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lundi 8 octobre 2012

Marché du Mois: Marché St. Eustache-Les Halles

Marché St. Eustache-Les Halles is all that remains of what was once the site of the city's largest food market. Later replaced by Rungis, Les Halles was where chefs, store owners, and shoppers of all sorts came to stock up on fresh ingredients.

Whether you are attracted by the history of this marketplace, it's central location near the charming Montorgueil neighborhood, or the convenient hours it keeps, there are plenty of reasons to visit the vestiges of what once was Paris' primary food source.

It is worth noting that this market, along with a few others including Marché Bourse and Marché Anvers, is one of a small number of Parisian food markets that stays open late enough on a weekday for shoppers to stop by on their way home from work.

What remains of the market is hardly a fraction of its predecessor and, unfortunately, there is not a farmer in sight at any of the stands that line the rue Montmartre. However, the products on offer are mostly of French origin and predominately seasonal.

French vegetables, chickens, and cheeses are for sale at various stands and the poissonerie was proudly displaying Coquilles St. Jacques (scallops), for which the fishing season opened on the 1st of October.

I was attracted by some heirloom veggies, including gorgeous purple "haricots verts" at a stand that was manned by a seller who knew his stuff. He instructed me how to prepare the "green" beans and then served me some lovely cèpes and told me what to do with those, too.

He bagged up my dinner ingredients as the smells of hot lunch wafted through the market stalls. Like most afternoon markets, Marché St. Eustache-Les Halles caters not only to forward-thinking shoppers who are getting the evening's groceries, but also those who seek instant gratification and some homemade ratatouille on their lunch break.

The majority of the produce at my chosen veggie stand seemed to come from France and the vendor's knowledge of each product implied an interest and investment in his profession. Doubting very much that he was actually the grower of the vegetables (the selection was too large and varied to come from one farmer), I decided to ask if he was a producteur anyway.

"Mais non!" he responded, slightly offended. "How can you expect me to be the producer- I spend all my time at the markets!" Point taken. This is an unavoidable issue for the independent producers that we see at markets, who have to split their time and lengthen their days by being both grower & seller of their produce.

So while there are no local producers present at the Marché St. Eustache-Les Halles, it is still possibel to find French-grown food and quality products, all while enjoying a stroll around this truly charming neighborhood.

Marché St. Eustache-Les Halles
rue Montmartre, 75001
m° Les Halles (line 4)
Thursday: 12h30-20h30
Sunday: 7h-15h

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jeudi 4 octobre 2012

Les jeudis de l'actualité: Terroir Parisien

As part of their series Les jeudis de l'actualité  the Paris library system brings together both experts and community members to debate and exchange ideas on a variety of provoking themes ("Does my brain have a gender?" and "Why should I vote?" are a few of the upcoming themes that can be found in the program).

Today it was the library of the 1st arrondissement's Town Hall's turn to host their own "actualité" event entitled. The theme was "Saveurs d'aujourd'hui: Le Terroir Parisien" and the afternoon promised presentations from two guest speakers with intimate knowledge of made-in-Paris products.

Myself and a small group of mostly retired Parisians gathered in the Town Hall's salle des mariages  to listen to what guest speakers Nicolas Géant and Vincent Lisiak had to tell us about our cities own treasures: wine and honey.

Mr. Lisiak is the caretaker of Monmartre's small but infamous parcel of land that is home to some 2,000 vines. Planted between 1929 and 1933, the vines have survived the test of time and still yield a small but exploitable récolte which is pressed in the basement of the 18th Arrondisement's Town Hall.

The vines are made up of 60 % pinot noir as well as a mixture of hybrids that have been gifted to the vineyard over the years. Oftentimes these cépages were offered by visiting wine makers on the occasion of the yearly Fête des Vendanges which has been held every October for the past 78 years.

As the day of celebrating the yield of Paris' oldest vines is upon us, Mr. Lisiak seemed optimistic about the future, both near and far. "These vines have an old history," he explained to the audience, "with a long future ahead of them".

The wine, which Lisiak himself described as having a reputation of being "the worst and most expensive in the world" has no pretensions of critical acclaim or world domination. However, the modest and realistic Lisiak has two major goals in mind for the future of his vines: to obtain organic certification at the end of the 3 year required waiting period and to maintain the living history of the vines and assure that the terrain will never cede ground to urban expansion, remaining forever an espace verte for Parisiens to enjoy.

