Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > France >
Oct 3, 2012 06:29 PM

shopping tips for Paris ?

Bon jour/soir. will be realizing a life-long dream to visit Paris next week, the first time for mi querida esposa too. as usual, will hardly have time to reasonably assimilate and adapt to a different language and surroundings. therefore, trying to use our shopping time efficiently. thanks as always to the generous and informative souls who frequent this board.

on our first day, the plan is to visit L.Dubois and G.Verot for cheese and cured meat (might get to Da Rosa if there's time), stuff that can tolerate no refrigeration for the weekend we leave the city on an excursion. best bets ? we're going right by Quatrehomme too, but other than a negative comment from DCM it's hardly mentioned on this board, while getting much praise elsewhere. after our return to the city we'll visit Barthelemy ; distance and time will limit us to one visit to la Ferme St. Hubert. have already noted recommendations from folks for Beillevaire, which is close to our temporary abode (lower Marais betw. St.Paul and Hotel de Ville metros). 'can't miss' items from Barthelemy or St.Hubert ? are there noteworthy cheese vendors where we can taste in the Marche Bastille or Marche d'Aligre ?

an etiquette question -- have heard it's considered rude to eat while walking about or on public transport. is it also perceived as foreigner/rude to eat on a long distance TGV train ?

will also be shopping for cooking oils, with a visit to LeBlanc planned. here in northern Calif, almost never do we get Provencal extra virgin olive oil, with excellent stuff available from Spain, Liguria, Sardinia, Crete at significantly lower cost. the Provencal stuff gets a premium tariff in France too, correct ? there are two shops within blocks of our Paris address, A l'Olivier and Premier Pression de Provence. has anyone tried them ? have seen prices at around 18-20 euro (or more) per 500 ml -- essentially the same as in Calif, sounds normal ? are there vendors where we can taste in the markets ? suggestions for vinaigre are also welcome, merci.

one other shopping item -- looking for small cooking knives (individual, not sets), and planning to visit Courty, Simon, possibly Armes Bastille (big selection of Opinel). Delherin is a usual suspect, but didn't get a clear notion about their inventory for this. would the large department stores have any advantage (price, selection) over the specialty shops ? is there a good vendor in one of the markets ?

much appreciate your kind assistance. if anyone happens to be at Septime on the 18th or Chez l'Ami Jean on the 19th for lunch, and spots a senior foreigner fumbling with bad French, in the company of a younger, cheerful partner, that's us. merci beaucoup.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. "is it also perceived as foreigner/rude to eat on a long distance TGV train ?"

    Not rude at all. Everybody picnics on trains. It makes for a very cheerful atmosphere.
    I can't answer the other questions. Am sure other hounds can. For example, I have not priced cooking oil between Paris and California.
    And the debate is driving me bonkers, at 4am Paris time.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Parigi

      Our experience is like Parigi's. The food for purchase on the TGV is bad. And yet some of our greatest pleasures are our TGV picnics, and the shopping for. Here are pics from our last two, in Sept. PS, some of those around us were eating purchased Paul sandwiches -- and eyeing ours, while saying "bon appetit." -- Jake

    2. It's exciting to read that your trip is imminent.

      My one piece of advice is to shop with vigor but buy meagerly. You have listed some of the best of the best, and it is so easy to get carried away and wind up with much more than you can consume, much less really enjoy. It is okay to ask for a taste in cheese shops SO LONG AS you are planning to buy accordingly. Small quantities okay, but a decent purchase to warrant the tasting.

      While the French normally do not eat on the street, with the exception of "le quignon" or end of the baguette as they walk home from the boulangerie, and le sandwich, they and everyone else eats on the TGV, often rather grandly.

      I would buy local olive oil if you find it awfully special. Personally, although we have never had a luggage disaster, we tend not to try to bring home liquids that we can buy at home even if they are more expensive here: honey, oil, vinegar. Wine? Well, that's different, isn't it?

