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utilizing paris' markets--how? apartment has kitchen.

my husband and i are renting an apartment in paris for two weeks this coming july/august. in my world, one of the major bonuses of this apartment is the fact that it has a kitchen (tiny, but everything's there) and a dining area (not tiny). i had this very romantic notion in my head about making use of paris's markets, and coming home with armloads of fresh produce and freshly baked bread at the end of every day and whipping up something yummy and cheap and utterly french for dinner every night (i said it was a romantic notion!) but how realistic is this notion? for those of you who have attempted this, does it work? i LOVE to cook--my husband got me both volumes of The Art of French Cooking for my birthday two days after we booked this trip (my 30th--part of why the trip is happening in the first place)--so it is not like i'm not enthusiastic about cooking whilst on vacation. food is half of the reason we're going to paris! but how realistic is the whole gathering food from markets at the end of the day idea? is that even possible? will i not have the energy and/or not be able to find anything like i'm picturing (afore mentioned markets) and find myself starving at the end of the day in a city full of expensive restaurants, without reservations? any tips at all on how to make my cooking dream a reality are much appreciated!

details: we'll be in paris from july 19th through august 2nd. we are staying in between the 3rd and 4th, right around the corner from the pompidou center--metro: rambuteau.

Posted by
10906 posts

Do you think all Parisians do is eat out in expensive restaurants every night?

While full scale supermarkets are creeping into the area, you'll find a small refrigerator in most older Parisian apartments. The reason is that people buy their food fresh daily.

But rather than buy everything in a supermarket, you buy in individual shops: bakery, butcher, cheese shop, fruits and vegetables, etc. They are in every neighborhood because people live in every neighborhood. (Bring your own shopping bags.)

When you get your keys, ask about neighborhood shops. Or just get on your feet and explore.

It would also be good to spend some time learning the names of these shops, as well as some of the key foods you want, in French. Also realize the weights are metric. (grams, liters, etc.)

And since Julia Child compiled most of her book in Paris, you will be able to find everything in it. (Just remember some foods may not be available out of season.)

And when you don't want to cook, no need to go to an expensive restaurants. Every neighborhood has local bistros or cafes, usually mom and pop operations, where the food is home made and inexpensive. No reservations needed. (And all restaurants have a copy of the menu posted outside. Look for the hand written ones as they change daily depending on what the chef could get fresh that day.)

Posted by
2210 posts

There are lots of places to get great take out foods in Paris, so if you are too tired to cook (I usually was), you can just get take out. Also, you can always get a loaf of bread, some cheese, a vegetable or two and a bottle of wine for a great meal that requires very little work. Of course, if you have a husband like mine (or if you feel like he does), every meal must have some meat. You should be able to find some already cooked.

Posted by
8645 posts

I enjoyed having a kitchen and being able to cook in our tiny Parisian kitchen. I don't know about the markets in the area you are staying in, but the people who live there obviously have to buy their food somewhere. I cooked dinner at least half of the nights we were there. For breakfast the next morning I would often make french toast with our left over bread. I didn't cook anything too time consuming, but it was no problem whipping up easy meals. Our apartment didn't have an oven, only a toaster oven, so that did come into play with what I could cook.

Have fun living your Parisian dream!

Posted by
8293 posts

Many of the street markets, the once-a-week kind, set up early in the morning, in fact you see them preparing the evening before, and shut down around noon. Try to find out from the apartment people when & where the neighbourhood market is and its hours of operation. It may be that picking up stuff "at the end of the day" won't work, in which case the supermarkets (such as Casino and Monoprix) will have everything you could possibly want. You will have such fun!

Posted by
12040 posts

I imagine you'll have to go to the supermarkets for some things, but you can get your produce, meat, bread, cheese and certain prepared items from the markets. As others have noted, most close down by mid-afternoon, so do your shopping early.