Nicolas Géant, the keeper of over 100 beehives in Paris, has been subtly expanding over the city himself. His beehives, which are spread all around the city, call such chic addresses as Luis Vuitton and Opera Garnier home. Situated on the rooftops of buildings across the capital, these ruches are filled with thousands of bees harvesting from flowers found in the gardens, parks, and balconies that populate the city.

Mr. Géant gave us a lesson on why bees thrive so well in an urban environment, sometimes even more so than in the countryside. One reason is the biodiversity found in cities. Géant explained that he has found traces in his honey of not only the ubiquitous acacia trees that we see around the city, but also orange and lemon trees, which Parisiens will often plant on their balconies and terraces, unknowingly enriching not only their scenery, but the diet of city bees.

"Bees are pretty happy in cities" Géant affirmed, "it would be great if we could say the same for bees in the countryside."

The biggest threat to country bees is effectively the opposite of biodiversity- what Géant and his colleagues call "les déserts verts", or green deserts, where farmers grown monoculture crops of only wheat, corn, soy, etc. and thus an unstimulating environment for bees.

Paris proves to be an ideal location for abeilles to thrive, with hives producing anywhere between 30-80 kilos a year, depending on weather conditions.

Both Géant and Lisiak suffered less than ideal weather for both their crops this year but as they would readily admit c'est la vie. Despite a small harvest in 2012 there were plenty of samples of their Parisian products to go around. After the presentation we shared spoonfuls of honey and slices of pain d'épice.

Lisiak had generously brought some bottles of Montmartre's own cru, which our little group was lucky enough to taste and become part of a small minority who can say they have tasted the vin de Montmartre. The wine, as Lisiak had warned us earlier, can be a bit overwhelming at first- but so can Paris, so we were ready for it!

If you're interested in buying and tasting products from Paris and all around France, be sure not to miss the Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre this unique festival is one of my favorite  Paris events and I highly recommend checking it out, Oct. 10-14th.

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mardi 18 septembre 2012

Marché du Mois: Marché Mouton-Duvernet

I love all things Autumnal and the Indian Summer that Paris has been enjoying as the days of vacationing come to a close has made the seasonal transition that much more enjoyable. In the markets, vestiges of Summer are present in basil, squash, and green beans while cabbage, carrots, and leeks sneak their way onto center stage.

Tucked away on a tree-lined square in the 14th arrondissement, the Marché Mouton-Duvernet is an ideal market to explore on an Autumn day. The market is small, but packs a lot in for the quaint space it occupies. Flower vendors are disproportionately present, but they cede space to other vendors (a jewelry maker and even a traveling book shop counts itself one of the Mouton-Duvernet market community).

The majority of the veggie stands at Marché Mouton-Duvernet resemble each other in that they offer squeaky-clean and seasonally out-of-place products. The cheese and fish vendors are alike in that there is no clear attachment to local sources or sustainable practices, although one particular fromagerie did emanate that unmistakably fermented aroma that reminds you you are, indeed, in France and couldn't possibly be anywhere else.

"I'm going for a beer", I heard from a man sitting at a vegetable stand tucked away in the corner of the market. Deciding that a quarter to 12 was 5 o'clock somewhere, the man stood from his folding chair where he was a behind-the-scenes audience to the market's only independent producer, Eric Credard.

Credard's stand was a refreshing mix of all things seasonal including a selection of lemons that were proudly marked as "non traité", or untreated, "You can use the whole thing!" he told me as he bagged a handful of lemons for me and pointed out that being organic, I could feel free to enjoy the entire citron from zest to jus. 

Credard's neighbor is sells produce that is "100% Bio" and includes a selection that complements what you may not find at Mr. Credard's stand. Here the majority of the products keep with the season and the two vendors ensemble make for a cosy corner of veggie goodness.

Another advantage of the Marché Mouton-Duvernet- and an argument for making the trip there if you don't live in the neighborhood- is its proximity to La Cave des Papilles , one of my favorite natural wine stores, where the entire selection is hand picked and chosen based on relationships with independent, authentic natural wine producers- who use little to no sulfites and take the concept of vin naturel very seriously.

Among the many choices of wine you will find at La Cave des Papilles (including magnums of natural wine starting at 40€- awesome), you will find La Lunotte one of my favorite discoveries from a recent trip to the Loire Valley.

Marché Mouton-Duvernet

Place Jacques Demy, 75014
m° Mouton Duvernet (line 4)
Tuesday & Friday: 7h-14h30

La Cave des Papilles
35 rue Daguerre, 75014
m° Denfert-Rochereau
Tuesday-Friday: 10h-13h30 & 15h30-20h30
Saturday: 10h-20h30
Sunday: 10h-13h30

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