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Jan 6, 2014 09:52 AM

Paris by Mouth food tours experience/thoughts?


I'll be in Paris in a week for a week --haven't been in many years. I thought I might take a Paris-by-Mouth tour of the St. Germain neighborhood (which is sort of where i'll be staying) on the first day to get somewhat oriented and to get some tips.

Does anyone have experience/thoughts on how worthwhile the Paris-by-Mouth tours are? I'm not naive and realize that this will not give a complete insiders look that a long-term resident would have, but anyway that is not a fair benchmark. So, the question is whether these tours are just a waste of time/$ or if they are fun/helpful?


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  1. I have no reason to think that the Paris by Mouth tours are other than excellent and good value in terms of both money and time.

    Also you might consider tours given by affable and knowledgeable Wendy Lyn.

    And certainly, if you want the best of the best, I'd consider our own Julien Tort who is a Paris native and true connoisseur. Julien's forte is devining the visitor's goals and interest and creating a totally personal agenda.

    18 Replies
    1. re: mangeur

      Merci Mangeur,

      I have actually looked into Wendy Lyn's food tour offerings, and just looked at Julien Tort's website --who I guess is "Souphie" on this board? I noticed his posts show a font on knowledge. I would do one of these in a heartbeat if I were in your fair city for, say, a month, or expected to return frequently. However, I'll only be in town five days --far too little time to apply the knowledge I would gain, I expect. (The same is true with Paris-by-Mouth or similar, but at a lower cost --and for a probably less in-depth tour, but it may be a better fit for my purposes).

      What every I do, I guess I'd better decide quick.

      1. re: MagicMarkR

        The reason you may not be getting many responses to your question is that many of us here either do tours (not me) or work for Meg's Paris by Mouth (me) and have conflicts of interest.

        1. re: John Talbott

          Thanks, that is what I was beginning to figure out. In fact as I was writing it I was a bit concerned that I was asking people to bad-mouth (so to speak) Paris-by-Mouth, which was not my intent. In any case, I appreciate all the feedback --nice to see that participants here also do tours. I have actually looked into almost all of the websites/blogs people have pointed me to (even yours John) before I posted. In fact, I will not be totally on my own: my sister will be in town, and is staying for a month --she has local friends and insights as well (and I'm finding out she has more connections than I realized before I began my research).

          So I think I'm good. On follow-up somewhat off my original post: any thoughts on Le Petit Dakar, Mansouria, or Zerda Cafe? I always like to mix ethnicities food-wise in such a cosmopolitan city.

          Merci beaucoup!

          1. re: MagicMarkR

            Forget Zerda Cafe. Mansouria is good Moroccan food (a bit on the sweet side) and expensive. If you really want good couscous in Paris go to Chez Hamadi (Tunisian, simple, hole-in-the-wall) or L'Atlas (Moroccan, sophisticated, more expensive).

            Never been to Le Petit Dakar but there's a good Senegalese restaurant, Nioumré, on rue des Poissonniers and a good Beninese restaurant, Fifa, rue Joseph-Dijon.

            1. re: Ptipois

              Merci, Pti, that's helpful. I assume that a place like Chez Hamadi would not require a reservations, unlike Mansouria? I'm trying to get a sense of reservation requirements in Paris. Understanding that restaurants are generally smaller than in the US (San Francisco, where I'm coming from), reservations are of greater necessity.

              1. re: MagicMarkR

                Ah, never mind about the reservations questions. I found a nice thread about that very questions on which many of you on this thread also posted.

                1. re: MagicMarkR

                  Reservations at Chez Hamadi would be a good laugh. Just hop in. Mansouria on the other hand would require a reservation.

        2. re: mangeur

          And someone else does sur-mesure food tours in Paris. Hm, forgot who that was now...

          1. re: Ptipois

            Pti, I am not aware. Can you either provide a link? i think it is allowed if requested.

            1. re: mangeur

              Pti also does customized tours. I have not taken them but have gone to markets with her many times. It is like going to the market with a set of food enclopedia. I was more than lucky. Not only did I have the right person, but I also had the right market (the market of Coustellet in the Luberon, which is much less glamorous than the famous Ile sur la Sorgues market but is infinitely superior).
              Pti is also great in suggesting very streamlined recipes that let the good ingredients do all the work for you.
              I have not gone on a market tour with Souphie either but have also had the privilege of being his commis when he was a Rungis chicken consultant. All I can say is that there was a before and an after.
              Both of them influenced my cooking in a no-turning-back way. Who is better ? It depends on whom I cook with last, and I think that perseon is the best, lol.
              Lastly I suggest that everyone read the highly entertaining and informative chicken rant by Souphie and the chicken manifesto by Pti, which the OPs have moved out of the France board to the hound parallel universe.
              I have them in my archive if you can't find this twin bible.

            2. re: Ptipois

              Pti: I was including you in the PbM crowd. Don't feel excluded.

              1. re: John Talbott

                Does Pti work for the PbM tours too ? I didn't know that.

                1. re: Parigi

                  "Does Pti work for the PbM tours too"
                  No, I didn't say that; I said a lot of us "either do tours (not me) or work for Meg's Paris by Mouth (me)"; PbM is a website that many of us are contributing editors or posters on.

                  1. re: John Talbott

                    This is the Chicken Manifesto by Pti:
                    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

                        And this is why I love CH!!! And I laugh, because buying (and cooking) chicken here in New England is such a [sadly] different experience. . . .

                    1. re: Parigi

                      To clarify if needed, I don't, and never did. Besides I am no longer a contributing editor (if I ever was).

                    2. re: John Talbott

                      Well, indeed John I am not in the PbM crowd. I thought you were aware of that.

                2. I have no conflict. If these guys are envolved, you are in good hands. Jump if you can get a spot!

                  1. David Libovitz used to organize or participate in tours but I believe he has given it up. However, his website is a treasure trove of Paris addresses, such as this cheese coop/epicerie which will be on my next agenda.


                    You might put together several self-guided tours for your other days in Paris.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mangeur

                      David Lebovitz has indeed given up his tours, concierge chocolate services and other sidelines to focus on writing cookbooks and blogging.

                      1. re: John Talbott

                        Luckily for us, his blog now suggests many targets for self-guided tours.

                    2. But one must spell his name as Lebovitz, or one will not come upon him.

                      1. We were in Paris for 10 days in December and did the Paris by Mouth tour of St Germain. My husband and I both enjoyed it. It lasted a little over three hours. Our tour guide was Diane R. She was very knowledgeable about the "best" sources and shops in St. Germain. We went to two famous chocolate shops, Poilane, the covered food market that had an excellent cheese shop and butcher, a tiny shop that sold petit Chou and a wonderful wine shop with a back room for tastings. We were so full afterwards that we skipped lunch.

                        I hope that helps. I plan on starting a trip report in the next few days. Thanks again for everyone's help in planning our trip. It was perfect!