Paris Feature - Guide2Paris goes on a tasty tour of St Germain with Flavors of Paris
There are a huge number of reasons for visiting Paris, many of which you can find on the pages of Guide2Paris. Some tourists come to see the wonderful historic buildings and monuments that Paris has in abundance, whereas some come to soak up the cultural delights of the City of Lights with its superb museums and art galleries. However, a growing number are coming to experience some of the more simple French pleasures that Paris has to offer, namely its food and drink.
Having lived in Paris for a number of years, I now know the difference between pâté and foie gras (never spread foie gras!) and it is certainly worth spending more than €3 on a bottle of wine. However, there are always new tastes and delectable shops to discover in Paris and this is where tasting tours come in. Do you know, for example, where to go to get fantastic bread and cakes to die for? The locals do and this is what Flavors of Paris, run by Lisa Rankin and her husband Michael Lutzmann, intend to share with others. According to their website, the Flavors of Paris tour promises clients an experience of “the family run food shops, the off-the- beaten-path gems of daily Paris life, the ‘in-the-know’ artisanal offerings that we’ve discovered one at a time.” Sounds great doesn’t it, and hence it was with some excitement that we met Lisa for the start of the tour at the church of St Germain des Prés in the 6th arrondissement of Paris.
Lisa starts the tour by explaining a bit more about the meeting place, the oldest church in Paris with some areas dating from the 6th century. Lisa is originally from Canada but lives most of the year in the St Germain quarter of Paris and this quickly becomes evident with her detailed knowledge of the surrounding area as we start our walk along Boulevard St Germain. She quickly explains the interesting cafés in the locality, the Deux Magots, Café de Flore and Brasserie Lipp which were frequented by the likes of Hemmingway and Sartre, before moving on to our first tasting destination, the “Eric Kayser” bread shop.
The “Eric Kayser” boulangeries, of which there are 19 in France but which are almost exclusively in Paris, are well know for their quality. However, we discovered from Lisa that each boulangerie uses local ingredients and flavours and hence the breads and other goods vary between each shop. There is also a special signature bread which is exclusive to each boulangerie and in addition a new bread is created each month. In this way, there is always something new to try depending on the season and to accompany special events, such as the wine harvest. Here we tasted a croissant and a baguette, which was also kept for later tastings, and both were excellent. The baguette was particularly good and much better than my local boulangerie!
Next we walked past Le Procope, the oldest café in Paris dating from 1686, and now a restaurant. Lisa then escorted us to our next tasting stop which was the “Gérard Mulot” cake shop, established in St Germain in 1976. I say cake shop, but this does not do it justice at all. In French it is described as a Pâtissier, Chocolatier and Artisan Authentique and a whole range of homemade cakes, chocolates, tarts, bread, macaroons and even plates of foie gras and scallops can be purchased. Here we tasted a “cassis violette” flavoured macaroon which is a flavour I have never tried before but after devouring in double quick time will be going back to buy a box full soon.
The tour continued with our next visit being “Un dimanche à Paris”, located in a lovely pedestrianised street close to Odéon metro. This place is a chocoholics dream. Not only is there a superb shop were you can buy chocolate, there is a kitchen where you can see the chef hard at work, a restaurant with chocolate incorporated into every course, a bar/lounge area where you can sit and relax and also a large professional kitchen where cooking courses are run. Lisa has a working arrangement with all the shops on the tour and if available the owners will come and speak to her clients. At “Un dimanche à Paris” we were fortunate that the owner, Pierre Cluizel, was on site and he was able to talk about his concept and his boutique. We were also able to try a hot chocolate made from Equatorial beans and spices. Words alone cannot describe how good the drink was, you just need to try it!
Again, the tour continued with visits to
olive oil shops “Premiere Pression
Provence”, “Huilerie LeBlanc” and
“Oliviers & Co. olive oils”. At “PPP” we
learnt about the olives used for making
the different olive oils in France and the
difference between Black, Ripe and
Green Fruité, as well as a tasting session
of the different types. At the tiny
“Huilerie LeBlanc” shop, which specialises
in nut oils, we were able to
sample three different oils with the bread
purchased at the first shop. “Oliviers & Co. olive oils” specialises in different flavoured oils including white truffle.
Next came a speciality food of Lyon, the quenelle, which we tasted in “Giraudet”, next to Marché St Germain. We opted for the spinach and basil flavoured version which was surprising good after only ever eating quenelle from a tin whist living in Lyon.
We were on to the final leg of the tour with a visit to St Germain market itself. Here, Lisa had organised a meeting with the manager of the “J’Go” stall which specialises in south western France cuisine. We learnt that everything can be cooked with duck’s fat, even desserts, and that all the produce on their market stand was from local suppliers from the region, no middle men were involved. This gives them confidence in the quality of their goods and is cheaper for the consumer. It also means that you will only find seasonal goods on the stall. A plate of sliced courgettes and pears were served on a plate for us to try.
We then moved on to the cheese stall, “Fromagerie Sanders”, where an enormous array of cheeses was on offer. Again, produce is sourced from local suppliers and hence the availability of cheese changes depending on what good ones are available. We were given a platter with seven types of cheeses of varying strengths; the owner had even gone to the trouble of labelling the cheeses with a strength rating and whether it was made with goats or cows milk.
Before tasting the vegetables and cheeses, we had one more stop to make, the wine stall! At “Bacchus and Ariane”, Lisa had arranged for a glass of red wine for each of the guests and we were able to sit outside the shop on the terrace with the wine, cheese, bread, courgettes and pears for an excellent tasting session.
The Tasting Tour of Paris really was a tasty tour. We tried a croissant, bread, macaroon, olive oils, hot chocolate, quenelle, regional fruit and vegetables, cheese and red wine. Lisa was extremely knowledgeable and friendly and was always providing interesting information throughout the tour without being too technical. There was plenty of time for tasting at each location and we never felt rushed to move on. The working arrangements that Lisa has organised with the shops in the tour means that owners are happy to talk to you about their products and specialities, something you would not normally get as a tourist. All in all, would heartily recommend a tour with Flavors of Paris to get an insight into some of the tastes of Paris. Other tours are planned on special themes for next year and I will look forward with anticipation for the next outing with Flavors of Paris.
The following links gives the websites of the shops in the order we visited them on the tour:
The tour itself costs €80 for about three and a half hours and includes all tastings. During the peak season, April to October, tours run from Tuesday to Saturday with a start time of 10am and additionally from 2:30pm on Thursday to Saturday. Bookings for specific dates can be made online using their website. For the off-peak season, between November and March, Flavors of Paris are looking for someone to run the tour on a Friday and Saturday. Do you live in Paris and would be interested in working for Flavors of Paris? Why not contact them on email@example.com to find out more.
Tel (Paris seasonal) : +33 (0)6 40 40 00 66
Tel (North America - toll free) : 877-812-TOUR (8687)
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
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