch? I know lunch is less expensive but is the food just as good? During past trips we'd go for lunch most of the time. Should I include spring or frenchie?

                              Thanks in advance.

                              L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon
                              Agapé Substance
                              Passage 53
                              Sola Michele

                              30-50 euro
                              Le Comptoir du Relais
                              L'Epi Dupin
                              Les Papilles
                              Dan les Landes
                              L'As Du Fallafel
                              La Régalade Saint-Honoré


                              Pain Poujauran Diffusion
                              Boulangerie Kayser
                              Philippe Gosselin

                              Patisserie and Chocolate

                              Patrick Roger
                              Sadaharu Aoki
                              Pierre Hermé
                              Chaudun Michel
                              Christian Constant

                              Ramen break


                              Ice cream (we all like ice cream)

                              Grom France SARL
                              Martine Lambert

                              1. re: jojogumabew

                                Oy, too many choices.

                                Lunch... "is the food just as good? During past trips we'd go for lunch most of the time. Should I include spring or frenchie?

                                Yes to both

                                1. re: John Talbott

                                  Ok. On the other board Ptpois told me to junk everything on my original list. Ok will narrow it down.

                                  1. re: jojogumabew

                                    For starters -
                                    what's Sola Michele? Sola I know and love
                                    and why L'As Du Fallafel? for variety?
                                    otherwise looks good.

                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                      Thanks John.

                                      Hmm ok. I think meant Sola. I better check the address as well. L'as du fallafel my friend said was good. I've never had it.

            3. We will be almost neighbours. So, if I take up too much space and provide too many unnecessary details in replying to your post, apologies. Familiarity gets in the way of my self-editing. :)

              Fortunately (i hate being trapped underground), the quartier Val-de-Grâce is a bit of a métro blind spot. The RER stations at Luxembourg and Port Royal are just minutes away but, changing to the more useful métro at, say, St Michel or Chatelet-Les Halles requires negotiating the confusing and vast labyrinths of the interchange stations. Not at all fun if you are burdened with shopping bags. The bus will probably be far more convenient for getting around and will strongly determine your shopping patterns . The nearest shopping street/ rue commerçante (shops are usually open Tues to Sat with long lunch breaks and some also open on Sun morning) is the rue Daguerre. The variety and quality of the shops are good enough to qualify it as an obligatory part of your daily routine if you want to live like a parisien. The Fromagerie Vacroux et Fils and the fishmongers Daguerre Marée are especially good. There is even a shop, Valette/ Gastronomie du Périgord, that sells truffles. And a historic landmark Café Daguerre on the corner of the rue Daguerre and avenue Général Leclerc for just loafing and people-watching. For getting to and from the rue Daguerre, just a short hop on the #38 bus from the Val-du-Grâce stop on the boulevard St-Michel to Denfert-Rochereau and return from the #38 bus stop just in front of the Hôpital LaRochefoucauld (roughly 13 ave Général Leclerc) to the Val-de-Grâce stop on the boulevard St-Michel. Easy as pie. If you want to go to the VERY expensive and very famous butcher Hugo Desnoyer on the rue Boulard, it's just a 5-minute walk from the rue Daguerre or #38 to the Mouton-Duvernet stop. You can recover from the Desnoyer sticker shock at the old fashioned and cheap bar-tabac at the corner of the rue Boulard and the rue Mouton-Duvernet.

              For outdoor markets, the Marché Port-Royal on Tue, Thu and Sat mornings is of course in easy walking distance. Sweet but kinda average as markets go. There's another Tue + Fri market (Mouton-Duvernet) on the place Jacques Demy (which locals still call the place du Marché just in case you have to ask for directions) but smaller than Port-Royal. The other shopping areas/ markets in the 5th... "la Mouffe" and the lovely village-like Marché Monge are a wee bit inconvenient to get to. Just a 15- to 20-minute walk but if the weather is bad or you are lugging your purchases home, not very pleasant.

              The #82 bus from the rue Auguste Comte just off the bd St-Michel is a market shopper's godsend and takes you to within a 5-minute walk (from the Duroc stop) of the excellent Marché Saxe-Breteuil (Thu + Sat) just off the place Breteuil in the very chic 7th as well as to the Ièna-end of the Marché Président Wilson (Wed + Sat) in the 16th. Both I highly recommend to visitors: not only is the quality excellent but the backdrops/ settings are spectacular.

              The #83 bus from the rue d'Assas/ ave de l'Observatoire (near the Clinique Tarnier) takes you to the Raspail market (Tue+Fri+ bio Sun) where at least at the Sunday bio market there's a truffle stand. From the other side of the rue d'Assas (across from the fountain and next to a little park), you can also pick up the #83 to the Place d'Italie for the Marché Auguste-Blanqui (Tue + Fri + Sun) and then a little wander around the delightful Butte aux Cailles quartier and maybe buy some honey from the honey shop at 21 rue Butte-aux-Cailles. Incidentally, the #83 bus continues on to Chinatown in case your taste buds develop French fatigue.

              Montparnasse is another natural focus for Val-de-Grâce folks. Easily walkable or catch the #91 from the boulevard Port-Royal or #82 from the rue Auguste-Comte. Some great landmark cafés (my favourites are Le Select, La Rotonde and, in the evening, the Piano Bar of the Closerie des Lilas) for practicing the Parisien art of doing absolutely nothing or celebrating an especially clever remark with a sip of an apéritif)... good to excellent restaurants like La Rotonde, Toyo, Le Timbre, La Cerisaie ... loads of Breton crêperies (of very varying quality) on the rue Delambre and rue Montparnasse ... and a very good Wed + Sat market on the boulevard Edgar Quinet.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Parnassien


                Thanks very much for the excellent information and the detail is much appreciated. Rue da Guerre and the buses sound good. Paris metro gets the job done, but is not our favorite either. I was thinking of buying tickets for Velib, but we have never biked in winter. Might be slippery also if it rains. Bus 82 to wilson we'll do for sure.

