A bottle of Bordeaux, a crusty baguette, some fresh fruit, a wedge of cheese, and a few delicious pastries to top it all off. Far from being a budget fallback, picnicking in Paris can be as fun and unforgettable as a meal in the finest restaurant-and for a fraction of the cost. Here’s where to stock up on provisions:
Nowhere in Paris is far from a street market, which is by far the best place to find French produce and cheeses of excellent quality. No self-respecting foodie would miss out on either the food or this authentic reflection of Parisian Society. Markets are generally open Tuesday to Saturday from 8am to lpm and 4pm to 7pm, and on Sunday mornings. You can ask your hotel staff to direct you to the nearest marché, or hunt out these city highlights:
* Rue Montorgeuil, ler (Métro: Châtelet). The numerous sidewalk cafes make this a great morning hangout.
* Rue Mouffetard, 5e (Métro: Monge). There’s an accordion-led singalong on Sunday mornings. Touristy but fun.
* Rue de Buci, 6e (Métro: Mabillon). Another wonderfully lively, if somewhat touristy, market.
* Marché St-Germain, 6e (Métro: Mabillon). In the center of this mini‑mall, dominated by GAP, you’ll find a terrific covered produce market.
*Marché Biologique, boulevard Raspail between rue du Cherche-Midi and rue de Rennes, 6e (Métro: Rennes). An all-organic market featuring green grocers, winemakers, butchers, and bakers.
*Rue Cler, 7e (Métro: Ecole-Militaire). The most chi-chi market in the city is a haunt of diplomats’ wives.
*Rue Lepic, 18e (Métro: Abbesses). This evocative, winding Montmartre street is lined with food shops rather than stalls.
In residential neighborhoods, you’ll find a boulangerie (bakery) or pâtisserie (pastry shop) on every corner, but the quality of their bread varies considerably. The best bakeries are given away by the long line of locale queuing up on weekend mornings. You can get a sandwich or a slice of quiche to go, but be forewarned that, compared to American delis, the French make very plain sandwiches-often just a slice of meat and some cheese on a baguette with no lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, or other accoutrement-so you might prefer to simply but’ fresh ingredients and dress your own.
Here are some of the best bakers in central Paris:
*Julien, 75 rue St-Honoré, ler (Métro: Concorde). Open Monday through Saturday.
*Le Pain Quotidien, 18 place du Marché-St-Honoré, ler (Métro: Tuileries). Also serves great sandwiches at mealtime. Open daily.
*Stohrer, 51 rue Montorgeuil, ler (Métro: Châtelet). Opened by the pastry chef of Louis XV in 1730, with an interior classified as a national treasure. Open daily.
*Au Panetier, 10 place des Petits-Pères, 2e (Métro: Bourse). Open Monday through Friday.
*Fernand Onfroy, 34 rue de Saintonge, 3e (Métro: République). Open Monday through Friday and Saturday morning.
*Boulangerie Sylvain Hervet, 69 rue Monge, Se (Métro: Monge). Great sourdough loaves and crusty pain paillasse. Open Tuesday through Sunday.
*Lionel Poîlane, 8 rue du Cherche-Midi, 6e (Métro: Sèvres-Babylone). France’s most famous baker, known for his huge, round, coarse sourdough loaves. Open Monday through Saturday.
*La Fontaine de Mars, 112 rue St-Dominique, 7e (Métro: EcoleMilitaire). A traditional baker that still uses a wood oven, which produces bigger air holes in the bread. Open Monday through Saturday.
*Jean–Luc Poujauran, 20 rue Jean Nicot, 7e (Métro: RER Invalides). A great pioneer of organic bread. His delectable loaves are cooked with olives, thyme, figs, apricots, or anchovies. The mini loaves are especially picnic-friendly and portable. Open Tuesday through Saturday.
*Réné Gérard St Ouen, 111 bd. Haussmann, 8e (Métro: St-Augustin). His loaves are made from a secret recipe featuring flour from Chartres and olive oil from Provence. They make particularly great souvenirs, since they’re baked in various shapes, from the Eiffel Tower to fish. Open Monday through Saturday.
