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Paris – markets

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As I’ve said before, when travelling I can’t help checking out food markets both for inspiration for our French Market and for the sheer pleasure of seeing, touching, tasting and smelling of aromas of great food and produce. On my last trip I decided to concentrate on a few covered markets in Paris. During my exploration of the 10th arrondissement I found two there that I hadn’t been to before and on the Sunday I was there I went to both Marché Place d’Aligre in the 12th and Marché Saint Germain in the 6th.

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These covered markets which operate 6-7 days a week have all been built by the City Of Paris in the last 100 years or so with the Marché Saint Germain being the youngest. You can buy amazing selections of fresh produce, meat, fish, cheeses, breads and lots more all presented in a market situation by small independent producers and suppliers who are totally passionate about what they do. Everyone can make suggestions about what to do with their products. You can shop in these markets for your everyday food needs knowing that everything is as fresh as it can be. Wouldn’t it have been great if Auckland’s city fathers had thought about such places for our city?

Marché Saint Martin in the 10th is a recently refurbished small market obviously catering to local residents. Its stallholders include a fruit and vege stand, a butcher, fishmonger, florist, wines, cheeses and artisan breads and an interesting German grocery called Tante Emma selling lots of specialised German products including a vast range of beer. One of the reasons for going there was to have lunch at Le Comptoir de Brice a small contemporary bistro in the heart of the market.

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All the ingredients come from the surrounding stallholders – this place is about as market-driven as you can get with the short menu changing daily. I arrived a bit early for lunch so, after a wander round the market, I decided to take a stool at the counter looking into the open kitchen and to watch the final preparations. A trainee chef was making dough for the Pizzette Jambon Iberique while another had just taken the focaccia out of the oven – large trays with slabs of freshly made bread sprinkled with salt crystals and dried rosemary. After a quick cooling, he stacked ready them to be cut into large squares for each customer. It was delicious. Brice, the owner and head chef, was keeping an eye on everyone in the kitchen and gently but firmly giving instructions as well as finishing his own tasks.

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To start, from a choice of three entreés, I ordered Rouleau de printemps au torteau et foie gras – finely julienned spring vegetables in a rice paper roll also stuffed with shredded fresh crab and slices of foie gras – absolutely yummy. I followed that with raviolis filled with langoustines and shellfish in a light bouillabaisse-like sauce – light and delicate. Looking around it seemed like the hamburger on brioche buns was the most popular main. I didn’t want dessert but could have had fresh strawberries and Chantilly cream revisitée or rhubarb compote.

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Marché Place d’Aligre is perhaps one of the most lively and noisy markets I’ve been to in Paris – the inside section operates every day while the adjoining outside part including a section of brocante, takes place on Sunday mornings. Outside is jam-packed with people wanting to buy and stallholders filling the street with overflowing stalls of seasonal produce, each yelling out bargains to catch your attention. The selections were amazing – fat white and green asparagus, strawberries, new season raspberries, pomegranates, broad beans, every sort of salad greens and lots more. I could go on. If you were after a rotisserie chicken for lunch there wasn’t just one type to choose from – you could have any sort starting at regular farmed chicken to free range to chicken from a particular area to the most expensive Red Label – probably about 10 different varieties and price levels from €10 to €30. Whatever the price point the aromas were mouth-watering.

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Inside the old part was equally as inviting. I could have bought so much at the cheese stall. The fish stall had a fantastic selection of fresh fish as well as a large number of seafood salads and ready to heat meals – again all very tempting. I finally managed to drag myself away from the bustling madness across the city to the much more sedate indoor market – Marché Saint Germain. The products there are also so fresh and tempting with a few additions to take into account the nature of the area with a different clientele. One stall, for example is devoted to selling foie gras in many forms – from whole and fresh to tins of smooth and rich pâtés and terrines. The fish stall includes less common and more expensive varieties of seafood and the fruit and vege stand has more exotic products.

I’ll definitely be back to all of these markets.

Posted on: 4th Jun, 2014by frenchie Tags: Latest News