Quick Recipes and Easy

Glorious Gourmet Food in Paris – Part I

If there’s one thing the French know how to do well, it’s food. Food is more of an art (and for some, a quasi religion) in France, and so I knew I would be remiss in my duties to readers of paris-eiffel-tower-news if I did not go and seek out Paris’s finest gastronomic glories for you. Sampling the following is not an option – it’s a must!!!

Say Cheese!

Beside wine, what else are the French obsessed with? Cheese! The French passion for cheese and the proliferation of the stuff in their country is frankly unsurpassed. A well-known quote from Charles de Gaulle goes, “How can you be expected to govern a country that has 246 kinds of cheese?”

The French are as serious about their cheese as they are about their wine, and so it comes as no surprise that, like wine, French cheese is protected by AOC laws (appellation d’origine contrôlée, name of a controlled origin). These laws allow only certain limited quantities of a particular cheese to be produced in order to prevent mass production ruining the subtle variations in French regional cheeses.

So, in search of the ultimate cheese repast, I questioned my Parisian friends where the cheese crème de la crème (no pun intended) was to be found in France’s capital. The answer was unanimous: “Androuet!”

And Androuet it was. I wandered over to their fromagerie (cheese shop) at 37, rue de Verneuil and was greeted with the most tantalizing displays of cheeses – you have to see it to believe it! The cheeses look a far sight different than what they laughingly call cheese in supermarkets – this is the real enchilada.

Family owned and run, Androuet was founded back in 1909 by the current owner’s grandfather, and since then its people have been cultivating the art of the maître fromager affineur (cheese maturing master). The name is well-known worldwide. Today, and to the fantastic benefit of the Parisian population, the house of Androuet really comprises 5 fine cheese shops in Paris alone and plans to open another one in the new Roissy airport! They even have a branch in Stockholm, Sweden’s capital.

Androuet’s cheeses hail from more than 200 different locations and are all exclusively made with raw milk. Each cheese is unique, cured and matured under the supervision of maîtres affineurs (masters in cheese ripening), and aged or prepared in curing cellars. You’ll find Androuet’s shops in all Parisian tourist guides, and I was told that their clientèle comes from all over the world – from the US to Japan.

Cheese is best accompanied with bread and wine, and Androuet specializes in the best. They provide a wide range of wines, from red Sancerre to Chateau Neuf du Pape, and work with two Parisian bakeries to supply you with some very decent bread to go with your cheese.

So you can get your cheese, your wine and your bread all in one fell swoop, as well as brilliant advice on all three free of charge. The staff speaks English, and a variety of other languages, so communication shouldn’t be much of a problem… failing that, animated gesticulations punctuated by the odd use of random foreign words have always worked wonders for me abroad…

For those who want to take some of this priceless loot back home, Androuet provides air-tight and vacuum-sealed packages.

For Americans, you can check the US Customs & Border Protection website for the latest on food importing rules at help.cbp.gov, or the US Department of Agriculture’s website (www.usda.gov). At the moment, they confirm that cured cheeses (i.e. hard cheeses like parmesan and cheddar) are generally admissible if imported for personal use, although this is subject to change depending on disease outbreaks. Keep in mind that you should declare them. Question for advice from Androuet’s staff – they’ll be in the know about this.

A buffet-size assortment goes from 35 to 70 euros, and they do themed gourmet gift baskets, boxes and chests too. They even cater for private or business cheese-themed buffets with the whole nine yards: fresh and dried fruit, Poilane or Poujauran breads (see below), wine, candles, floral decorations etc.

Androuet in Paris (normal working hours Tuesday to Saturday, and they all close at 7:30 pm):

37, rue de Verneuil – 75007 Paris
Metro: Rue du Bac, Solférino (line 12).

134, rue Mouffetard – 75005 Paris
Metro: Censier Daubenton (line 7).

1, rue Bois le Vent – 75016 Paris
Metro: La Muette (line 9), Passy (line 6).

17, rue des Belles-Feuilles – 75016 Paris
Metro: Victor Hugo (line 2), Trocadéro (lines 6, 9).

23, rue de la Terrasse – 75017 Paris
Metro: Villiers (lines 2, 3).

Real French Bread

In France, nearly anyone will tell you that Poilane bread is the pinnacle of Parisian baking. First established 75 years ago, Poilane is now run by Lionel Poilane, who took over the business from his father about 30 years ago and boomed it: the shop sells 15,000 loaves of bread each day, i.e. 2.5% of all bread sold in Paris, by weight.

The secret of Poilane bread is steeped in tradition. Lionel himself conducted an extensive research project on the ‘ethnography’, as he place it himself, of his craft. Poilane bread is made from wheat grown only on farms employing sustainable techniques with sea salt from the French Atlantic Coast. It’s baked for over an hour in Poilane’s specially designed wood-burning ovens, and will easily keep for a week in its original white and green paper bag.

Poilane bread traces its heritage back to the genuine regional French bread, but the business is remarkably modern. Today, the family manages a new shop in London and a ‘manufacture’ on the outskirts of Paris producing the goods that are sold in more than 2,500 restaurants and shops in Paris alone, and about 20 countries around the world. Poilane is one of the few ‘global bakers’ today, taking advantage of the Internet and the large FedEx hub near the Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport to ship the bread worldwide. The goods land on dinner tables within 48 hours of their cooking.

The bread itself is decidedly ancient school: thick, chewy, and rich with a dark, fire-tinged flavor. Traditional French bread is not the ubiquitous white bread used in baguettes. It used to be a dark, wholesome stuff eaten by poor people when they could not afford anything else. It nearly disappeared from French tables because of its very history. So much so that the ancient saying “He ate his white bread…” means that he mused and fooled around instead of working diligently, and now he’s in for hard times (and only dark bread).

After World War II, the height of chic was white bread, imported from Austria. Poilane is very unique in that in a city where you can’t walk two blocks without running into a baguette, he refuses to produce any!

Poilane’s bread has won him well-known fans over the years: Frank Sinatra and Lauren Bacall used to delight in a loaf from time to time, and Robert De Niro is a customer.

There’s one person in the shop who speaks English, who confirmed taking bread back to the US is no problem.

Poilane’s well-known bread can be found at 8, rue Cherche Midi, 75006 Paris. The closest metro station is Sevres-Babylone.

About the Author:

With thirty years of on-the-ground experience Phil Chavanne has helped many travelers to make the best of their stay in Paris. You can share his thorough knowledge of the city at paris-eiffel-tower-news.com/walking-in-paris.html” target=”_blank Paris-Eiffel-Tower-News, a free guide with many advices, tales, and tips on Paris Hotels and Restaurants.

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