Sopping for food in Paris -

Your first few weeks in Paris

When you first arrive it can be a bit scary to see the huge array of cheeses, the mountains of different breads, and all the other delicious, strange and familiar foods. You want to try everything, but you don't really know what some of it is.

I remembered when I lived in Japan and went to buy stuff to wash clothes, but what I actually came home with was very strong bleach for cleaning toilets! Luckily a friend spotted the mistake before I ruined my wardrobe.

France is much easier than that though, and everything can be looked up in a dictionary. So be adventurous, but do be prepared to make a few mistakes - it is all part of the fun. Food is one of the best things the French do, and Paris has it all.

The main places for buying food are the hypermarkets (hypermarchés), supermarkets (supermarchés), small, specialized shops and the open-air markets, there are also some shops that sell imported foods if you are missing something from home.

The hypermarkets tend to be located outside the peripherique, and are usually best visited by car. Within the city there are a large number of supermarkets, some smaller than others, but there is usually one within about 10 minutes walk.

In some hyper- and supermarkets you must weigh and get prices for your fruit and veg. before going to the checkouts. This is not as difficult as it might seem, as they all have pictures on the keys of the machines. If in doubt just look at what others do. In other places your fruit and veg. will be weighed and priced at the checkouts.

If you want to use a supermarket trolley normally you have to put 1 euro into the slot near the handle of the trolley. This is refundable when you replace the trolley.

At the checkouts you usually have to pack your food yourself. Nearly all supermarkets will deliver your goods to your home. You can pay by cheque, cash or carte bleu (the card that you are issued with when you open a bank account).

Picard is a chain of shops selling frozen foods, and they operate just like a supermarket. I am not a great fan of frozen food, but their stuff is reasonably good, so I usually have some of theri fish in the freezer just in case. A freind I have who entertains a lot swears by their party food, but I prefer Bon Marche - see below - for this.

paris arrondissments

Specialist shops

The Real McCoy, 194 rue de Grenelle, 75007.

This small shop stocks mainly food from North America but also some British brands.

Le Bon Marche, 22 rue de Sèvres, 75007. Metro Sèvres-Babylone.

Has an extensive international selection in the Grand Epicerie on the ground floor. The cheese section is good and they will advise you if you want to choose for a cheese board. The bread is superb. The wine section is also really good and it is the best place for good whisky - even cheaper than in Scotland - so much for the common market.

This is one of my favourite food shops, and it is where I come to get food presents for French people. On the whole I have found the staff at the counters very helpful and knowledgeable. There can be long queues at the chechout sometimes though.

Tang Freres, 48 av Ivry, 75013.

This is the place to buy Chinese food, chopsticks etc. They also have an extensive selection of Indian, Thai, Japanese and other oriental ingredients both preserved and fresh.

The prices are incredibly cheap, so it is well worth the trip, and there are many other Chinese/Vietnamese shops around. Tang Freres also do the best take-away Chinese meals. Try the pork fillet, I have no idea what it is called in either French or Chinese, I just point. They'll ask if you want it sliced, so say yes, and it comes with a bag of sauce. You can never buy too much, and it costs so little. The spare ribs are good too.

Cafe Verlet, 256 rue St. Honore, 75001.

This is where I buy my coffee. They have a very good range and their own blends are good too. They will grind it for you if you wish. You can also sit and have a cup of coffee and a cake. Their jams and extensive range of glace fruits are also very good.

Brulerie Maubert, 3 rue Monge, 75003.

Excellent coffee roasted on the premises, a large selection of teas, Tiptree jams including Little Scarlet (in my opinion the very best commercially made strawberry jam), and a cafe next door.

Ladurée, 75, Avenue des Champs Elysees, 75008.

This is THE place to get your macaroons. I had previously thought macaroons were overrated, but not after eating them here. If you are ever in need of a gift for someone French, or even non-French, and don't know what to get them, come here and get one of their marvellous gift boxes.

Shopping in French for the non-French speaker

English French Phonetic
Hello, good day Bonjour Bon joor (soft j)
I'd like... (polite) Je voudrais... Je voo dray (soft j)
I'd like 100 g of mushrooms please. Je voudrais cent grammes de la champignon s'il vous plait. Je voo dray son gram de la shom pin non seel voo play
200 Deux cents De son
half kilo Demi kilo Demee keelo
Do you have...? Est-ce que vous avez...? Es kuh vooz avey
How much is it? C'est combien? Say com be en
That's all C'est tout. Say too

Open air markets - the best and freshest food in Paris

There will be an open-air market near where you live (see the list below), these usually operate 2 or 3 mornings a week, and I highly recommend you visit them, even if you are a little wary of buying anything at first. I fed my family for three months with just the French above! When it comes to paying, they will show you the ticket from the machine, so you can give them the money.

The stalls at these open-air and covered markets are the smaller equivalents of the small specialized shops on the left. You can find the best selection of olives and dried fruits, a wonderful range of bread; stalls selling only mushrooms, 6 kinds of snails ready stuffed and requiring only five minutes in the oven, home made brownies in 4 flavours, stalls that sell only potatoes, or onions, as well as the more run-of-the-mill fruit and vegetable stalls.

Most stall owners prefer you not to touch or handle the produce, but other stalls offer you basket for you to select your own fruit and veg. So a good guide is, if you see baskets, then pick your own, if not then ask.

The stall owners are very friendly and keen to help, remember it is in their interest that you buy and buy regularly, so don't be embarrassed by your inadequate French, they will help you. The basic French you need to know is in the table above.

Covered and open air food markets by arrondissment

2nd Montorgueil, rue Montorgueil
3rd Enfants Rouges, 39 rue de Bretagne
5th Maubert, Place Maubert
  Monge, Place Monge
  Port-Royal, in front of Port-Royal hospital
6th Saint-Germain, 3 rue Mabillon
  Raspail, bd Raspail, rue de Cherche-Midi, rue Rennes
7th Saxe-Breteuil, ave de Saxe, ave Segur, place de Breteuil
8th Europe, 1 rue Corvetto
10th Saint-Quentin, 85 bis Boullevard Magenta
  Alibert, rue Alibert, rue Claude Vellefaux
11th Belleville, bd de Belleville
  Bastille, bd Richard-Lenoir, rue Amelot
12th Beauvau-Saint-Antoine, rue d'Aligre and rue de Cotte
  Daumesnil, bd de Reuilly, rue de Charenton, rue Amelot, rue Saint-Sabin
  Cours de Vincennes, bd de Picpus, rue Netter
13th Bobilot, rue Bobilot, rue de la Colonie
14th Alesia, rue d'alesia
  Edgar-Quinet, bd Edgar-Quinet
15th Convention, rue de la Convention, rue Alain Chartier, rue Abbe Groult
  Dupleix-Grenelle, bd Grenelle
  Saint-Charles, rue Saint-Charles, rue de Javel
16th Passy, rue Bois-le-vent and rue Duban
  Auteuil, rue Auteuil, rue Donizetti, rue la Fontaine
  President Wilson, ave President Wilson
17th Batignolles, 96 bis rue Lemercier
  Berthier, Porte d'Asnieres, bd Bertier
18th La Chapelle, 10 rue de l'Olive
  Orano, bd Orano, rue de Mont-Cenis, rue Ordener
19th Riquet, 42 rue Riquet
  Secretan, 46 rue Bouret, 33 ave Secretan
20th Pyrenees, rue de l'Ermitage, rue de Menilmontant

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