Posted by
693 posts

Tracy, part of the fun is shopping for your daily dinner and watch the French do the same. They'll be buying one or two chops at the butchers, a serving of veg, a French bread, a little cheese, a bunch of flowers (super cheap over there)some fruit or berries or cherries, a bottle of wine - the kitchens are small, the fridges are tiny. The fruits and veggies are superb, the meat is expensive and so are cold cuts. Eat dessert, you'll be walking it off! I'll have to look for the info but I recently read a couple of really wonderful (very small, literally) books about food in Paris - will send you the titles of I find them. In short, your cooking-in-Paris dreams can be realized.

Posted by
693 posts

Tracy, here are the two books I mentioned in my previous post. Unfortunately, I didn't write down the publishers but they're both recent...
"Markets of Paris" by Dixon and Ruthanne Long;
"Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris" - by Clotilde Dusoulier

I bet you'll have a wonderful time!

Posted by
463 posts

@Anna--thanks for the titles!!! they are perfect! i didn't even think of books...and i'm a book-nut! thank you so much!

Posted by
8293 posts

There's another book about the markets, called "Paris in a Basket". I gave my copy away and don't remember the author's name, sadly.

Posted by
4674 posts

Adding my agreement that you probably won't find good stuff at markets in the evening. It would be better to go to the market first thing in the morning, take the food back to the flat, and then go out sightseeing for the day.

Posted by
463 posts

fantastic. so i can wake up, shower, and whilst my husband gets ready, go out and gather food for dinner that night. that fits perfectly into my romantic notion! if only i had a bicycle with a basket on the front...

now i'm REALLY getting carried away. 43 days to go...yay!

Posted by
355 posts

There is a small book that you can buy when you get to Paris called "Le Petit Parisien". You can get one anywhere that sells books and magazines. I've worn out a couple already, and I lend it to all my friends going to Paris. It has 3 maps of each arrondissement - one street map, one metro map and one bus map - plus a complete street index. It also shows where and when the markets are in each arrondissement (as well as post offices, police stations, etc). It's really small, considering the info it contains. It's about 5x7 and about 1/4in thick - fits easily in a purse/bag. It's great for finding markets!

Posted by
300 posts

You will probably need to buy some basic staples (olive oil, butter) but on the other hand there may be a supply in the apartment kitchen. We brought a 7-day pill case with various spices to our Paris apartment but just about everything we brought was already in the apartment.
You will probably want to go to Monoprix for things like Coca-cola or basic staples but find the local markets for produce, meat/fish, etc.
Examples of things we prepared in our apartment were scallops (the red roe sac is part of the scallop in Europe and isn't bad), whole fish, seared duck breast, fennel & onion, as well as the basic breakfast/lunch entrees like eggs and fried potatoes (we saved the fat from the duck - yumm!).
You could consider a local cooking class to give you some ideas...

Posted by
8645 posts

@ Peter - what a great idea about bringing a pillbox with various spices. I wish I had thought of that!

Posted by
915 posts

While preparing for our trip to France, I have been following two sites that have lots of recipes, tips about markets and food products and other food-related information: chocolate and zucchini
David Lebovitz Explore these for a million ideas for French meals. I also have the "Edible Adventures in Paris" book, it's fantastic.

Posted by
283 posts

A couple of comments:

We did this a few years ago. Life as a Parisian is hard work. Ina Garten discusses this in her book Barefoot in Paris. Without a car, you can only carry so much stuff, which is why you see so many rolling carts. If you make a list of ingredients, it is often hard to find specifics, especially in the outdoor markets. One thing Ina mentions is cooking thanksgiving and having the find substitutes for whole turkey, pumpkin, etc. Markets are seasonal, so you never really know what you will find.

Some of the stores, especially Monoprix, have great supermarkets in them which have lots of variety. While I prefer the outdoor markets, these will help you find basics, like milk, coffee, salt, etc. They will also deliver, although I did not use that option.

In the Bastille, there is the outdoor Richard Lenoir Market on Sunday near the Bastille Metro stop. It is lots of fun. Also, there are great market streets you can try, but be aware of the carrying part.

As an aside, my one big goal was to cook a Bresse chicken. I did the research on line and found the Bon Marche grocery store carried them. However, I had to lug the chicken all down Rue du Bac and onto a crowded Metro, where I had to guard my chicken purchase. Got it home fine, but it was a struggle!

