Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Foodie Tour of the Marais - by Paris By Mouth - Thank you, Lucia!

Now, this was a good idea. I heard about the Paris by Mouth blog from Lucia Watson (Lucia's) in Minneapolis so had to check it out and before I could get to the bottom of the page, I had booked a food tour of the Marais for Sunday morning at 10:00. It was raining, so we grabbed umbrellas and grumbled a bit about that fact.

The Marais is a rather chic, up and coming neighborhood, full of charming little streets and shops. Originally the Jewish neighborhood, shops were often closed from sundown on Friday through Saturday, but open on Sundays. So it is a neighborhood that is still very lively on Sundays.

We started the tour with a small group of seven and a smart, young tour guide, Catherine, at Poilane, a boulangerie (bakery) that is known for it's dark sourdough miche baked in wood-fired ovens. There's not a baguette in sight! (But, oh, can they make a croissant!) Poilane started in 1932 in the St. Germain area and stuck to its guns producing their specialty miche even when lighter white flour breads came in favor after the war.

The famous (and delicious toasted or for tartine!) 4-pound miche by Poilane.
They sell by the slice, too!

The spoon is a buttery little shortbread.

WE LEARNED: some crazy things about the bread industry in France! The ingredients of the baguette are defined by law to include only flour, water, yeast and salt. If it includes more than this (like a preservative!) it cannot be called a baguette! There is a price cap on baguettes, to assure that everyone can afford them. And bakers must schedule and register their vacations with the government so as to be certain that all bakers aren't gone at the same time!

By now, the rain has stopped, as is usually does in fickle Paris, rainbows come out and the sun is warm.

After bread, we walked around the corner to a fromagerie (cheesemonger) and learned that this particular one belonged to a family who not only sells the cheese, but makes it and has their own caves for the aging process. One who makes the cheese is called an affineur and it is a very good sign to see this posted at a fromagerie as an affineur cares for cheese almost as one cares for a child! Turning it, brining it, squeezing it, covering it in ashes and herbs.

The goat cheeses - only a couple months old made of milk from the goat after the spring births!
They feed on lavender all summer! Some of these covered in ash. Gorgeous and delicious!
Cow milk cheeses from northern France.
The shop. Family owned and now run by father and daughter.

WE LEARNED: that French cheese is made with raw milk. The best affineur wouldn't consider using pasteurized milk! It changes the characteristic and taste of the cheese and turns it from something artisanal to something industrial. So...I see that the French government controls the quality of their baguette - for the better. The American government controls the quality of our cheese for the worse. Since raw milk cheese is almost completely illegal in the US. (Only certain kinds of cheese aged more than 6 months are legal.) Mold on French raw milk cheeses are beneficial and good for us! Mold on pasteurized American cheese is NOT good for us and may be harmful to our health. Cut it off. Sad.

Found these beautiful bowls and olive wood utensils at the oil shop.
Then we picked up meats at a local market, tasted olive oils from a small shop specializing in small batch oils from Provence, then moved to a local park to put it all together, everyone tasting the fresh slices of bread with the 7-8 cheeses and 3 meats Catherine selected for us and picked up along the way.
Some crazy, bold homeless man who had incredible style  - and looking like Willem Dafoe - tried to join us, but poor Catherine had to keep her cool and found the nicest possible way to maintain the private party.

WE LEARNED: about and tasted something Catherine called Duck Butter, which looked suspiciously like dark tuna salad without anything but tuna and mayo in it. But definitely didn't taste like that! It was roasted duck, shredded and seasoned and blended with butter to create a spread that slipped right down the throat. Yum.

Jacques Genin's Chocolates. Some have herb filled centers -
he grows and hand-picks herbs from his garden on site.
We finished at Jacques Genin's candy and tea shop - which is just remarkable on so many levels. The zen open space and candies displayed like jewels at Tiffany's. Well, yes, the taste. OMG.

WE LEARNED: The caramels are known to be the best in the world and made with what the French consider the best butter in the world from Brittany and sea salt also from the Brittany coast (where we are going tomorrow - woo hoo!)

So fun to learn things! Don't miss a Paris by Mouth Tour if you are in Paris. They offer several all over the city. Bon appetit!

Considered the best butter in France from Brittany and used for Jacques Genin's caramels.

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