Imagine a treasure hunt of Paris, where the prizes are foodie delights. A gourmet safari where you can go at your own pace, stopping at your choice of places highly recommended by gastronomic curators. That’s the essence of Le Food Trip, a self-guided programme that helps you find cool culinary stops in the French capital – where you sample the best cheese, wine, bread, pastries, chocolates and other delicacies.
Le Food Trip uses little booklets to gain entry to their 25 favoured food places in the city. You can buy the booklets online and then pick them up at the first food shop. You then choose whether you wish to make six or 12 pit stops. Turn to the back of the booklet, and you will find a sheet of stickers which you give at each place you stop. Should you prefer – you can use the Android app, which locates Le Food Trip stores and your location without using data.
So, check into your Paris hotel, then hit the street to discover the best of French food. Here are seven highlights:
Meaning wonderful, this small cake originated in Belgium but here the patissière/owner has lightened the traditional recipe considerably, perfecting this cloud-soft meringue covered in whipped cream and sprinkled with dark chocolate shavings. Upon visiting the shop in the 7th arrondissement (the city is broken down into 20 neighbourhoods) you may be able to see these little délices being made through the shop window and you’ll receive a small merveilleux with your passport sticker.
Le Petit Domaines is a small independent wine shop in the 7th arrondissement recommended by Le Food Passport because it works with small wine producers and is so ‘committed and welcoming’ to guests. The owner chooses people who work in bio-dynamic ways and are ‘passionate’ and strictly limits the selection to French wines. The passport allows you to taste one glass of wine and learn about the regions of France and their vintages.
It’s a cliché that all French people eat frogs legs, many have never even tried them. But those that have ventured into the amphibian-eating arena love them, likening the meat to tender spring chicken. Rainettes was created because its owners found it hard to eat really good frogs legs in Paris for a reasonable price – they’re mostly only found in fine-dining restaurants. Here they are cooked in many different ways and you’ll receive two for your sticker.
Comté is a hard, aromatic and rich cheese that tastes different depending on the local landscape, quality of milk and most particularly maturation. Some comt cheeses can be sweet, others nutty. The mountainous Jura region produces more than 1.25m wheels of comté (France’s most famous hard cheese) every year. At L’Affineur Affiné in the 9th arrondissement, you can try Comté Charles Arnaud which has been matured in the cellar of Fort des Rousses, an old fortress.’
Ara Chocolat is a tiny artisanal chocolate shop in the 9th arrondissement where the chocolatier is also a torréfacteur, someone who roasts and grinds his own beans in order to create bars, ganaches and confections. A visit here will let you taste different cocoas such as criollo, forester and trinitario and discover aromas of tropical and dried fruits, along with notes of wood. The owner works directly with small South American chocolate producers and flavours include green mango and pink peppercorn. The single-origin bars here are highly-rated.
Absinthe and navettes
The infamous bright-green French spirit absinthe has a history of being banned across the world for its alleged hallucinogenic properties – its nickname is the green fairy. It was originally produced as a medicine in the late 18th century but soon became associated with France’s La Belle Epoque. Anise-flavoured a bsinthe is 60 to 70% proof. Here, the alcohol is balanced out with a tasting of navettes from Marseille – a hard, rowing-boat shaped biscuit flavoured lightly with orange lower water. The historic epicerie Maison Bremond 1830 is the location for your shot of absinthe and taste of biscuits.
A bit too squeamish to order a plate of half a dozen snails? Comptoir 43 is an organic grocery store where you can stop by and taste just one of the little land molluscs so popular in France. Here escargot de Bourgogne (or Helix Pomatia) is prepared with a very traditional recipe from Burgundy. Boiled with its shell, the escargot is then mixed with butter, herbs and garlic before being reintroduced in its shell. The owner here has carefully selected a small organic snail farm and says that most visitors enjoy their first taste of snail.