Thursday, July 26, 2012

Le Marais Walking Tour

On Sunday morning we participated in a food walking tour of Le Marais (the district where we stayed). I did a very successful walking tour in New York and I was hoping that this one in Paris would be equally good. It was a bit hit and miss - some parts were great but there wasn't enough information for me. I wanted to know more about the history of the market we visited, more about the producers and production methods, more about the history of the area and how it's changed and I wouldn't have minded tasting more food.


There is so much food history and culture in France that I was really expecting to be overwhelmed with information but sadly, I was not. (Plus it was uber expensive!) Still, I visited parts of the district that I wouldn't have gone to on my own and sampled various wonderful products and found the most insanely amazing pastry shop in the history of the world.


We started off at a local boulangerie which had the most fantastic tiles on the outside of the shop. Our guide explained about baguettes and the different types and qualities. This is a local bakery, nothing fancy, but the bread was fabulous. Still warm, fragrant, crackling as you tore off a piece (I'm always reminded of that scene in Ratatouille when Colette shows Linguini about the sound of good bread). The traditional baguette is made with only four ingredients: flour, water, yeast and salt. As we tasted outside the shop you could hear the machines working in the back and smell the doughs rising.


From there we walked to the market at the Place de la Bastille. This is an extremely large market selling not just food but shoes, clothes, bags. A kind of buy-everything-in-one-place kind of market which are apparently fairly common in small towns where there aren't many stores. We sampled various cheeses, foie gras, spoke with some producers (the man selling salt was very entertaining) and oohed and aahed over various fruits and vegetables that aren't common in South Africa.

I just love the different colours of honey
Beautiful tomatoes

Courgette flowers
Salted caramels sold with extra salt in the bag, just in case

After purchasing various products in the market we headed to a quiet square to sample all the produce.


We then visited two pastry shops. At the first we sampled waffles, one filled with vanilla cream and  another with pistachio and cherry cream. The displays made me want to purchase everything immediately.


Finally we went to Jacques Genin. Visiting this pastry shop is rather like visiting a library or church. We spoke in whispers, everything was quiet, almost revered - it was like a sanctuary for pastry. We sampled mango caramels that liquefied almost as soon as they touched your tongue, coriander chocolate, tonka bean chocolate and fresh mint chocolate, pâte de fruit, a caramel eclair, a lemon tart and finally, a raspberry tart where each raspberry was filled with coulis. We returned to the shop after the tour ended to buy more caramels (they're truly amazing) and a St. Honore. We ate the St. Honore for dessert that evening. It's puff pastry base was crispy and crunchy, each profiterole was filled with something different (custard, caramel, chocolate) and then the pastry cream and crème Chantilly just about finished us off. The tour was fun but I wouldn't pay that much again, not unless I got to see behind the scenes in some places or spoke more with the producers or there was much for information about the history of the places we went.
  

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