Cooking in Paris is fun and exciting and I highly recommend giving it a try. We ate lunches out and dinner in each night, which really saved money and we had some fantastic meals!

Posted by
875 posts

I'd probably buy the entree pre-made and then buy the vegetables from the market. If the produce at the markets tastes even half as good as it looks, you'll be glad you took the time to cook. The produce markets in Paris always make me want to take the time to cook but my husband always wants to go out to experience the fine dining. Next year we'll probably do both.

Posted by
333 posts

It sounds like you may be renting the same apartment that we just left. (Rue de Blancs Manteneux) That area has a couple of monoprix (supermarkets), tons of fresh fruit/vegetable stands and some great boulangeries. You won't have any problem finding good quality food to prepare.

The only issue you might run into is cooking utensils and pots and pans. They seem to vary greatly apartment to apartment. Our San Sebastian apartment had a dull knife and a single pot and a small frying pan while the Paris Apartment had some nice size pots,pans, strainers, etc.

Posted by
3313 posts

Norma - You mentioned a book I was thinking of when I first read this post. Found it among my cookbooks - Paris in a Basket by Nicolle Aimee Meyer and Amanda Pilar Smith. Amazon has new and used versions. I'm hanging on to mine, just in case I get to rent an apartment in Paris for two weeks!

Posted by
1 posts

Hi Tracy. Although I don't have much to add to what has already been posted, I wanted to tell you that your dreams will come true. I wanted the same experience: To cook in Paris. My wife and I celebrated our 25th anniversary earlier this year by renting an apartment in the 18th Arris. I got up each day and walked to the neighborhood markets to buy food to make for my wife. I went to Monoprix and many local specialty markets. Not only was it fun to make a few meals at "home", I thoroughly enjoyed meeting people at the markets. A little effort on my part to speak French went a long way. Without exception, I was treated with great kindness. Butchers taught me French words, the baker wanted to know about where I live. Shopping, cooking and renting an apartment made the difference between "staying" and "living" in Paris. We truly got a taste of local life and you will too. Have a great time!

Posted by
4627 posts

1) There is a great market on Sundays along Richard Lenoir (Bastille market). They also have some nice prepared foods. I got great roast chicken and potatoes there.

2) Bring a reusable shopping bag with you to take to the market.

3) A great source for info on food-related things in Paris is David Lebovitz's blog. He is an American food writer living in Paris. Here is his post with some Paris tips

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/paris/

and here is a post about the Bastille Market
http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2006/02/the_sunday_mark.html

By the way, I thought that I would cook in the apartment in Paris, but I found that I rarely did. There were so many great prepared foods that you could bring home ... quiche, great cheese and wine, etc. I ate in the apartment a number of nights but never really did much more than warm things up.

Posted by
8645 posts

Laura had a good point about bringing shopping bags with you. When we rented an apartment I brought a couple that I bought at my local store. They are a nylon type of fabric and they scrunch up into a little drawstring pouch.

On my first trip to Europe I was surprised when they charged me for a plastic grocery bag. Live and learn...

Posted by
108 posts

my favorite ever is the rue Mouffetard market, they even talk about it in this blog http://www.nyhabitat.com/blog/2009/05/01/rue-mouffetard-market-food-lovers-paradise-paris/
I think I love that market as much as the street itself, but to buy food you can also go to st germain les halles. there is nothing like cooking fresh vegetables from the market, and there is nothing like buying just one apple or a few strawberries at the market and eating it on the spot.

Posted by
91 posts

Tracy,

If you LOVE to cook (as do I) and you romance nostalgic on Paris and its food scene (as do I) and you get excited about The Art of French Cooking (as do I!) pick up a recently released book called "Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes" by Elizabeth Bard. She's an American writer who married a Frenchman and lives in Paris with him. The book is basically about her falling in love with him and adapting to the French lifestyle and culture, and best of all each chapter ends with 2-3 recipes related to the theme of that chapter. I've fallen in love with a few of her recipes, most especially her onion soup. There are also many tidbits in there about proper shopping etiquette, including how to order from a Paris butcher like a native. It's definitely worth a read. Enjoy!

Colleen