                I was actually looking at the pictures in Hugo Desnoyer's website trying to figure out what prices are in Paris now. I am glad it's not just me who finds it high. Still we'll probably try it out, what the heck. Thanks also for the truffle info. I am confident it will be shocking also. I am sure it will be a bargain vs eating it in a fancy restaurant.

                You've actually hit on what we want to do most of the time, which is nothing:) Much better than the vacation where you are more tired at the end than at the beginning.

                Best wishes.

              2. Just a heads up. As I understand it, you live in Manila. Since I don't believe I saw it anywhere in your post and while it is possible that you are aware of this, the prices for fancy French chickens and buying meat from Desnoyer or other quality butchers is, to put it mildly, not cheap.
                Again, if you are aware, my apologies. But if not, I think it better that you know beforehand than to show up, see 15-25euro/kg for whatever breed of bird and at that moment be taken aback and then want to rethink your plans.
                Your posts are more thoughtful than the example I will site. I am using it only for illustration not to compare you to their thoughtlessness.There have been many who ask for restaurants, 'price not an issue'. Then you list a few top choices, note that 300-500 is the expected cost per person and all of a sudden there is 'an issue' and, more specifically, a ceiling on their budget.

                But your family has an excellent Xmas trip lined up.

                Also, second Parigi's dismay about French food fatigue in 2 weeks.

                34 Replies
                1. re: dietndesire

                  Dnd, I can afford it. It's going to be less expensive than if five of us eat it in a nice restaurant. Whether I can do it justice in the kitchen is another matter: But I shall do my best:)

                  I thought about your post though. I realize I hardly say this: I am very grateful for what I have in life, foremost my wife and kids and our health (knock on wood). While not a magic carpet ride and there is still hard work and sleepless nights, I'm quite fortunate. I've gone to a great school in the US, gotten good employment, and now own part of a small business. I can send my kids to school in America on my own steam and give them the same opportunity I've had. My work is interesting and I have some control over my time. Before I give the wrong impression, it's all pretty modest. But still, I think it's as much as one can expect. Anyway, as my kids grow older and start leaving us, I want to celebrate the times all of us can be together.

                  But admittedly the chicken is quite expensive and it better be a darn good.

                  On French food fatigue, believe me I am better than all my friends save one who grew up in Europe. Once or twice in 40 meals is not so bad.


                  1. re: jojogumabew

                    I was going to note that I was not commenting on your financial capabilities. And I hope that I did not insult you. I, surely, did not mean to do so.The fact that you are having this trip and eating out with the whole family at restaurants that are hardly inexpensive on the worldwide scale, along with the fact that you do not seem frivolous and irresponsible, made me think all is well within your means. But sometimes, certain prices for certain items, when so unexpected change peoples' desires for them. Can you spend 40 euros? Sure, if it were on a flight, it would seem free, on a pair of shoes, almost nothing, on a chicken? Some people might take issue even if they could spend 1000 euros and not have their life altered. What if it were a 40 euro loaf of bread? At some point, there is value to most people and shock comes into play more than the actual capability to pay for it.
                    But you seem to know the lay of the land.

                    Now, don't go and ruin that expensive bird.
                    Maybe buy two and have a test run, haha.


                    1. re: dietndesire

                      No offense and I didn't think that was your intention. It was a fair point.

                      I appreciate the comments on value. This is a talk I have with my children, knowing the value of money. Hence, my insistence on somewhat ridiculous things, like bringing the salt and pepper to Paris. It does not mean we deprive ourselves of great experiences or some things that are meaningful to us.

                      Well you know I could go on and on about this topic.

                      But....that's how I justify the 40euro chicken - an affordable luxury, and a unique experience, hopefully worthwhile when cooked properly, and better than 100e if we bought it in the restaurant.

                      1. re: jojogumabew

                        40 euro is about the top price for a coucou de Rennes or Bresse. Barbezieux may be slightly more.
                        You needn't do a "dry run" (cooking a cheapo chicken purr say before hand), but getting a little more familiar with your oven may be a good idea. Each oven is slightly different and has its own "caprices".You may learn to adjust to it before popping 40 euro in your oven.
                        A user-friend winner, and less expensive, is the coquelet. That actually may work well as your dress rehearsal for a pedigreed chicken.
                        Lastlyj, may I remind you that not every butcher has those pedigreed chickens. A poulet fermier de sud-ouest or de Périgord, is very good and much easer to find.

                        1. re: Parigi


                          I think that's a good plan for the chicken roasting part of our tour. Well we're five so I think I can try several kinds. I've started my diet (no carbs) so I can eat well by year end.

                          I am now fixated on getting some dough starter from Poilane or another good baker (as well as a bakery visit). Would appreciate any thoughts you have on this. Otherwise, my plan is to visit the baker daily and have my wife (much more charming than me) sweet talk them.

                          We've also decided to ditch Versailles (where we've been) and maybe go to Rouen and maybe Giverny or WWII memorials on Omaha Beach. Not sure if this is doable on a day trip, or how street parking is in Paris where we are in case I have to keep the car overnight. Have to ask my landlord.

                          If you can manage to sneak in the thread some nonfood suggestions for my wife (window shopping, antiques, fabric - for me discounted is better) I would also appreciate it.

                          1. re: jojogumabew

                            "Otherwise, my plan is to visit the baker daily and have my wife (much more charming than me) sweet talk them."

                            Parisians go to the baker daily, often twice or more times a day. No one eat old baguettes. 12 hours old is too old.

                            One friend took a "Meet the Parisians at Work" tour and took the behind-the-scenes bakery tour, and found it fascinating.

                            I found this on the very informative travel site slowtrav, which may also the a much better place for all your other questions re window shopping, antiques, fabric, etc.
                            This is the slowtrav thread on the baker tour.