      Looking for my favorite knife shop on rue de Petits Champs, I came across this thread: Corner of St. Anne. Make sure to notice the place knives at restaurants, often stunning Opinels and other top makers.

      Sorry we won't be in town mid-month. Enjoy!

      5 Replies
      1. re: mangeur

        merci. the shop on Petits Champs can only be Couteaux Courty, listed on my itinerary. if their website is representative, might be one of the best anywhere. with the olive oil, it will have to be exceptional for me to blow the euros -- even some Calif producers now can press great oil, and we can taste them fresh. honey -- mi querida esposa still thinks about the Scottish (coastal or island) honey she tasted in the Borough market which cost 5x what truly fine Sonoma Co. honey goes for, and we didn't buy. isn't your other home near SF, mangeur ? was just thinking how the restaurant prices in SF, below the very top end, aren't much less than many non-michelin starred places in Paris. bon soir.

        1. re: moto

          Sadly, Leblanc no longer maintains a shop in Paris.

          1. re: Nancy S.

            really appreciate this information, thank you. my impression was, there wasn't another place that really offered what they did -- is that accurate ?

            1. re: Nancy S.

              according to Huilerie LeBlanc's website, Tomat's Epicerie Fine in the 6th e. is their Paris retailer now, and the website of Tomat's confirms that they carry the oils.

              1. re: moto

                The supply is limited there, for the oils and especially their fabulous mustards. Sadly, it's not the same as the shop on rue Jacob.

        2. Yes, Courty is the best for contemporary pocket knives currently. Three other great stores closed in the last five years. If you want special antique types, the only way to get carbon steel blades easily, there are two vendors in the Louvre Antiquaire that have a large selection.
          It is still possible to get a # 12 opinel in carbon, will cost @ 20 euros and is large enough to use as a picnic knife easily, a store that sells all Opinels is on Rue Franc Bourgeois just east of Place des Vosges.
          My fav cheese from Barthelemy is their Clacbitou, an aged chevre drum from Burgundy that is twice as large as the other two makers of the product, thus their are more texture variations.
          On the Rue Beaumarchais side of the Bastille market is an Italian stand selling pasta, that also has many western Spain and Portugeuse cheeses that are interesting.
          My fav French oils are from the Valle de Baux in Provence and they have a silky texture with no back of the throat bite.
          In the covered part of the Aligre market is a grocery stand that has a wonderful vinegar from Banyuls, for me worth the trip there. At the entrance of the Aligre market there is a grocery store that sells bags of Nora, a sweet dried flake pepper from Spain one uses as bulk in stews and raisins that are an close to an inch long from Chile that are also wonderful.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

            merci, Dcm. as it happens, have a carbon steel Opinel 30+ yrs. old with a 10cm. blade ; looking for the long filet/fish knife. can mail order it here, but handling a knife is essential before deciding to buy. [after checking the Opinel website, identified the shop near the Pl.des Vosges as "la Laguiole du Marais", merci] in the Bay Area there are good sources for excellent carbon steel blades from Japan, and many end up in the kits of professional chefs. we bid on a gorgeous set at a silent auction fundraiser, donated by a prominent chef, at a fundraiser for the tsunami disaster, were out-bid but that's all for the better when deeper pockets contribute. folding knives will end up in my travel kit , much less hassle than bringing both edge jackets and wrap up for regular cooking knives. the Valle de Baux e.v.o.o. is highly regarded everywhere and there are some available here in Calif, but of course we won't have the selection from different producers. your market and cheese tips are appreciated and will be put to good use.

            1. re: moto

              The Opinel #12 has a blade of @ 15 cm., the #13 but not in carbon has a blade @ 22 cm. length. l used to use the #13 as cooking knife here but have added a 10" chef's knife to make my life simpler.

          2. My fave eating-on-train account:

            "Just got an email from my colleague - he is in the Eurostar taking particularly sardonic pleasure in seeing all of the noses of his elegantly clad fellow travelers (waifish things, on the way back from Fashion Week) quiver in disgust at the pungent cheeses he purchased at St-Quentin."