A Paris food tour of the fashionable Haute Marais neighbourhood, where artisanal food producers are creating innovative products, gives us a taste of ‘the Bobo palate’, the French capital’s bourgeois-bohemians, and the gourmet foods and specialty food shops currently on trend.
Exploring the food of a destination is a great way to dig deeper into a culture and get beneath the skin of a place, so we decided to do a Paris food tour to get a taste of the Bobo palate of Paris.
The focus of our Paris food tour was the specialty shops of the Haute Marais neighbourhood in, where established artisanal food producers are creating fashionable new products out of traditional goods.
More of a mobile food tasting than a history lesson on the development of artisanal food production, our late afternoon amble through the upper area of the 3rd arrondissement began outside Café Charlot on Rue de Bretagne.
As we strolled from the lively café to pretty Square du Temple, our Context Paris guide Meg Zimbeck, a public health policy developer turned food blogger and gourmet guide, began our Paris food tour by introducing us to the notion of the Parisian ‘Bobo’ or bourgeois-bohemian.
Paris Food Tour — Tasting the Bobo Palate of Paris
Once a poor artist or intellectual, now a successful creative type, the Bobo would rather spend their money on fine food and wine rather than material possessions, and the traditional producers seem happy to accommodate their demands with increasingly fine and often fanciful food products.
“If there’s one bobo neighbourhood, this is it!” Meg said, as she took us to our first stop of her Paris food tour, Goumanyat & son Royaume, the shop of Jean Thiercelin.
Author of a book on saffron, Thiercelin is a sixth generation member of a family that started out as vinegar makers in 1809, before moving into spice-trading and later supplying vanillas and plants to perfume and pharmaceutical manufacturers. They now provide saffron and spices to some of France’s best chefs.
After sniffing some of their more unusual products, like tonka beans from northern Brazil, and tasting some of their more creatively flavoured olive oils and syrups, such as a Szechuan sirop which can be used in everything from ice-cream to cocktails, we slipped across the road to the bakers. But not just any bakers…
Tout, Autour du Pain on the corner of Rue de Turenne has won awards for its croissants and baguettes and was a prize-winner in the Grand Priz de la Baguette de Tradition Française, so naturally, a baguette tasting was in order.
Using a park bench as her cutting board, Meg compared two baguettes, a very ordinary, cheap, manufactured bread stick, and the prize-getter, breaking pieces off and slicing them in half so we could taste and see the difference. (More on what makes a good baguette in another post!)
Spices, olive oils, and bread… next up, had to be chocolate, and it was… to the opposite corner and La Chocolaterie, the elegant store of Jacques Genin, perhaps the finest chocolatier and patissier in Paris.
All of the production takes place upstairs so cooking smells gently permeate the store, in addition to the aromas of the exquisite chocolates under the glass counters. Here we sampled his subtly flavoured chocolates, including one made from the tonka bean we’d just seen across the road, and Meg purchased some to go.
Back on Rue Charlot we visited the Boucherie Frédéric Simonneau where we salivated beside the Poulet Rôti a la Broche, whole chickens cooked on a rotisserie.
“This is my favourite fast food!” exclaimed Meg, before explaining why Parisian butchers leave trotters, legs and heads on poultry and pork, a practice we’re used to in Europe and the Middle East, but something foreign to our American friends on the tour – despite being discerning foodies, and former Paris residents, they crinkled their noses up at the thought of it.
“The old French women know the difference between different chickens by their legs,” said Meg, “So it’s a sign of origin and authenticity.”
The origins of the produce was clearly identified at the Fromagerie Jouannault, or Fromagerie Père et Fille (it’s ran by a father-daughter team), our next stop, where Meg advised us when shopping for cheese to always look for ‘Maître Fromager’ (master cheese-maker) on the sign of the shop.
As goat’s cheese is now in season, Meg ensured both a young and old goat’s cheese were in the cheese selection she chose for us to sample at our final destination, the Marché des Enfants Rouges, dating back to 1615, named after the red-uniformed orphans who once used to walk through the market to go to school.
After a stroll through the small market, selling everything from fresh flowers to organic produce, we headed into L’Estaminet Cantine des Enfants Rouges, a relaxed wine bar-cum-shop and café attached to the market, where we washed down our cheeses and chocolates with a nice drop of white and chatted food some more with our new friends.