                            "We've also decided to ditch Versailles (where we've been) and maybe go to Rouen and maybe Giverny or WWII memorials on Omaha Beach. Not sure if this is doable on a day trip"

                            The Paris-Omaha is a very long drive for on a day-trip. I would not find it worthwhile. But every time I say this, someone always says: I'm from Utah (USA, not Utah Beach, Normandy) or Sibera. No biggie to drive 12 hours a day. I love driving blabla.

                            "or how street parking is in Paris"

                            A huge percentage of the moving cars in Paris are not going somewhere. They are just going round and round looking to park.

                            1. re: Parigi

                              It's three hours from Paris to Omaha Beach IF you're lucky and nobody has to pee.

                              And my SO knows that I do not drive inside the Peripherique. Full stop, no questions. He hates driving inside the Periph -- so we take the train unless we're going to be out past the last train.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                DH also refuses to drive intra muros in Paris. We rent a car right outside Paris, reachable by metro.

                                1. re: Parigi

                                  That was going to be my other comment - that I'm not sure that any of you who live IN the city even own a car!

                                2. re: sunshine842

                                  "And my SO knows that I do not drive inside the Peripherique. Full stop, no questions. He hates driving inside the Periph -- so we take the train unless we're going to be out past the last train."
                                  I find driving in Paris and out fun and coming back hell so we too take the SNCF out and rent their deals. And I have had cars here for years and much prefer this method to the astronomic garage prices.

                                3. re: Parigi

                                  "A huge percentage of the moving cars in Paris are not going somewhere. They are just going round and round looking to park."

                                  This was quite amusing.

                                  I like the baker and parisians at work suggestion. I am somewhat determined to get a brand name starter. I think it makes for a good story. I will pass on slow trav to my wife. So far I've done all the trip planning. But she intends to take french language lessons at Alliance with a friend of ours. I've seen this before though and nothing happened.

                                  Paris Omaha. Yes, maybe a bit daunting especially with a stop over in Rouen. If we just walk around Rouen, maybe taking the train is better than getting a car. If we get a car, a 3 day rental is practically the same cost as a one day rental. But there is the parking as you say.

                            2. re: jojogumabew

                              Just to add, the fleur de sel that I buy in Paris is superior to anything that I can find in New York City -- the quality of the grains is exceptional and I always buy enough in Paris to use while I'm there and to bring back home.

                              1. re: Nancy S.

                                Hi Nancy, what do you use the fleur de sel for that makes it especially worthwhile? I just buy coarse sea salt because I need a lot. I cook regularly for 5 people several times a week and not too infrequently for more people.

                                1. re: jojogumabew

                                  If you buy coarse salt, do not bring any to France... The excellent Guérande grey sea salt is available everywhere.

                                  1. re: Ptipois

                                    Ok guys. I give up and will buy salt when I get there :)

                                    Anyway, you've all given me great advice. If you are ever going to Manila and need any assistance or would like a free beer, please let me know.

                                  2. re: jojogumabew

                                    Fleur de sel is really a finishing salt. With a higher moisture content, more chemical complexity and irregular crystals, it tends to lose its effect when exposed to too much heat. But the effect is almost magical when used correctly. In some ways, you can consider it embryonic salt. It's harvested while floating on the surface of salt pans before it fully develops into ordinary salt. Much more fluffy than ordinary salt so always buy it by weight. The best is fleur de sel de Guérande. And you better like it! Cuz I spent one purgatorial summer tending and harvesting it when I was a student xx years ago.

                                    Sel gris is slightly different and somewhat less complex than fleur de sel and is harvested from the lower levels of the salt pans where it acquires a greyish tinge from contact with the sand.

                                  3. re: Nancy S.

                                    Ooh sorry. I think my response sounded abrupt. But am interested to know what it's best for. Thanks!

                                    1. re: jojogumabew

                                      Fleur de sel is a very tasty salt, so tasty that, like Beurre Bordier, I don't cook with it; the taste easily gets lost that way. It is best sprinkled on the kind of food that you don't salt in the cooking, like steak, or on salad when you use only a light vinaigrette or only olive oil.

                                      1. re: Parigi

                                        and on foie. Never forget the foie. ;)

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          I checked out that Beurre Bordier. Where do you get that?

                                          Ok wll sprinkle it on foie. So I buy a mi-cuit foie terrine?

                                          1. re: jojogumabew

                                            - Lafayette Gourmet
                                            - Les Papilles Gourmandes, rue des Martyrs
                                            - Ferme St Hubert

                                            Get the real foie gras, not foie gras terrine, god forbid !

                                            1. re: Parigi

                                              'Get the real foie gras, not foie gras terrine, god forbid !"

                                              Do you mean the whole uncooked foie liver, that you need to de-vein and soak in milk and after pan fry, bake or poach?

                                              Do french people do that at home?

                                              1. re: jojogumabew

                                                I mean: don't get terrine de foie gras, which contains only a small percentage of foie gras.

                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                  Yes - get foie gras entier -- or en morceaux. Then it's the whole thing, or bits and pieces thereof, respectively.

                                                  And no, you don't soak it in milk. You devein it and anoint it with armagnac or cognac and let it sleep in the fridge overnight, then bake it in a bain-marie.

                                                  Or you could just go to a decent traiteur and buy it already cooked (or half-cooked, as the case may be)

                                            2. re: jojogumabew

                                              If you are living in the Val-de-Grâce quartier, there's no reason to make a safari to the other side of Paris to bag a foie gras or a slab of Bordier butter ... for the Left Bank, the most convenient one-stop shopping for horrendously expensive gourmet items is La Grande Epicerie at the Bon Marché department store (5 mins from you on the #83 bus). The shops on the rue Daguerre will also give you a lot of options as well as the easily reachable marchés Port-Royal, Mouton-Duvernet, Raspail, Edgar Quinet, and Saxe-Breteuil.

