Macarons, Cheese, and Other Paris Must-Tries
Honestly, I wish I could narrow this down for you. I’m not lying when I say that I had AT LEAST one macaron every day that I lived in Paris. I have so many favorites that there are just too many to list. For a while I actually kept a macaron journal in my notes on Gmail (NERD ALERT), but I ate so many, it just got out of hand. I couldn’t keep up. Volume and intake exceeded my typing skills.
My friend Jenna wrote an article on the best macarons in Paris and her recommendations are fantastic, so this is probably your best place to start. Whatever you do, just start TASTING. Beware, though: a lot of pâtisseries have macarons, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good macarons.
Here are a few suggestions that may help you single out your favorite mac and/or mac maker in the gloriously vast jungle of options:
1) Pick an “anchor” flavor—chocolate and caramel are good ones—and try that anchor flavor wherever you go so you have a consistent gauge for comparison. Maybe get a little dorky and keep your thoughts in your iPhone’s notes so you know at the end of your trip which place was your overall favorite.
2) Always try at least one wild card selection with your anchor. You might feel slightly crazy trying things like chocolate-foie gras or a green tea-cucumber, but your adventurous spirit will usually be rewarded. Spoiler alert: Jenna’s fave was an absinthe. Absinthe!
3) Try the little pâtisseries’ macs and then try these, in my order of preference:
Victor et Hugo
Ladurée and Fauchon, for me, are just meh. (Such a #firstworldproblem and #whitewhine, huh?)
4) Enjoy! Macaron tasting is such a fun, Parisian experience. And they’re so little! No need to feel guilty about that tiny little macaron, right? Or the 14 you ate in that one day???
**Laurent Dubois Fromagerie (5th): Finding good cheese in Paris is like finding a blade of grass in Central Park. It’s everywhere. Just open your eyes, take a few steps in any direction, and then … select. But I love this place for a couple of reasons. First, they speak English, and for all those non-French speaking people who come to Paris looking for the some Mother Ship wheel of Brie or Camembert to include in their Eiffel Tower picnic basket, that’s a godsend. (Suggestion: you’re close to Luxembourg Gardens if you go here, so consider a picnic there as well.) It’s also a godsend for certain French-speaking expats (ahem) who don’t quite know all the words yet to describe the subtle nuances of the cheese we want.
Second, they let you taste anything you’re considering or they’re recommending, which should be standard in any good cheese shop anywhere in the world. (If it’s not, find yourself a new fromager.) They have a knowledgeable team, and a nice selection in a beautiful shop where the cheeses are spread out with plenty of room to breathe, so tasting is really fun. You’ll definitely discovered something new here.
And third, they’ll wrap and vacuum pack a bundle of cheese for you so you can slide it in your suitcase and take it home with you. If you’re leaving on, say, a Sunday morning, go there on Saturday afternoon, put it in your hotel or AirBnB fridge overnight, then drop it in your suitcase. Don’t get sketched out by the non-refrigeration: most cheese should be served at room temp anyway, so it’ll be all ready to go for you when you finally plop down on your couch back in America after that long flight home. You’ll be ready for cheese by then, right? (I’m always ready for cheese.)
Go here for your picnic. (You didn’t think you’d come all the way to Paris and not have a picnic, right?) So much sausage, ham, and goodness to be had, and the gentleman who owns the shop is really kind, too. He’ll give you a little taste of a few things if you’re not a dick. (Helpful tip: try to speak a little French, or at least learn now to say “I don’t speak French” in French. Google it.) Also, even if you’re not in the market for picnic meats, definitely get the jambon beurre baguette with cornichons, a French staple. You’re welcome.
**Pozetto (3rd): Ahhh, this place. THIS PLACE! After I discovered it, I pretty much had to actively talk myself out of going here every single day (even in the freezing-cold winter). It’s in the Marais, and it’s the best Italian gelato outside of Italy. The chocolat noisette (chocolate hazelnut) is like creamy, melty chocolate on your tongue, and their seasonal flavors are generally to die for. (Fig gelato, anyone? YES!) Please don’t make the rookie tourist mistake and go to Amorino. GO HERE. Go out of your way for it. It’s just that good.
In fact, here’s an idea for you: on a warm summer night, there’s nothing lovelier than walking along the Seine and eating your Pozetto by moonlight as you take in the City of Light. (Such a Parisian experience, I teared up just writing that.)
Jams, Chutneys, and Savory Spreads
**La Chambre aux Confitures: (9th and 3rd) A jam shop … which doesn’t sound that exciting, but it is—is SO IS. The raspberry lavender, apricot lavender, and cherry mint are three of my favorites, but if those don’t float your boat, they’ll let you taste everything in the store, so just find your fave and buy it in bulk, because you’ll want it when you come home. Also, don’t overlook the savory section; we bought some olive-fig spread, which was great on a baguette, then topped with cheese. (It’s a wonder that my heart still even beats.)
