On my recent trip to Paris, I had ambitious plans for furthering my foodie education. I had booked 6 excellent food tours during my stay, and unfortunately I missed 2 of them due to typical things that happen during travels. As always, we must be flexible and be ok with Plan B when needed. But anyway, the 4 food tours that I did take were beyond educational and delicious. Three out of the four of them were with Paris by Mouth, which is Trip Advisor’s #1 rated food tour in Paris. It is also the most expensive out of all the ones I looked at, and for good reason. These tours are highly curated, and feature high end cheeses, desserts, wines, and meats. The tour guides are professionals in the food and restaurant industry, whether chefs, entrepreneurs, food writers, etc. These tours regularly sell out in advance, so I had to make sure I had my spots booked several weeks out.
Our first stop was for bread! Boulangerie was a word I learned very early on in my stay in Paris, for good reason! By law, a bakery which calls itself a boulangerie must make their own bread from scratch on the premises (never frozen), and the only ingredients must be flour, salt, yeast, and water. The price is also regulated by the French government, which goes to show you how important daily fresh bread is to the French. This particular boulangerie on rue de Turenne in Les Marais has placed three times among the top ten winners of the Best Baguette in Paris competition (and once 1st place for croissants).
We enjoyed samples of their award-winning baguette and the flaky butter croissant. The crispy outside, buttery layers, and spongy interior was a huge contrast to the smooshy “croissants” I am used to in American supermarkets.
Next up: another very important French word……. Fromagerie! I had been reading that French cheese is quite a bit different from what we can get in the US, due to fewer regulations about unpasteurized milk. I really had no idea what a huge difference in taste it would make. The French cheese tastes earthy and local, like you can almost smell the grass and soil that the animals lived on.
We visited a small fromagerie on rue de Bretagne where our guide chose a selection of different types of cheeses for us to try. We saved them all for the wine shop, where we could sit down and have a proper wine, cheese, and charcuterie pairing.
Another great word is Boucherie: butcher shop! One wonderful thing I was not expecting about French charcuterie is the delicious pates and terrines! Much like a spread, with the texture of chicken salad, this was wonderful over baguette slices and tasted beautiful with the cheeses and wines during the second half of the tour. Here, our guide chose a few things for us to sample.
Next we headed over to sample Paris’s most quintessential treat: the macaron! We entered the bold and artsy shop of Pierre Hermes and got to choose a macaron from the wildly inventive flavor combinations. I chose the Ispahan, his signature invention of rose, raspberry, and lychee. Mercifully, we got to eat our treasures right there, and it was a delight. Despite how beautiful and colorful macarons are, I have to say they do not interest me much, but this one was the best of any that I have had before (which admittedly, is not many). I was glad, however, to get to sample what is considered the best macaron in Paris, to understand what all others are measured against.
I loved the gorgeous pastries in the display, and later in the week I did end up going back to the rue Bonaparte location to snag myself a slice of the 2000 Feuilles cake (because cake is much more my interest than macarons).
The next stop was another sweet shop, this time to master chocolatier Jacques Genin, who is apparently a pretty intense guy. Here, our guide purchased a selection of basil dark ganache chocolate, tonka bean dark ganache chocolate, and caramels to save for later. However, at the shop were were able to choose our own flavor from the pâtes de fruits, which came in a vast jeweled rainbow of fruits and vegetable flavors. I chose pear. It was delicious, like a very upscale gummy candy.
I love how Paris by Mouth arranges their food tours. The first half is a leisurely stroll through a beautiful neighborhood, stopping along the way to gather fresh ingredients for a meal the way a Parisian might do, and then the second half of the tour is sitting down at a wine shop, feasting on the lovely things purchased, and pairing them with delicious French wines. It’s a really beautiful participatory insight into the French lifestyle surrounding food.
For our wine shop, we stopped at BiBoViNo which is an interesting shop because they sell premium wines in boxes from high end vineyards. This is definitely unusual in France, but it’s a more eco-friendly choice due to the packaging, and gaining in popularity due to its many benefits including reduced transportation costs and flexible wine storage.
The French wines that we tasted on our tour were:
- Chardonnay (white) 2017 from Domaine des Terres Dorées (Chardonnay grapes from the Beaujolais region)
- Corbières “B418” (red) 2015 from Domaine Michel Raynaud (Pre-Phyloxera 130 years old Carignan grapes from the Languedoc region)
- Cartagène (sweet port-style) from Domaine Sigean (grenache noir from the Roussillon region + barrel-aged brandy)
We had a lot of cheese to sample at this point, and we began with the soft, creamy cheeses first. The milder tastes paired well with the chardonnay, and I really enjoyed the creamy goat cheeses. The brie was absolutely different from any I’d had and loved in the US, much meatier, tangy, and pungent. I’m also a fan of blue cheese, so the Roquefort was also a favorite with its distinctive, bold flavor, and fascinating history dating back to 2nd century BC. It was especially interesting paired with the port wine. Eventually I got so caught up in all the tastings that I forgot to take photos.
The cheeses we sampled were:
- Pélardon des Cévennes (goat, Languedoc-Roussillon, aged 2-3 weeks)
- Mimolette (cow, Nord, aged 3-24 months)
- Comté AOC (cow, Jura, 30 months)
- Charolais AOP (goat, Bourgogne, aged 2-6 weeks)
- Brie de Melun AOP (cow, Île-de-France, aged 7-8 weeks)
- Époisses AOP (cow, Bourgogne, aged 4-6 weeks)
- Roquefort AOP (sheep, Midi-Pyrénées, usually aged 3 months but can go up to 10 months)
The meats and pates we sampled were:
- rosette à l’ancienne
- pheasant and cranberries terrine (absolutely amazing!!)
- duck rillette
I loved all of these meaty bites as they reminded me of the American Thanksgiving foods I was missing back at home that week.
Thank you to Aurélien, and Paris by Mouth, for this exquisite tour. With this being my first visit to Paris, French food and culture was significantly demystified because of this very educational 3+ hour foodie extravaganza.
For more information: Paris by Mouth