                                              1. re: Parnassien

                                                Good call on Bon Marche. It is expensive for expensive things, but it's actually reasonable for day to day items and the quality is good - that is why so many locals shop there. The butchers counter, chicken counter, and vegetables are good. But for cheese Barthelemy on rue due Grenelle or for fish Poisonierie Bac are better.

                                                It is a fantastic place for Christmas treats with an amazing selfection of Turkish Delight. Does anyone know if they still serve Champagne during the pre-Christmas Sunday openings?

                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                  I've never been and will make it a point to go.

                                                  We've gone go to Fauchon and Hediard a few times just to look, but I don't see how I could ever really shop there.

                                                  We've stayed before in a decent apartment right above the Rue Cler/Rue grenelle market. We all enjoyed it and there was a great boulangerie nearby. But we found that area a bit far from where the more interesting things/shops (to us) were.

                                                  1. re: jojogumabew

                                                    Very different from those two places, who actually shops at those? Bon Marche is really the supermarket of the 7eme. I know that will attract lots of dissenting opinions but it was my local shop and was quite reasonable for the Wednesday and Thursday shop (when our Sunday market veggies had run out), and far less expensive for meat tan one of the butchers in the area - observe the people queuing for meat to assess its quality.

                                  4. re: jojogumabew

                                    Jojogumabew, in terms of light, modest Asian meals, probably small Vietnamese restaurants are the most common, because of the former French Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos). Even little takeaway "traîteurs vietnamiens" (caterers or delis), though these vary in quality; some have much better and fresher food than others. Local food commentary boards (I'm not working at home now or on my own computer, so don't have them bookmarked) could get you ratings and advice with something like "traiteur vietnamien 5e".

                                    And I also second the stellar quality of several rotisserie chickens I've had over the years in Paris, though I've never stayed in the 5e.

                                    1. re: lagatta

                                      "little takeaway "traîteurs vietnamiens" (caterers or delis)"
                                      50 years ago Viet Namese places were great here, now I'm rather disappointed; there seems to be a central S Asian factory pouring out the same stuff whether they call it Thai, Chinese, Lao or Cambodian.
                                      For someone from Manila, I think you'll be upset. But I'll hope our experts from the Asian desk, Ptit Pois and Parigi, will give you some sage advice.
                                      And I, too, will endorse rotisserie chickens, why here, now, on almost every food street they're great, I have no idea. Quail, coquelet too, although for a big family, maybe not so easy.

                                      1. re: John Talbott

                                        I knew a truly stellar traîteur vietnamien in the 18th, but alas they seem to have closed.

                                        That sounds like the factory-made Lebanese fastfood here in Montréal. I'm sure there are a few gems left, but you'd need a guide to find them.

                                        1. re: John Talbott


                                          Ah I love quail and will look for that. The last time we found it, they were the last 2 and there were 5 of us.

                                          I got some more Asian suggestions from Ptitpois. I suspect if we eat there too often, I will get scolded by this board.

                                          I would really like to see the basement bakery at Poilane though and maybe bring
                                          home some starter dough.

                                          I think I like that idea. If I were to impose, would you have an idea of the best time so it's least bothersome to the bakery?

                                        2. re: lagatta

                                          Lagatta, thanks! We like vietnamese. Ptipois on the other board also suggested it and gave me some names. She said she''s from the fifth.

                                      1. re: deadstroke86

                                        Thanks! I will look for that. Any idea on prices? My only experience with a fresh one was in Florence Mercato and it was 50 euro for a nugget.

                                        1. re: jojogumabew

                                          I've no idea! I am also planning for a winter trip - 1 week in early January and hope you can find it out and update us.

                                          1. re: deadstroke86

                                            On the maison de truffe website it's 165euro for 50g sold seasonally. It's feasible if we get only one but when I brought up the idea of two, my wife raised her eyebrow. I was half thinking of taking the tvg to carpentras and getting a handful.

                                            1. re: jojogumabew

                                              That sounds awfully expensive. I was surfing randomly for Hugo Desnoyer and came across this picture.

                                     (Scroll down to the last few


                                              Perhaps you can try your luck!

                                              1. re: deadstroke86

                                                Yes I thought it was scandalous. Thank you. That's quite useful. I will check it out. I read prices in the South were around 800-900e per kg. So 2x that in Paris I thought was kinda fair. Att 4x, I would feel violated. If there no other choice I would still consider it. But thanks. It appears there are alternatives.

                                                1. re: jojogumabew

                                                  Coming to the rescue right here, that's easier.

                                                  Do not trust any price found on any website before the truffle season begins. Prices vary enormously from one year to another and all the retail prices will reflect that.

                                                  Also you don't need to go to Carpentras to fetch truffles, for the prices down there will not be much lower than up here. (Unless you're a seasoned local or truffle merchant who shops at the back of the truck, as they all do to get the real stuff). Furthermore you're not guaranteed to get exactly what you're shopping for. There is a lot of fraud, even more in producing regions where they know tourists will go. It is very easy to pass Tuber brumale (of no value whatsoever) as Melanosporum, they look very alike and the only way to tell them apart is cutting them open - and the smell. You'll have less of that problem in Paris, for the city is not known as a truffle hunting ground. At any rate it won't be X2 the Provence price, prices tend to be rather constant on the whole territory, and inflate right after the thing is harvested.

                                                  So I would recommend getting truffles from a reliable vendor; some of the best butchers/charcutiers do carry some good truffles around Christmastime. That is where I got the best bargains. Also I think there's a stall at the Batignolles market. Truffles should be sold clean, so that the skin is fully visible (with the tiny diamond-like structure of the skin). Don't hesitate to take them to your nose and inhale deeply: the smell should be strong, unmistakable. That is how you can tell the real from the fake.

                                                  1. re: jojogumabew

                                                    jojogumabew: Will you still be in Paris after the New Year? I am pondering if its feasible to share a truffle. Ha ha!