**The Raspail Organic Market (6th): The organic market (the French refer to organic as “bio”, pronounced bee-o) only happens here at Raspail on Sundays. There’s a Wednesday and Friday market here too, but they’re not bio, so I definitely recommend the Sunday market if you’re on the fence about which day to visit. Also, French celebs like this one because it’s bio, so you might get to see Gerard Depardieu or Marion Cotillard, or maybe even Lenny Kravitz. Come with cash, and be prepared to buy. There’s so much good stuff here–fresh vegetables, fish, meat, cheese, breads, juices, and more. This is a great place to build your picnic basket ingredients. (WHICH YOU REALLY MUST DO. All caps. You can’t come to Paris and not have a picnic somewhere.)
**The Onion Gallette at the Raspail Organic Market: OGM (Onion Gallette Man) is at the end, closer to Boulevard Saint-Germain. He’s a man of few words unless you can bust out some rapid-fire French, so don’t take it personally like I did. (I really wanted to be his friend – those gallettes are good!) There’s usually a line for his gallettes, but it’s worth the wait. And get two or three because you’ll want more than one.
I know, I know. … these aren’t French, but in a phase of homesickness (you can only eat so many macarons, right?) I went on a cupcake binge, and trust me, there are a lot of dogs in Paris when it comes to cupcakes, but these three are all top notch. As a nice bonus, all the owners of these shops are just really nice people. And I kind of have a personal belief that people who sell cupcakes are also selling joy, so if they’re grouchy asshats, you probably shouldn’t buy cupcakes from them. A few mean cupcakers do exist in Paris, but it’s not any of these lovely people/talented bakers. I recommend all of them, but only if you’re staying for a while; after all, you can get cupcakes in the good old US of A.
**Sugar Daze (9th): Walking distance from all the good stuff on rue des Martyrs and from Pigalle (don’t even pretend that you’re not checking out the windows of the sex shops), she has TONS of delicious, unique flavors and her tiny shop has a music theme. The flavors vary each day, but I fell in love with the Call Me Maybe (peanuts, cinnamon, and chocolate). That might have been a limited-time-only edition (like Carly Rae Jepsen’s random popularity), so just ask what they recommend. They’re all good.
**Bertie’s (4th): The cutest little shop, and it’s so close to Notre Dame that you really can’t justify not picking up a few of these to nibble on as you wait in line to get in. This is another spot where you can’t go wrong, but my fave was the Nutella Banana. It was super moist, almost more like a bread than a cupcake. And of course, pretty much anything with Nutella gets my vote.
**Synie’s (6th): I tried the Synie 23 (I think that’s what it’s called, though I don’t see it on the menu online) and fell in love with it: lemon, raspberry, and almond with cream cheese frosting. I’m not usually a fruit girl, but I love this unique blend of cupcake. I made it my official birthday cake while I was in Paris. (Along with 4 other Synie’s cupcakes.)
Random Rue (There are many great ones, this is just one)
**Rue de Martyrs (9th): This street in SoPi, or South Pigalle, is a juggernaut of deliciousness and is home to one of my favorite places in Paris, Kooka Boora Cafe. Just walk down the street and you’ll see all kinds of amazing places, including La Chambre de Confiture, Arnaud Delmontel, a few roasted chicken places, some great fromageries and pâtisseries, a few great wine stores, cute boutiques, cozy bistros, and Popelini, a little place that sells choux à la crème, or mini cream puffs in all kinds of unexpected cream puff flavors. Sugar Daze cupcakes is just a couple of blocks away and you’re within walking distance to Montmartre and the 18th. It’s a slice of perfect as far as streets go.
A word on Rue de Martyrs, on strolling in Paris, and on traveling in general:
(AKA Snotty Expat Lecture Alert)
Keep an open mind. Please. I took one visiting friend to rue des Martyrs, so excited to show her one of my favorite streets in Paris. I was crushed when she said to me with open disgust, “It feels like we’re in the Chinatown of Paris” as I was walking her down this street, one of my favorite streets in the world as far as getting a local flavor for food is concerned. I said nothing, but tried to look at it from her eyes. Truth be told, it’s not the most spectacular looking street; in fact, it’s pretty everyday looking. But just because it doesn’t feel like upscale or like a gentrified grunge-on-the-way-up street doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its charms and its gems, or that it isn’t one of the locals’ favorite places. SoPi, rue des Martyrs, and their collective offerings feel like a less done-up Hayes Valley in San Francisco, or a less-hipstery version of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. So give it a chance. If everything looked the way we’re used to it looking at home, then what would be the point of traveling? What would there be to discover? (Steps off soapbox.)