I recently came back from Paris, and on the night before my flight, I had to laugh at myself while trying to jam my suitcase shut with as much of my upper body strength as possible. My how things had changed! Even though I was fortunate to land in the city during the famous soldes, the biannual sale season that delivers major designer discounts, I found myself only having to find room for one new pair of shoes, but was stressed to find space for my carefully wrapped packages of salts, sugar, cheese, tea and yes, even boxes of oh-so-delicate macarons. Paris, of course, is a food-lover’s dream come true and over my handful of visits to the city I’ve definitely accumulated a must-visit list of my favourite destinations for on-the-spot treats as well as take home items and gifts. Here are some of my favourites:
Le Grand Epicerie – this mega-emporium attached to the posh left bank department store Le Bon Marché is the do-all and end-all of French foodie items. If there’s something magical that belongs in your kitchen, this is where you’ll find it! Not only is it the perfect place to put together a beautiful picnic to tote to the Luxembourg Garden or the Île de la Cité, but you can also treat it as a one stop shop for all of your take home needs, including entire sections devoted to wine, salt, sugar, truffles (and all truffle-related goods!), cheese, chocolate, cookies, etc. The adorable canvas tote bags are also the perfect souvenir for your at-home grocery run, and make great gifts for friends (maybe stocked with some Kusmi Tea and Fauchon chocolate for good measure). On this visit, I picked up my favourite Le Beurre Bordier, fleur de sel, truffle salt, and some heart-shaped sugar cubes for my morning coffee (who could resist!?) Le Beurre Bordier is something I started searching out a few years ago after reading that it was David Lebovitz‘s favourite butter, and now, of course, I’m hooked. The packages alone are so chic–they look much more like lovely little soaps than a consumable dairy product. This time, I picked up the regular salted butter, smoked salted butter (delicious with scallops), and my absolute favourite, truffle butter. The latter smeared on a fresh baguette is, well, a heavenly experience that’s worth the visit to the Epicerie all on its own!
Mariage Frères – There are a handful of Mariage Frères tea houses in Paris where you can enjoy a lovely brunch or afternoon tea. However, even if you’re not going to sit for a snack, it’s worth stopping in for their beautiful selection of teas and tea-related items, including biscuits, jellies and chocolates. The packaging alone is hard to beat, making anything you choose the perfect gift. I always scoop up a box or two of the muslin tea sachets in my favourite Wedding Imperial blend, a black tea with gold Assam leaves and notes of chocolate and caramel, or Marco Polo, which is easier to find here at home, and is also a black tea with a fruity-floral finish.
Pierre Hermé – I doubt you would regret eating any macaron you stumble across in Paris, but for me, Pierre Hermé is hands down the best. Their amazing flavour combinations, such as rose, litchi and raspberry and pistachio, ceylon, cinnamon and morello cherry, are so unique, not to mention their beautiful laser-cut carrier bags that feel très spéciale. During this trip, I also enjoyed one of their individual Mont Blancs, which seems to be the trendiest dessert in Paris at the moment!
Poilâne – This tiny left bank boulangerie is known for its amazing breads, croissants and broiche. If you’re early enough you can scoop up a buttery croissant, otherwise a small bag of their trademark butter cookies, “Punitions“, which come in the shape of little rounds or even spoons or forks are definitely in order.
Buy Paris Duty-Free – In years past, I’ve attempted to pack away cheeses, wine and champagne in my suitcase only to be terrified to return home to crazy smelly clothes complete with broken bottles. Finally, I got smart and started waiting to pick up these delicate gourmand goods at the Duty-Free shop at Charles de Gaulle, which of course stocks an amazing selection of liquor (complete with sommelier recommendations, no less), cheese, foie gras and other condiments. If you can get your hands on this triple-cream Brillat-Savarin with truffle pictured above, I’d suggest dipping into it immediately upon your arrival home – it is just ridiculously indulgent and will instantly soothe any heartache leftover from leaving the City of Light behind. There’s just something about the ease that comes with the handy foil- and bubble-wrapped packages they’ll hand over at the cash register that is guaranteed to make your last shopping stop in Paris all the more enjoyable!