                                                    1. re: jojogumabew

                                                      Truffles are a traditional part of Chrtismas Eve and, especially, New Year's Eve meals. And every year at Christmas there are news stories on the TV and the newspapers about truffle scams. Although France represents almost half the world production, we also import 25 to 30 million tonnes of very inferior and cheap Chinese truffles that are re-sold or re-exported as expensive French ones. Personally I would never ever buy "conserved" truffles in jars. When buying loose ones at a shop or market stand, I also carefully watch the seller to make sure he isn't slipping an unseen chinese truffle into the bag instead of the ones that have passed inspection. I have seen it happen to others while they are distracted with paying. So always shop for truffles in pairs so one can keep on eye on the seller while the other pays. With wholesale price of black truffles ranging anywhere from 600 to 1500 € a kilo (versus 6 to 20 € for chinese ones), the temptations to cheat are obvious.

                                                      1. re: Parnassien

                                                        The Chinese truffle and French truffle look the same to me.
                                                        In theory, if the truffle is too cheap, it is probably Chinese. But who says the Chinese truffle vendors can't jack up the price to make it seem even more French?
                                                        So high price does not mean much.
                                                        (Low price does mean alarm bells.)
                                                        The best is to smell it. The smell is unmistakable. (However I find one kind of truffle heavenly smelling and less so tasting. And the other kind the opposite. Is it just I?)
                                                        So research a reliable vendor, whom your friends, or other hounds, vouch for, whose truffle they have tasted, who are not known to do switcharoos.

                                                        1. re: Parigi

                                                          Chinese truffles and melanosporum truffles look the same. There is no way you can tell one from another in a glimpse while buying in a shop. Botanically they're very close to melanosporum and, depending on the terroir, some are more fragrant than others. Sometimes almost as fragrant as melanosporum. A good Tuber sinensis is more fragrant than a bad melanosporum.

                                                          However such specimens are rarely found, so the most common practice (and I have seen it in the kitchens of respectable restaurants) is to keep some Tuber sinensis in a jar at room temperature with a few Melanosporum so that they absorb their fragrance. Works very well and makes a properly "impregnated" Tuber sinensis almost undistinguishable visually from a true Melanosporum. Then again you need an acute sense of smell and really stick your nose as close as possible to find out whether the smell really comes from the truffle or the truffle only got some special treatment. And here's the really bad news, a high price does not mean that the stuff hasn't been tampered with.

                                                          My only principle when buying a truffle: if I can't handle the thing and smell it real close, I don't buy. As Parigi says, the smell is unmistakable. Also the true Melanosporum seems to have a firmer texture (hard as a knob of wood), and the Sinensis can be a bit spongy, so touching may also help.

                                                          1. re: Ptipois

                                                            P, P, P (Ptipois, Parigi, Parnassien)

                                                            Hmm okay. That's very good advice. Its good to know that it's ok to ask to handle and smell. A bit complicated. Well, I did not expect it to be so easy.

                                                            Assuming I am successful, to peel or not to peel? Am inclined not to. And what to do with it? Omelette, risotto, pasta or with the expensive chicken. Probably too much to risk in one meal. Or mix some trimmings with olive oil and dress sea food?

                                                            Also do you mind my asking, do French people really buy a lot of truffles and is it seen as a worthwhile? For an omelette how much do you use? One whole?

                                                            What is a typical French christmas dinner like at home?

                                                            Thanks again.

                                                            DS86. We're leaving Jan 3. Seems tight, but normally the day before we leave I will be shopping for food to take home. I can post or email how I do.

                                                            1. re: jojogumabew

                                                              Brush, peel, never throw away the peels but chop them and use them in sauces. Or put them in a small jar with madeira or dry sherry on top and keep that as a flavoring.
                                                              No, French people do not buy a lot of truffles. Truffles are getting very rare, some say they are disappearing. They used to be more common and in the late 19th century even middle-class households would purchase them by the half-kilo. But the decline of traditional agriculture has also brought on the decline of truffles. Depending on how rich they are, some families may buy one or two truffles in the Winter, or more, but that is not very common. Today, most truffles available in France are from Provence or Spain, and to a lesser extent from Quercy (in Périgord, they have become very scarce).

                                                              The number of truffles does not tell much, weight is important. There are small truffles and large truffles.

                                                              1. re: Ptipois

                                                                Or take those peelings and mix them with a quality vinegar to use on salad. My favorite with a good quality olive oil. Can't wait...

                                          2. I read through, but didn't see this mentioned -- so apologies if I missed it somewhere.

                                            Christmas Eve is the traditional celebration with family and close friends -- as such, markets and supermarkets will be **slammed*** in the morning, and closed very early in the afternoon, so everyone can go home to their holiday meal (as in closing 4-5 in the afternoon).

                                            Take this into effect -- plan and shop accordingly!

                                            26 Replies
                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              Thanks Sunshine. We arrive the 21st. I suppose the 22nd and 23rd will already be a madhouse? I plan to go very early just as the markets open. Is that 7 or 8am?

                                              1. re: jojogumabew

                                                It will keep ramping up as it gets closer -- French schools are out the 21st (morning of the 22nd for the older kids) -- so the markets on the 23rd and 24th will be pretty well packed, in that hustle-and-bustle-of-Christmas way, but packed.

                                                Markets won't open until at least 8h30 -- and even though that's the official opening time, don't expect them to be ready to open up shop yet!

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  I'm not much of a shopper but I'd advise going days earlier if stuff will keep; standing in line at Petrossian or Bellota-Bellota or you name it for more than 30 minutes is a waste of what is left of the rest of my life.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    Unfortunately, Christmas Eve is a Monday, the traditional closing day. Some shops normally closed will probably open for the Christmas rush but just as many others will be shuttered.

