You've decided to indulge your fantasy of living in Paris (plus save money at the same time), so you've foresworn the hotel and rented a flat in a quiet neighborhood through something like Vacation Rentals by Owner. You've made your way beyond those massive, intricate doors lining every street and you're enjoying your (relatively) spacious living quarters, the wifi, and the laundry facilities (not bringing as many clothes means more room for Pimandes, cheese and macaroons on the way home). You're living like a Parisien. Now how can you eat like one?
Step one: Explore your neighborhood for the essentials you'll need on a frequent basis: a boulangerie for a daily baguette and croissant or pain au chocolate; fromagerie for some lovely Brie de Meaux, Cantal or Tete de Moine; charcuterie for terrines, rillettes, and sausages; and a patisserie for tarte au citron, financiers, and macaroons. Don't forget the wine store too! Remember to check out some of the good Paris blogs for recommendations on where to shop. David Lebovitz and Chocolate and Zucchini are tops.
A lot of Americans don't seem to know that when you enter any store it's polite to greet the proprietor with Bonjour Madame (ou Monsieur)! You'll get much better service too. Merci, au revoir! when you depart will make them think that not all Americans are philistines.
Step two: Make a list of what you need to buy at the marché for meals you can easily make at home. Breakfast is a good starting point. France has incredible yogurt, and it comes in adorable glass pots you can take home. Get some quiche for a lunch picnic, with fruit and a glass of wine - it's France, they drink wine with lunch here - down by the Seine. Then work your way up to dinner. Sample shopping list:
- Bread (try Eric Kayser, Poilane, or Poujauran)
- Butter (here's your chance to try the Jean-Yves Bordier butter)
- Cheese (go crazy at the cheese store)
- Seasonal fruit (strawberries in April)
- Fresh pasta
- Tomatoes (from Provence)
- Seasonal vegetables (asparagus and radishes)
- Wine (try the Nicolas chain of wine stores)
Step three: Cook! Breakfast is pretty obvious, but here's a lovely dinner that you can make in less than an hour: French breakfast radishes on buttered bread with salt and the paté campagnard from yesterday; ricotta and basil-filled pasta from the market with fresh tomato sauce; white asparagus (though I would have preferred green with this - apparently they don't have it here yet); wine; and a pastry from the patisserie down the street. One pastry to split (this Grand Marnier confection has burnt brown sugar on top and is pillowy soft with cream) or two if you're feeling slender.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
2 nice tomatoes, chopped into 1" pieces
3 small cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 T. butter
(herbs if you can get some)
splash or more of wine
Saute garlic in butter until just beginning to turn golden. Add tomatoes and allow to "melt" and thicken. Add a bit of wine and some salt to taste. This is excellent with fresh pasta. Since fresh pasta cooks in only 3-4 minutes, it's perfect for this quasi-camping dinner menu.
You're eating your vegetables, not overextending your spleen with that hyper-rich restaurant food, and your wallet will thank you. Bon apetit! This is living the sweet life, just like David Lebovitz.