In November 2018, I was lucky enough to go on this lovely food tour with Eating Europe, which took place in the Canal Saint-Martin neighborhood of Paris. Called the “Hip Eats and Backstreets Food Tour,” this tour appealed to me because it was a bit off the beaten path, in a neighborhood I likely would not have explored on its own as it was a bit further north from the city center where most of my other activities were based. This neighborhood is far away from all the high end designer shops, and is filled with more graffiti and street art. And most interestingly, far away from all the tourists, although in late November that wasn’t a huge issue anywhere else anyway.
As you can see from the photos, the weather was very gloomy but otherwise just fine. I took the metro to Gare d’Est and then it was a short walk to a nearby park where we met up with our guide, Leo. As we walked to our first tasting, he talked about the history of the area and the culture of the canals. There is a lively social scene in the summer, full of picnics and drinks while hanging out.
Our first stop was a little shop called Fric Frac that does one thing and one thing only: the croques monsieur (many different kinds). I was super excited to try a really good version of one of these sandwiches, like an elevated grilled cheese with excellent butter and ham, and Béchamel sauce. The Titi, the classic version did not disappoint and I’m so sad that we only got a quarter of a sandwich. Then we tried a quarter of a different version which I believe was the Wini: 5-grain bread, goat cheese, Bechamel Mornay, crunchy roasted dried fruits, lavender honey, chives, shallots, rosemary.
For the next tasting we visited a funky little specialty shop called TSF, full of cute gift items and gourmet food treats, with a cafe and deli. Word on the street is that the prices in this shop are much lower than in the tourist areas since it serves the locals. Sounds perfect for taking gifts and souvenirs back home. At this shop we sampled charcuterie: saucisson, coppa, and Prince of Paris ham with a glass of Loire Valley Pinot Noir wine. That ham was absolutely amazing. So smooth and lush! This variety is very special because it is from the last and only facility in Paris that cures ham, and it’s done in the centuries old way with no machinery. This is where I learned of the classic French ham and butter sandwich, the Jambon beurre, and with ingredients like this I understand why it’s so good.
This tour kept getting more interesting with more surprises. The next stop was at a Moroccan restaurant called L’AMALGAME for couscous, of all things! I did not expect this on a Parisian food tour, but apparently couscous is a very popular dish in the city. The soft and fluffy couscous is homemade in traditional ways, and the broth it’s served in is lovely. All the vegetables and the meat made a wonderful, satisfying warm meal. We were even served a bit of mint tea!
I was eager for more wine at that point, and luckily we were headed to a Fromagerie for a wine and cheese pairing! Beneath the humble appearance of the Paroles de Fromagers, is a 17th century cheese cellar. Here we sampled these cheeses with a white wine:
1- Selle-Sur-Cher (goat)
2- Tomme de Savoie
3- Brie de Meaux
4- Beaufort (Pressed cheese)
5- Brillat Savarin (Triple Cream)
And finally, this robust 4-hour tour came to an end with a wonderful dessert from Yann Couvreur. They had such beautiful pastries all lined up in the case. Our guide chose a couple of selections and then we walked over to a little park to enjoy the treats. We tried the beautiful Tarte au citron full of sweet lemony goodness, and then a Kouign Aman, a very homely little cake also known as a Breton cake. It was super buttery, like a really dense croissant, or a big palmier.
Our beautiful tour was at an end! It had been a wonderful afternoon full of quintessential Parisian foods, with a good number of surprises built in too. Thank you, Eating Europe!
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