Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Les Halles and More: Paris Day 3

Escarogot in garlic butter and parsley, a Burgundian treat, at Restaurant Paul on Ile de la Cite

Flying buttresses, Notre Dame Cathedral, Ile de Cite
La Fromagerie, purveyors of locally made French cheeses, Paris 1st arrondissement
Au Rocher de Canale, a 19th century restaurant on rue Coquilliere, 1st arrondissement
Window of copper bowls and pots and other cooking tools at E. DeHillerin on Rue Coquilliere
Carolin Young at Foie Gras Luxe, foie gras, pate and truffle shop.
Photos (Lexi Van de Walle)
When we traveled to Rome in 2009, I discovered Context Travel so I was glad to learn they offer tours in Paris too. Not your typical tour company, the leaders are all scholars not tour guides and they focus on my favorite topics: food, gardens, wine, architecture, art. There are no vans or buses and the size is limited to 6 participants.

After lunch today we did the BELLY OF PARIS tour with ex-pat (and New Yorker), food historian and scholar, author of Apples of Gold and in Settings of Silver and colleague from NYC, Carolin Young. I highly recommend this tour for anyone who loves behind the scenes food stuffs -- Carolin is fantastic. Also, suggest other tours by Context Travel as well (we're doing Versailles gardens tomorrow) whether your in Italy, Paris, or New York City.

The title of our Les Halles area foodie tour is taken from Emile Zola's novel of the same name that romanticizes the 19th century wholesale markets and bustling neighborhood. Many of the historic restaurants and shops remain that were featured in BELLY OF PARIS.

Carolin walked us through the area pointing out important landmarks and weaving together stories from the 12th century market beginnings to the 16th century when Catherine de Medici brought foods from Italy to France all the way through the 1960s up until the time when the wholesale market moved to the suburbs. (It is now called Rungis and is located near Orly airport -- check out the blog post from FXCuisine on this gigantic wholesale market which serves all of France and much of the European Union).

She bought us some local (and award winning) bread, as well as some cheese and wine that our group shared at Au Rocher de Cancale restaurant (circa 1846) -- be sure to check out lovely frescoes of the market on the second floor (also see a fun New York Times article on this and other 19th century restaurants by Tony Perrottet that are still serving today including Au rocher de Cancale).

We stopped at dozens of places including E. DeHillerin, the cooking and baking supply store cherished by chefs around the world including moi, Julia Child and East Hampton's own "Barefoot Contessa" Ina Gartner, La Fromagerie cheese shop, Colin Regis' award winning boulangerie for traditional baguettes and croissants, a fois gras shop and more (Of course, I don't want to spoil Carolin's fabulous tour so the dozens of other places I will keep a surprise). I bought some treats to eat in Paris and take home (including a sizable bag of dried morels).

Our morning sight seeing included a several mile walk to Notre Dame and Ile Saint Louis, a wind and hail storm with sheets and sheets of rain, and a lovely lunch with Henry and a crowd of Parisians at Restaurant Paul where I had escargot from Burgundy, French bread and a simple salad. A lovely bistro experience.

The sun came out in time from our walk to Les Halles.

After the BELLY OF PARIS tour, we took in Faust at the National Opera de Paris (with ceilings adorned in Chagall paintings) and snacked on leftover bread and cheese before bed.

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