Paris is a fantasy food destination, and its many markets are both a key source of fresh ingredients and a stamping ground for the country’s finest producers. Your shopping visit could be a lazy Sunday wander on your way to brunch, a dedicated food shopping expedition or a gastronomic tour – but no matter what, the sights and smells will make you hungry long before you’re back in the kitchen.
--- The Best Paris Food Markets, Time Out magazine
My lucky friend Bethanne has hit the road again, this time visiting her friends Marie and Diego in Paris. I was delighted to receive a large cache of market pictures from her. Amazingly, I didn’t even have to beseech her before her trip! (I probably have beseeched my friends enough to last several lifetimes, much less several trips, so they are now self-policing.)
Some of Paris’ markets originated over 1,000 years ago. The Saxe-Breteuil market, featured in Bethanne’s photos, offers "the city's most chic produce,” according to Time Out. The market is held twice a week, Thursdays and Saturdays, from 7 am - 2:30 pm, on the Avenue de Saxe in the 7th arrondissement in the Left Bank.
I chanced upon a website Paris Perfect (one of those glamorous apartment rental websites that makes you moan softly as you read about various lovely neighborhoods with cobbled streets and charming shops), which described the market in these appropriately drool-inducing terms:
Among the many markets in Paris, the Saxe-Breteuil market is often regarded as the most beautiful. There is no more lovely setting, as it is framed by the Eiffel Tower and the Invalides. Farmers and producers come from all over France to sell their specialties and this market is known for its high-quality organic foods.
I immediately searched for sales of the wonderful Charentais melon, which is sometimes known as "French melon" in gourmet stores. (Charentais melons are basically very fragrant and sweet cantaloupes, and apparently contain some super-duper antioxidant, superoxide dismutase, for those folks who prefer to ingest their produce in pill form.) No disappointments here!
Also expected and found: tributes to luscious end-of-summer tomatoes.
A little more surprising: the inclusion of fruits that are obviously not locally grown – pineapples, kiwis, mangos, bananas - which wouldn’t fly at a typical US farmers’ market.
The Union Square Greenmarket, for example, touts its credentials as “producer-only market with rigorous “grow-your-own” standards… selling directly to customers means farmers, fishers and their children can keep doing what they love and feeding growing cities.” Farmers markets in Washington DC have similar rules.
But upon further thought, I realized that the French covered market (marché couvert) isn’t like these Johnny-come-lately markets. The Union Square Greenmarket began in 1976, not the 10th century --- when many of the Parisian markets began. Consequently, the French markets are much more fully integrated into daily life and provide a wider range of essential range of essential foodstuffs to their customers.
And if, for whatever strange personal quirk, you’re not interested in the produce – well, it’s still Paris. Rumor has it there is other beauty to behold.