In a corner of a massive gothic church in the heart of Paris is a monument to the fruit and vegetable sellers who, after 800 years of selling goods in front of this church, were relocated to a suburb in Paris to make way for a train station and a giant shopping mall.
Until 1969, the food market operated in front of this church (L’eglise Saint-Eustache).
Called Les Halles or The Halls, merchants came from all over to sell food to Parisians.
Near the church, in a local foie gois shop, I took a photo of what Les Halles looked like a long time ago.
In front of and in the halls of Saint-Eustache is where our Belly of Paris Tour with Context Travel began. We walked with our guide Carolin Young as she painted us a picture of a Paris table long ago.
We walked through the streets listening and learning some history of Paris and food.
And we made stops along the way. For sure one of the highlights of our walk through Paris with Carolin was all the shops.
Foie gois shops, cheese shops, wine shops.
My sister was super excited to purchase a few tools for her kitchen from the places where France’s greatest chefs buy their copper pots and knives.
Here’s Anna in front of one of the oldest ones. We had a hard time getting her out of there.
But we bribed her with food.
Our guide, Carolin, chose a few cheeses.
And a few more cheeses.
And baguettes and croissants from a well-loved boulangerie.
These prize cups represent many “bests” in Paris baking….best croissant and best baguette to name a few.
At the end of our tour, Carolin led us, along with our treasures to a room painted with old frescoes in Le Rocher de Cancale, one of the oldest restaurants in Paris, to have a simple meal of wine, cheese and bread.
Le Rocher de Cancale translates to the Rocks of Cancale, which is an area in Brittany famed for oysters, hence the rock and oyster sculpture on the outside of the restaurant.
A couple days later, Anna and I had oysters in an open market, where they served them fresh and then filled your empty shells with white wine to follow.
Fresh from the sea, we experienced having the freshest ingredients in Paris from all over France.
As Carolin had told us, in Paris, the food is not necessarily local, but you can have the best that is available in the capital city of France, and because of the central markets in Paris, it has always been this way.
In Paris, you can have the very best.
And we had SO many meals in Paris that were the very best.
One of our favorites was prepared for us right in our apartment by Chef Fabrice from La Belle Assiette. We were super excited to get to watch a seasoned chef in action, admiring his knife skills and asking questions about sauces.
And little warm melt-in-your-mouth chocolate molten cakes.
Another of our best meals was at Les Papilles. We happily took the last 10pm reservation available at this popular Paris bistro.
Every day the chef has one set menu, which you have family style at your table.
Our first course was a gorgeous carrot soup that came in a tureen that we poured over these beautiful bowls of bacon, croutons, creme fraiche and herbs.
Followed by cheese and fruit.
And a salted caramel pot de creme.
The meal at Les Papilles was for sure one of our very best.
But also high on our list was one of the many lovely recommendations we got from Carolin, another bistro called Terroir Parisien, a nod to local food in the region of Paris.
Anna had smoked trout.
Mama and I had the menu of the day, which was local eggs and bacon. (We’re still dreaming about these.)
Chicken and potatoes.
And a pear clafoutis that I will be trying to recreate very soon.
In fact, there are so many desserts from our time in Paris that I would like to re-create. We ate many gorgeous crepes, of course.
Like this one with chocolate and bananas that arrived after Anna asked our waiter to bring us his very best crepe.
Another dessert highlight was this roasted apple with caramel and nuts from La Grande Epicerie.
And this rose macaron from Pierre Hermes.
We had so many gorgeous pastries and tarts. I kept saying that I am going to make more efforts to make my food beautiful when I serve it after being in Paris.
Where even a simple fruit salad is a work of art.
Our very first meal in Paris was a meat, cheese and bread board, which we devoured in a street cafe, slightly stupefied that we were all sitting in the middle of Paris.
But a week later, we pracitally considered ourselves regulars at the patisserie just a few steps away from that same cafe, where even the Queen of England has been to taste the famous eclairs.
On our last night in Paris, we named all of our favorite foods we had eaten over a week of filling our bellies with so many delights, and we could not narrow it down to one meal. It was all the very best.
A big thanks to Context Travel for sending us on the Belly of Paris tour for free to help promote this fun walk through the history of Paris and food. And thank you Carolin for a lovely afternoon in the heart of Paris!
PS. You can watch our highlight videos from Paris on Vine!!