                                                    Although the marchés volants/ street markets are theoretically open from 7 or 8am, it's usually a slow and patchy start. Shops on the rues commerçantes/ market streets like the rue Daguerre are better bets for shopping at 8am.

                                                    For you in the quartier Val-de-Grâce, the nearest marchés de Noël or villages de Noël will probably be the place Saint-Sulpice/ 6th (easily and pleasantly walkable through the Luxembourg park), a very small "village de Père Noël" around the Eglise St Germain des Prés/ 6th, and a big collection of gastronomie and artisan stalls on the place Raoul Dautry between the Tour Montparnasse and the Gare Montparnasse (walkable or #82 bus to rue de l'Arrivée and return from the rue du Départ). There's also a "village" at Trocadéro near the Eiffel Tower (the #82 bus again) and the big and very crowded Christmas market at the lower end of the Champs Elysées between the place Concorde and the Rond Point (#83 bus/ direction Friedland-Haussmann from Observatoire-Assas stop to the Rond-Point stop). I'm not a morning person but I suspect Christmas markets aren't either so maybe aim for 11am. They tend to be the most crowded in the evening.

                                                    1. re: Parnassien

                                                      with the caution, however, that most of the marchés in Paris (not commenting on the Montparnasse; haven't been to that one) are put on by huge commercial organizers, and their wares are primarily overpriced imported bargains, and very little unique or interesting.

                                                      The Paris villages are great for a fun Christmassy atmosphere (and wandering with a glass of vin chaud...which varies in quality and quantity by vendor) -- but not much in the way of reasonably-priced, decent comestibles.

                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        A food-oriented person should consider visiting the small but very well stocked Alsatian Christmas market that lands in front of the gare de l'Est at every holiday season. It is true that Christmas flying markets in Paris are generally stocked with useless imported baubles, but there are some exceptions like this one. It sells nothing but food and wine.

                                                        1. re: Ptipois

                                                          Very good tip. Until now this local has been staying away all those ugly-as-sin xmas markets with their prefab plywood chalets selling identical souvenirs mostly not made in France.

                                                        2. re: sunshine842

                                                          I quite agree... but they are immensely popular and such a part of the Christmas scene that they should be experienced at least once .... and better for browsers than buyers... although I must confess a secret liking for some of the street food at the Saint-Sulpice marché de noël

                                                          1. re: Parnassien

                                                            Oh, yes- -the prefab villages are nice to wander and take in the lights and bustles and SQUEEE-Christmas-is-coming! atmosphere, especially if you know you won't make it to Alsace this season! (like all the parents whose kids aren't out of school til late this year....)

                                                            We usually buy a cone of roasted chestnuts and some vin chaud...completes the vibe.

                                                            I'd forgotten about the Alsace market at Est...yes, that's a notable exception to my Most....

                                                            1. re: Parnassien

                                                              Am curious what street food at St Sulpice garners a secret liking? I think I will be obliged by my family to do the Christmas market thing. But, yes, I know what you mean.

                                                              But the Alsatian market sounds good. I like Alsace wine.

                                                              1. re: jojogumabew

                                                                At St Sulpice, there's one stand that sells steaming hot bowls of cassoulet.

                                                                1. re: Parnassien

                                                                  My landlady said she'll set up a Christmas tree for us and will also show us a shop where we can buy truffles. She also said it's not so hard to find parking in our area.

                                                                  I think I am going overboard on the food planning, but this is what we plan to eat in the apartment:

                                                                  Truffle Dishes – fresh truffle peeled and shaved (peels crushed with a little salt and mixed with olive oil for a dressing)
                                                                  • Soft scrambled eggs w truffles
                                                                  • Truffle risotto (with a little pancetta, parmiggiano reggiano, butter, and a creamy cheese like taleggio or brie)
                                                                  • Beef carpaccio on arugula/greens with some chopped ripe tomatoes and drizzled with truffled olive oil, and with shaved parmiggiano, and lemon
                                                                  • Poached langoustine with truffled olive oi + salad

                                                                  • Two kinds of roast chicken (cou cou and landes), salted a few hours ahead, brought to room temperature, spatchcocked, rubbed with butter and roasted at high heat
                                                                  • Guinea hen browned and braised with choucroute and sausages
                                                                  • Bresse chicken with cream and mixed mushrooms (morels or porcini or button) and parsley

                                                                  Quickie dishes or bought from market
                                                                  • Foie gras (whole) semi-cooked served with some fruit sauce on the side (cherries, vinegar, wine, sugar reduced)
                                                                  • Roast quail
                                                                  • Duck confit (from a big can) crisped on a pan + salad
                                                                  • Hard and soft raw milk cheeses, dried salami, ham, fruits, bread and butter
                                                                  • Pizza (frozen) but baked with added cheese and fresh bell peppers, salami or anchovies
                                                                  • Cassoulet
                                                                  • Quiche if freshly baked
                                                                  • Mixed panfried sausages (pork, boudin noir)
                                                                  • Lots of salad (nicoise, walnut + pears + blue cheese, etc)
                                                                  • Grilled cheese sandwich with butter and pinch of sugar

                                                                  Sea food
                                                                  • If sushi grade available – fresh raw sardines marinated in lemon and olive oil or tuna tartar
                                                                  • Lobster and clams in cream sauce
                                                                  • Razor clams or mussels with garlic and white wine
                                                                  • Ice cold oysters with hot sauce or mignonette
                                                                  • Scallops with coral seared in butter
                                                                  • Pot of poached langoustines

                                                                  • Pan fried veal chops
                                                                  • Pot au feu
                                                                  • Small rib roast or striploin roast with garlic and rock salt

                                                                  • Onion soup w toast and gruyere
                                                                  • Chicken soup and veggies
                                                                  • Roast beef sandwich

                                                                  Vegetables – lots of salads, vegetables, sliced tomato

                                                                  Desserts and pastries
                                                                  • Apple tart, maybe will try to make tarte tatin with ice cream or crème fraiche
                                                                  • Ripe pears and other fruit
                                                                  • Cherry clafoutis, crème caramel, pistachio custard

                                                                  • Croissants, pan choclat, fruit and yogurt and coffee or tea
                                                                  • Soft-boiled eggs

                                                                  Good bread and butter

                                                                  Wine (20-50e per bottle). I let my younger kids taste but not have their own glass.