Deli-Style Food Shops
*Look on storefront signs for the word traiteur, which designates a food shop with ready-made meat and pasta dishes and plenty of salads to go. The city’s most famous traiteurs are the gourmet temples Fauchon and Hédiard, both at place de la Madeleine, 8e (Métro: Madeleine). But every neighborhood has at least several good traiteurs, so keep your eyes peeled and ask your hotel staff for recommendations.
*Flo Prestige, 42 place due Marché-St-Honoré, ler (Métro: Pyramides), is a well-respected food shop and caterer offering everything you need for a fabulous feast, from foie gras and Norwegian smoked Salmon to fancy breads to cheese to wine. Open daily.
*On the Ile St-Louis, La Ferme St-Aubin, 76 rue St-Louis-en-L’Ile, 4e (Métro Pont Marie), offers a fine selection of cheeses, foie gras, and champagne. Closed Sunday.
*Rollet Pradier, 32 rue de Bourgogne, 6e (Métro: Assemblé Nationale), is a traiteur-cum-boulangerie with a fancy sandwich counter and a tearoom upstairs. Ask for the specialties of the house: the hand-rolled flûte Rollet and on Fridays, the boule de levain, sourdough bread made with very little yeast and a 48-hour fermentation. Closed Sunday and Monday.
*Some department stores have excellent traiteurs. Head to Galérien Lafayette Gourmet, 40 bd. Haussmann, 9e (Métro: Havre-Caumartin), and Bon Marché, 22 rue de Sèvres, 7e (Métro: Sèvres-Babylone; go to Ground Floor, Building 2), for wonderfully fresh produce, a huge selection high-quality gourmet foods, large wine sections, and long traiteur counters with salads to go. Both stores are closed Sunday.
*For ready-to-go picnic-makings like fresh sandwiches, packaged snacks, fresh fruit and veggies, and wine, make a beeline to the food section (alimentation at either branch of the British department store Marks & Spencer, 35 bd. Haussmann, 9e (Métro: Havre-Caumartin), and 88 rue de Rivoli, 4e (Métro: Hôtel-de-Ville). This place is an enormous hit with Parisians. Closed Sunday-.
Supermarkets Fi Dime Stores
All the French supermarket chains (Franprix, Champion, G-20) and dime stores (Prisunic, Monoprix) have branches throughout the city and are generally the cheapest places to pick up sliced deli-style meats, fruit, yogurt, cheese, bread, and other picnic makings. You’ll find, however, that quality is higher at smaller, neighborhood produce markets, bakeries, and traiteurs. Supermarkets and dime stores are closed Sunday.
Revenge of the Doughboys
The image of a Frenchman with a baguette under his arm isn’t just a cliché. Just how seriously do the French take their bread? Injustice in the bread biz made national headlines when a 1997 law enforced a new order of French breadmakers. Up until then, the neighborhood boulangerie that baked its own bread was differentiated neither from the supermarket boulangerie that got its massproduced baguettes from a factory nor from the black-sheep boulangerie that merely reheated-mais non!-frozen baguettes. Thousands of traditional bakers revolted, lawmakers listened, and now every French bakery has to deserve its title.
Before it can hang out the boulangerie shingle, a bakery must choose its own flour, make the dough, and bake the bread on the premises. This lets the public know what it’s buying. One easy way to tell a homemade baguette from a frozen loaf: Homemade bread should be cream-colored with air holes that are uneven; frozen baguettes are often too white, with air holes that are suspiciously uniform. Also, a real boulangerie artisanale will have a plaque on the back wall verifying that it merits this title.
Branching Out, Bread-Wise
The classic baguette is always a winner for sandwich-making, but a picnic is a great opportunity to try a delicious alternative: fougasse, a crusty flat loaf filled with onions and herbe; pain de campagne (a.k.a. pain à l’ancienne, pain rustique, or pain paysanne), a country-style, whole-wheat loaf with a thick trust; pain aux six céréales, multigrain bread; pain de seigle, a dense, small rye loaf, pain d’épice, spiced bread with honey; pain au levain, a chewy sourdough loaf, or pain noir, a dark-colored loaf made with rye and buckwheat.