Planning a romantic break to France's capital city? Between casual strolls along the Seine and stops to enjoy the many cultural offerings, make sure you indulge in some of the city's most delicious cuisine...
French food isn't all about haute cuisine and fine dining - some of the best food to be enjoyed in the French capital can be bought for a couple of euros from a humble boulangerie. We asked Paris-based food writer, Clotide Dusoulier, to walk us through her city's foodscape.
Don't leave Paris without trying...
It is safe to say that Paris is the place on Earth with the highest density of top-quality, artisanal baguettes. Each year a competition is held to elect the 'Meilleure Baguette de Paris', and the list of best-baguette awardees is a good resource to select your provider. Don’t forget to tear off the crusty, still-warm tip and nibble on it as you walk away, as any self-respecting Parisian does.
The epitome of the bistro dish, this simple pairing of a grilled steak with various optional sauces and chips is elevated to serious heights when the meat is well selected and carefully matured, and the potatoes are fresh, hand-cut and double-fried.
Try making your own… Steak and chips
Most brasseries and cafés in Paris offer non-stop service, and a staple of their menu is the croque-monsieur, an oozy and crisp grilled ham and cheese sandwich usually moistened by a touch of Béchamel sauce. If you’re extra hungry, get the croque-madame, which adds a fried egg on top.
Try making your own… Croque-madame
4. Duck confit
Originally devised to preserve fresh duck meat for future consumption, the confit method consists of cooking duck thighs in their own fat, until the meat is spectacularly moist and fork-tender. Few Parisian bistros make their own, but they pride themselves in selecting the best producer, typically from the Southwest of France, and serve them seared until the skin turns golden and crisp. The classic side is pommes sarladaises, heavenly garlicky potatoes sautéed in duck fat. (And duck fat is good for you, right?)
Try making your own… Confit duck
Like all city dwellers, Parisians often need to eat on the go, and the jambon-beurre is the most Parisian of sandwiches. You can buy it from corner bakeries or order it from the counter at most cafés; in both cases it will come as a fresh half-baguette, its insides smeared with cool butter and garnished with 'jambon de Paris', a pink-hued cooked ham, with optional cornichons.
6. Raw-milk artisanal cheeses
Paris is truly the gastronomic hub of France, and nowhere is it more apparent than in cheese shops, where you can buy the makings of a cheesy Tour de France and taste your way through each region’s stars, from the mildest to the sharpest. Always favour raw-milk cheeses (unless you have a compromised immunity) and ask the vendor what’s best right now, as the production of artisanal cheeses is a seasonal affair.
Walk past any bakery in the wee hours of the morning and you’ll be instantly spellbound by the warm buttery smell of fresh croissants escaping from the air vents at pavement level. This is your cue to step in and get your golden prize, which you can tuck into and savour on your morning walk as the city awakens. Sadly, fewer and fewer French bakeries make their croissants from scratch – they buy them frozen instead – so it’s worth asking to make sure your boulanger still engages in that noble, delicious craft.
Try making your own… Croissants
Named after a long-established bicycle race that sees competitors cycle from Paris to the tip of Brittany, this is among the best-sellers in Parisian pastry shops. The wheel-shaped choux pastry shell garnished with praline buttercream and sprinkled with caramelized almonds is guaranteed bliss for sweet lovers.
Try making your own… Mini white chocolate Paris-Brest
The delicate pastry, consisting of two almond meringue shells glued together with buttercream or ganache, has taken the world by storm but its birthplace is resolutely Paris. Available in all sorts of flavours and just as many colours, macarons are two-bite delights, but it is worth seeking them out from reputable pastry shops that actually make their own – many just hop on the bandwagon and sell factory-made ones that aren’t worth your time or dime – and go easy on the rainbow-style food colourings.
Try making your own… Macarons
10. Street-stand crêpes
Walking around Paris, you’ll see street stands selling crêpes everywhere. One of the few truly native street foods, the crêpe is indeed a lovely treat to indulge in when it’s time for an afternoon snack. Be sure to pick a stand that cooks crêpes to order (rather than reheat them from a pile cooked earlier), makes them thin (nothing worse than a gummy, undercooked crêpe) and is kept spotlessly clean. Though you may be tempted to try all kinds of stuffings, serious aficionados stick to the beurre-sucre (butter and sugar) for the true, unadulterated crêpe experience.
Try making your own… Crêpes
Clotilde Dusoulier is the French food writer behind Chocolate & Zucchini, a blog that’s all about the fresh, simple, and seasonal foods she cooks in her Paris kitchen.
Have you sampled the food of Paris? Would you add anything to our list? Share your must-try dishes below, plus visit our travel section for more globetrotting tips.