                                                                  Seems like a lot but really it's over two weeks. My kids are starting to like cooking so I plan to assign a meal or two. Luckily my wife finds washing relaxing.

                                                                  1. re: jojogumabew

                                                                    Sounds lovely, but my word of advice, don't over-estimate the cooking equipment in your rental. Also, you can buy stunning pastries (including stellar tarte tatin). Finally, after a day of art, architecture and walking, etc. (and your daily shopping for your meals), you may be exhausted and not want to cook such ambitious menus. Nevertheless, my family and I will be in Paris during Christmas as well, so if you are cooking extra . . .

                                                                    1. re: jojogumabew

                                                                      That is a lot of precise planning and I'm impressed. However, what about leaving some options open and make up your mind from all the beautiful, unexpected things you'll come across at markets and in shops?

                                                                      Here are some comments on the details, to avoid disillusion:

                                                                      - There won't be any ripe tomatoes worth buying in December (but your carpaccio will be perfect if you replace the tomatoes with sliced fresh truffles).

                                                                      - If you can find large langoustines, they're much better shelled raw (using scissors) and slowly pan-roasted in butter, than poached.

                                                                      - I wouldn't pre-salt the chickens. Nobody ever does that in France. Spatchcocking is fine but I'd prefer to do that on a young, tender Landes chicken or a coquelet. Large French chickens will be a bit too firm-fleshed for that type of cooking. Roasting whole is what is done here.

                                                                      - No sausages in pintade (guinea-hen) à la choucroute. This is a different dish than choucroute garnie. Just the pintade, the choucroute, some beer or white wine, and a little fatty bacon.

                                                                      - Cassoulet: canned is good, but don't buy just anything. Recommended brands: La Belle Chaurienne, Spanghero, Delpeyrat, Bizac, Larnaudie, Reflets de France.

                                                                      - Fish: nothing in France is ever labeled "sushi grade". Just use your eyes. Fish stalls on markets are recommended for freshness reasons.

                                                                      - Veal chops: I'd recommend the Normande preparation. Gently roast the chops (salted and peppered) in a pan, in butter, with a few coarsely chopped shallots, until brown on both sides but still a bit pink inside (the thicker the chops, the better). Meanwhile boil some coquillettes pasta and drain them. Set the chops aside on a plate, deglaze the pan with plenty of crème fraîche crue, reduce, correct seasoning, toss the coquillettes into that and serve.

                                                                      - No cherry clafoutis because no cherries. But there are plenty of apples and pears in December.

                                                                      Considering that you'll be staying on rue du Val-de-Grâce, I seem to remember there's a couple of excellent butchers nearby (rue Saint-Jacques, on either side of the Val-de-Grâce chapel). The better of the two is to the left, near the Feuillantines corner. Hope he's still around.

                                                                      (Edit: got it, it's Charcellay, 263 rue Saint-Jacques.)

                                                                      1. re: Ptipois

                                                                        to underline what Ptipois said - seasonality is a key issue here.

                                                                        If it's in season, it's cheap and somewhere from very good to outstanding.
                                                                        If it's out of season, it's expensive and crap anyway.

                                                                        Stick with what is fresh and in season. Cook the dishes that are cooked in the season (not much winter ratatouille, and not much summer cassoulet....)

                                                                        1. re: Ptipois

                                                                          Agree 100% with Ptipois and Sunshine. When living in Paris I often shopped with rough plan for meals but tended to buy what looked good and fresh. French shops and market stalls are very seasonal. It is best to be inspired by the market rather than too rigid in planning.

                                                                          I also agree that your Chicken roasting technique may not be ideal for good French birds, they don't need brining or salting (seasoning OK) and spatchcocking and quick cooking won't get the best out of the bird.

                                                                          "Not too hard to find parking" maybe a relative term - in Paris could mean only driving around the neighbourhood for 40 minutes rather than an hour, or it could me there is an underground garage around the corner, convenient yet extortonate at daily rates (most Parisians buy a heavily discounted annual pass).

                                                                          1. re: PhilD

                                                                            "don't over-estimate the cooking equipment in your rental."

                                                                            Josette, my landlady, says kitchen's complete and has a good oven. She seems to go out of her way to be helpful. So I am hopeful. But, I always bring a small sharp knife (dull knife a pet peeve).

                                                                            "Also, you can buy stunning pastries (including stellar tarte tatin)."

                                                                            I assure you we will hit the pastries hard:) You are right. Maybe tarte tatin is overkill on vacation. But, if I get bored...

                                                                            "Finally, after a day of art, architecture and walking, etc. (and your daily shopping for you" you may be exhausted and not want to cook such ambitious menus."

                                                                            Will cook only 1 or 2 items per meal and a salad. Most of the items are really not hard and I'll have help.

                                                                            "so if you are cooking extra . . ."

                                                                            Sure, potluck:)

                                                                            "However, what about leaving some options open and make up your mind from all the beautiful, unexpected things you'll come across at markets and in shops?"

                                                                            Ptipois, Phild, Sunshine absolutely. That's why I'm really looking forward to the trip. I will get what looks good and adjust.

                                                                            So lower and slower on the chickens + basting?

                                                                            I like the suggestion on the veal chop with the coquilette pasta. I expect that will be a hit. Medium rare ok on veal? Do you put grated cheese on the pasta also?

                                                                            I would like to try the fish this trip. Normally we just go for the shellfish. But I'll see what looks good. Any kinds of fish I should look out for? My friend says winter is the best time for seafood (in japan anyway).

