Four-Star Gourmet Food in Paris - Part II
If there's one thing the French know how to do well, it's food. Food is more of an art (and for some, a quasi religion) in France, and so I knew I would be remiss in my duties to readers of paris-eiffel-tower-news.com if I did not go and seek out Paris's finest gastronomic glories for you. Sampling the following is not an option – it's a must!!!
Lafayette Gourmet – a Riot of Tastes and ColorsThe Galeries Lafayette is one of the most distinguished and famous shopping landmarks in Paris. Their high-fashion displays and grand old-world architecture (including a very fine stained-glass dome) make any shopping there a remarkable experience. I have to admit though that I tend to spend most of my time loitering around its breathtaking Gourmet food court. The food court is located on the top floor of the Galeries, and is a veritable riot of tastes and colors. There you'll find everything and more to tantalize the dedicated gourmet: a bakery with a dizzying array of specialty breads and pastries (testament to France's continuing love affair with baked goods of every description); a cheese counter with at least a hundred different varieties of cheese (both French and imported); meats and seafood; a deli offering the very best specialty foodstuffs; and fruit and veggies of every origin from all around the world — all products flawlessly fresh.
There is even a large section dedicated to every spice imaginable. The luxury chocolate and candy displays are worth a prolonged visit. I usually stock up here on all kinds of European chocolates when I'm in town as many brands can't be found in the US and all of them are sold cheaper in Paris.
To top things off, Lafayette Gourmet also boasts a 'wine library' unlike any other: 1,800 of the world's finest wines, classified and presented with enough loving attention to satisfy demanding wine connoisseurs.
40, boulevard Haussmann 75009 PARISMetro: Chaussée d'Antin La Fayette Say Cheese!Beside wine, what else are the French obsessed with? Cheese! The French passion for cheese and the proliferation of the stuff in their country is frankly unsurpassed. A famous quote from Charles de Gaulle goes, "How can you be expected to govern a country that has 246 kinds of cheese?"The French are as serious about their cheese as they are about their wine, and so it comes as no surprise that, like wine, French cheese is protected by AOC laws (appellation d'origine contrôlée, name of a controlled origin). These laws allow only certain limited quantities of a particular cheese to be produced in order to prevent mass production ruining the subtle variations in French regional cheeses.
So, in search of the ultimate cheese repast, I asked my Parisian friends where the cheese crème de la crème (no pun intended) was to be found in France's capital. The answer was unanimous: "Androuet!"And Androuet it was. I wandered over to their fromagerie (cheese shop) at 37, rue de Verneuil and was greeted with the most tantalizing displays of cheeses – you have to see it to believe it! The cheeses look a far sight different than what they laughingly call cheese in supermarkets – this is the real enchilada. Family owned and run, Androuet was founded back in 1909 by the current owner's grandfather, and since then its people have been cultivating the art of the maître fromager affineur (cheese maturing master). The name is famous worldwide. Today, and to the great benefit of the Parisian population, the house of Androuet actually comprises 5 fine cheese shops in Paris alone and plans to open another one in the new Roissy airport! They even have a branch in Stockholm, Sweden's capital.
Androuet's cheeses hail from more than 200 different locations and are all exclusively made with raw milk. Each cheese is unique, cured and matured under the supervision of maîtres affineurs (masters in cheese ripening), and aged or prepared in curing cellars. You'll find Androuet's shops in all Parisian tourist guides, and I was told that their clientèle comes from all over the world – from the US to Japan.
Cheese is best accompanied with bread and wine, and Androuet specializes in the best. They provide a wide range of wines, from red Sancerre to Chateau Neuf du Pape, and work with two Parisian bakeries to supply you with some very decent bread to go with your cheese.
So you can get your cheese, your wine and your bread all in one fell swoop, as well as excellent advice on all three free of charge. The staff speaks English, and a variety of other languages, so communication shouldn't be much of a problem... failing that, animated gesticulations punctuated by the odd use of random foreign words have always worked wonders for me abroad...
For those who want to take some of this priceless loot back home, Androuet provides air-tight and vacuum-sealed packages.
For Americans, you can check the US Customs & Border Protection website for the latest on food importing rules at help.cbp.gov, or the US Department of Agriculture's website (www.usda.gov). At the moment, they confirm that cured cheeses (i.e. hard cheeses like parmesan and cheddar) are generally admissible if imported for personal use, although this is subject to change depending on disease outbreaks. Keep in mind that you should declare them. Ask for advice from Androuet's staff – they'll be in the know about this.
A buffet-size assortment goes from 35 to 70 euros, and they do themed gourmet gift baskets, boxes and chests too. They even cater for private or business cheese-themed buffets with the whole nine yards: fresh and dried fruit, Poilane or Poujauran breads (see below), wine, candles, floral decorations etc.
Androuet in Paris (normal working hours Tuesday to Saturday, and they all close at 7:30 pm):37, rue de Verneuil - 75007 Paris Metro: Rue du Bac, Solférino (line 12).134, rue Mouffetard - 75005 ParisMetro: Censier Daubenton (line 7).1, rue Bois le Vent - 75016 ParisMetro: La Muette (line 9), Passy (line 6).17, rue des Belles-Feuilles - 75016 ParisMetro: Victor Hugo (line 2), Trocadéro (lines 6, 9).23, rue de la Terrasse - 75017 ParisMetro: Villiers (lines 2, 3).
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After 30 years spent in Paris, Phil Chavanne gives scores of tips and advices on Paris hotels, restaurants, and monuments in his free city guide: http://www.paris-eiffel-tower-news.com/paris-restaurants.html