French food and wine are the heart and soul of France. It goes hand in hand with gourmet ingredients, rich aromas and unique textures. To be a chef in France is to excel in niche specializations that distinguish a bread pastry chef from a sweet pastry chef. A French chef does not perfect both types, they perfect one and it. is. perfect. At our first stop when you bite into a traditional French croissant you’ll know this to be true. The warm flaky layers crunch with the first bite, then the buttery layers melt into your mouth. So, what better way to spend a full day in this foodie metro than on the best food tour of Paris tasting these croissants for yourself
To eat as a traditional Parisian is to eat 5 meals a day. Breakfast, mid-morning snack, Lunch, Gouter (which is often just for children out of school) and dinner. Lunch and dinner in Paris are often set course meals, or what is called a “menu” in France. If you dine at a restaurant and you choose a menu, be prepared for a set course meal with appetizer, main dish and desert. Dinner is almost alway consumed as a family with home cooked food and a baguette from the local bakery. Most consumers in the U.S have loyalty to the brand, such as Starbucks, but in Paris the loyalty is to the chef or baker themselves. Many Parisians form a close knit bond with the local butcher or baker and will follow them if they move shops. French food reaches to such high standards that regulations dictate how to make a true baguette or cheeses. It’s all so bizarre to me hailing from the U.S where a book called the Jungle was written about our food industry.
In line with the traditional 5 meals a day, our tour will make 5 main food stops with some extra activities, like a wine tasting added in. This Parisian food tour covers a lot of ground in the city, so be ready to work up an appetite, use the Metro as needed and stop along the way to see your favorite sites like the Eiffel Tower! The second to last stop on our tour is in the Latin Quarter with the “Wine Tasting in Paris”, which starts at 5pm. This activity needs to be booked in advance and runs Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. So budget your time accordingly and try an alternate wine bar if you’re in the city on a different day.
Breakfast starts at 8:30am Blé Sucré for real French croissants. Those flaky melt in your mouth croissants I was talking about earlier. The French croissant is so complicated and laborious (about 15-20 hours) to make that it is hard to find fresh baked croissants anymore. Even in Paris croissants are often made in bulk, frozen and shipped to bakeries. Blé Sucré is one of the gems that hand bakes croissants daily. In the morning you can find a line out the tiny bakery with those eager to get their fresh baked breakfast. The chocolate croissants at Blé Sucré are made with special bar chocolate that melts at a high level, so the crunch of the chocolate explodes into the layers of the bread as you bite in. Order the plain and chocolate croissant with some coffee to drunk them in and you’re set to start the morning. You can get several different items here, including sweet pastries, but we will save that for later.
Paris is known for their markets, one of best and biggest is the Bastille Market. With the Place de la Bastille’s Colonne de Juillet towering as a backdrop, grab a knapsack and get ready to shop over 100 booths of fresh French cheese, veggies, meats and seafood. Since this isn’t our lunch stop we’re going to eat lightly and I’ll suggest several different types of meats and cheese to take on a small picnic. The market can be rather crowded and chaotic, but relax and enjoy the culture. Most venders speak some English and are very friendly. Feel free to buy anything that takes your fancy, but make note that with some gentle light humor most vendors will let you try samples, just tip them a few coins. You should get to the market around 9am and you could easily spend between 1-2 hours here.
At one of the several cheese stands pick up 50-100 grams (each) of Comté, Reblochon, Roquefort and Camembert.
Comté: Probably one of the most famous and heavily AOC regulated French cheese, this can come in several different varieties. Comté Extra is the highest quality and can often be expensive and hard to find. Don’t get caught eating the thick rind on this complex cheese, the taste is better with no rind!
Reblochon: With all the regulations on pasteurization in the U.S this cheese is almost impossible to find as it is made from raw real cow’s milk. Produced in caves and cellars near the French Alps it has a soft interior contrasting to the thick rind. This cheese is very rich with a nutty creamy flavor.
Roquefort: This is a sheep milk based blue cheese. With no rind this cheese crumbles with a salty finish. This is another cheese produced in French caves and only certain caves can claim Roquefort as a name. So, it’s rare and complex.
Camembert: Similar to a Brei this cheese is actually almost watery in the center. I made the mistake of purchasing real french Camembert assuming it was the same as others. It smells up the fridge rather fast. It also has a strong taste to match the flavor, but it’s really rather pleasant!
Jambon de Bayonne: Traditionally made near the Pyrenees the regulations surrounding the breed of pig down to what they eat are very strict. Cured and dried for up to 20 months you might expect to find it salty, but the only flavor that comes through is a hint of sweetness.
Duck Rillettes: You may have had duck confit before and if you enjoy it then don’t miss this dish. It’s duck that has been cooked as confit and then shredded with spices added. It’s best spread on a baguette.
Saucisson Sec: This French sausage is dry-cured and can have some very interesting ingredients added to the mixture. Peppers, garlic, orange and other fruits, spices, nuts… etc. I even found one made from kangaroo meat! This is a good time to sample some pieces before choosing one.
Even baguettes are regulated in France. They must be a certain weight, size and type of grain in order to be classified as a baguette. So, grab one on your way out of the market to get ready for the mini picnic.
It’s time to take your loot to a park and have a mini picnic. I pinned Square Du Temple on the map as a suggestion, but head where ever suits your fancy. French gardens are numerous and very enjoyable for a nice picnic with your bounty of meat and cheese.
Lunch is across the city, so you might have worked up an appetite by the time you get across town, if not you can actually walk under the Eiffel Tower stopping through to look at it. If you want to do the whole tour and plan on waiting in line for hours, today isn’t the day to do it. But I was able to walk through take some great photos and enjoy the structure on my way to luncg.
A French Café is on the list for Lunch. You may have noticed that you can spot a French Café by the whicker chairs outside and typically red awning. With so many options, how do you choose? I have found that food is better on the outside of the inner circle. The inner circle of Paris tends to be more touristy and overpriced. So, my pick for lunch is near the Eiffel Tower just outside the inner circle. Feel free to peruse the options, but I recommend Kleber. It was a spacious and cosy Café with delightful service and amazing food!
Another alternate tourist stop on the tour. This can be done another day, if needed, but if the lines aren’t long you may be able to do this and the Eiffel Tower, but probably just one.
We’re having desert as a mid day snack, judge us. Since we missed the sweet pastry for breakfast this is the time to do it. I mentioned earlier that pastries are so unique in France that chefs go to school in order to specialize in the art of one or the other. Lenôtre is renowned for their sweet morsels. Grab whatever makes your taste buds water and head to the Latin Quarter to prepare for the wine tasting.
I wrote an extensive post covering this tasting. Read it here. A Wine Tasting In Paris Remember this even starts at 5pm in the Latin Quarter and runs for 2 hours. Dinner is at 7. Thierry at the Wine Tasting has great recommendations for dinner in the area that are just a quick walk from the tasting.
This is where you go all out on three courses. Start with the scallops or salmon tartar, then order the steak smothered in sauce and finish with a sweet desert. If you’re feeling wild you can order the giant tray of salami. They charge you for whatever weight you consume. I rather enjoyed that my dinner there for Valentines Day included a bouquet of roses and a tray of salami. The servers were so delightful here helping us with the menu, joking with us and attending to our every need. This is a great upscale French dinner with a casual dining feel.
After a FULL day of eating wonderful food in Paris, there’s not shame in either taking a taxi back to your hotel. Personally I like to head out into the Paris nightlife to dance off the calories and start again!
What are your favorite restaurants in Paris? Let me know in the comments.