                                                                            "No cherry clafoutis because no cherries." Aww.

                                                                            Charcellay, Josette also recommended it. Thanks.

                                                                            " in Paris could mean only driving around the neighbourhood for 40 minutes"

                                                                            On driving out of paris, we haven't decided. If we do decide to rent a car, it costs almost the same to rent a car for one day as it is for three days. Excluding parking of course. It seems like a waste to rent just for day. Since we're five, the train is only a little bit less expensive (for example if we go to Rouen). Decisions... My wife probably would rather go to the flea markets.


                                                                            1. re: jojogumabew

                                                                              "but if I get bored..."

                                                                              You won't.

                                                                              And to rent a car for three days, only to pay €40-60 euros for it to sit in a garage and collect dust?

                                                                              1. re: jojogumabew

                                                                                All good. Veal = I'd say medium done rather than medium rare (but it depends on the thickness) for the juices are not so good when the veal is rare. It's all in the Maillard reaction). Yes a little grated cheese on top of the coquillettes is good, I'd say comté, gruyère or emmental, not parmesan.

                                                                                1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                  Ptipois, what's the best way to roast a french chicken? 45-50mins at 350F? or 425 for 15 mins, then finish at 325? Or start low 325 and 10 minutes at 425 at the end? I guess it will depend on the size. I baste every 15 mins or so? And should I flip (breast side down/breast side up) in the middle?

                                                                                  Actually, goose I've never been able to do well. In case I find one, will the long slow roast (4-5 hours at very low temp, 300) plus 10-15 minutes at 425 work? This is how I do duck and it works very well, juicy, tender, crisp skin (punctured/scored many times).


                                                                                  1. re: jojogumabew

                                                                                    Most of the times I use the Daniel Rose method:

                                                                                    Oven 180 °C (350 °F)
                                                                                    Rub chicken inside and out with butter, salt and pepper (I use lemon juice too)
                                                                                    Roast 15 minutes leg side
                                                                                    Roast 15 minutes other leg side
                                                                                    Roast 15 minutes breast down
                                                                                    And finally 15 minutes breast up

                                                                                    Depending on your chicken's size, adjust the roasting time from 12 to 20 minutes on each side.

                                                                                    Then let it rest out of the oven for 20 minutes. That's all.

                                                                                    There is no absolute rule: start low, finish high or start high, finish low; or low oven all along, or only fast oven, or a very long, slow roast; you'll get a good chicken anyway, you have to let the type of chicken guide you (big, small, tender, firm, old, young, fatty, lean, etc.)

                                                                                    Goose does require long slow roasting, so your method is safe. I've never had goose done right in France, except in confit.

                                                                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                      My recipe is based on one published in Joy of Cooking -- and it's close -- 25min on one side, 25 min on the other side, and 15-20 (until the joints are free and the juices are clear) breast-side up.

                                                                                      it works well, this rotational roasting -- gives you a gorgeous crispy brown bird without a rotisserie. (I have a rotisserie in my oven and I still do it this way as often as not)

                                                                                2. re: jojogumabew

                                                                                  I am a fan of Jacky Lorenzo's fish -- he's at the President Wison market on Wed. and Sat. (where you can also buy stellar vegetables from the famous Joel Thiebault), the Popincourt market on Tues. and Fri. and the Bastile market on Thurs. and Sun. The scallops and langoustine that I purchased this summer were brilliant, and Joel Thiebault's produce deserve all the plaudits, in my opinion.

                                                                                  1. re: Nancy S.

                                                                                    Thanks Nancy. Wilson is a bit far, but I've heard a lot about it and I plan to make the trip.

                                                                            2. re: jojogumabew

                                                                              I would agree that you're going overboard with planning. It's your vacation!

                                                                              Visit the markets...see what's available...and pick up enough for a day or two at a time...but go with the flow.

                                                                              The only time shopping will be a challenge (and then only moderately so, because of the crowds) is the windup to Christmas Eve.

                                                                              Wine from €20-50? Then you'll overspend what most of us spend on an everyday wine. Don't discount the less-expensive stuff. We set out a few years ago, for a giggle, to see what the absolute cheapest wine we could buy that one could stand to drink.

                                                                              Anything under €2 was mostly pretty awful, although there were a couple that were better than we'd expected them to be (we found one on special for €1,49 that you could actually drink. It wasn't great, but it was drinkable!)

                                                                              Between €2 and €3 you're rolling the dice. from €3-€5 it's almost all drinkable - Robert Parker would blow a gasket, but it's drinkable....and at €6-10, you can find some very respectable wines (depending on what you're buying -- obviously you're not going to pick up a first-growth Bordeaux, Champagne, or specialty cru like Sauternes...I'm talking about an ordinary wine to go with a regular meal)

                                                                              I don't know where you're from, but the price factor is 1/4-1/3 versus US pricing for similar wines -- i.e., a comparable bottle of wine in France is 1/4-1/3 the price of the same bottle in the US, if it's even available in the US.

                                                                              France has a number of wine competitions -- look for Medaille d'Or, Medaille d'Argent, and/or Medaille Bronze stickers on the neck of the bottle...this is a pretty reliable guide to finding very nice wines.

                                                                              And parking? Ditch the car if you can -- it's more trouble (and more expense) than it's worth in Paris. Expect €20 per day or more to park in a garage, and a lot of time driving in circles and trying to find a parking place, otherwise. For the most part, the folks posting here who live in Paris don't even own a car, and those of us who live outside the city don't drive if we have a choice. Loads and loads of places (including wonderful day trips) are accessible via public transportation. (See the book "An Hour From Paris" by Annabelle Simms -- it's a great list)

                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                Wine in Manila is 70-100% more than comparable wines in the US (good rum on the other hand is ridiculously cheap). Well I don't mind spending less.

                                                                                No one seems in favor of the car.