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France – it’s all about Wine, Bread and Cheese!

Why are French people so fanatical about their gastronomy? Is it because the bakers are still taking hot, fresh bread out of the oven at 6 p.m.? Perhaps Charles de Gaulle’s famous quote has something to do with it: “How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?” (And today, there are even more!) Or, perhaps, it is simply due to our dedicated wine producers who provide us with such a wide variety of great wines.

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Whatever the answer may be, France is proud of its produce and even more so when it comes to showing tourists the best of everything this country has to offer! If you ask any local in Paris, they will describe bread, cheese and wine as being almost a daily staple.

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In general, Parisians buy fresh bread (often including croissants) every day—sometimes even several times a day. The sandwich made with a baguette is still extremely popular at lunchtime. How about a few glasses of wine at a bistro on your lunch break? This is more than common in the City of Light where people take time to enjoy their meal. Once home, it’s time for dinner… and the French are known to be a bit lazy! So what’s on the menu? A mixed salad to stay healthy, of course, but with at least 5–7 kinds of cheese on the plate… and more wine!

In order to fully enjoy this experience and live ‘à la parisienne’, there are a few rules you should follow. The following tips will prevent you from falling into the usual tourist traps and allow you to get the most out of your meals in Paris.

Bread

It’s simple—there is one word to look for and it’s ‘artisan’. When on the lookout for bread, the last thing you want is to bite into a baked from frozen, factory baguette! Bakers with ‘artisan’ displayed at their bakery will personally select all of their ingredients and make everything from scratch.

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One more thing, do yourself a favour—stay away from under-cooked bread! There is nothing better than a deep brown, crisp and flavourful, well-cooked bread. You will make your cheese happier!

Our favourite bakery:
Du Pain et Des Idées
34 Rue Yves Toudic
75010 Paris

Cheese

So you’re in France… what did you come for? Yes, fromage! Just because it’s everywhere, does not necessarily mean that it’s all good. Whether for health reasons or because of allergies, you might choose a pasteurized cheese (some are delicious!) For those who prefer tasting a raw milk selection, heaven’s coming!

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But, where should you buy it? Anywhere, except one place—the supermarket! Why would you buy an example of one of France’s finest products, sealed in plastic, from a commercial chain? Simply, wander the streets of Paris and enter the first cheese shop you see. Stand inside, take a deep breath… and go crazy!

Our favourite cheese shops:
Au Cœur du Marché
28 Rue d’Aligre
75012 Paris
&
Marché Saint-Quentin
85 Bis Boulevard de Magenta
75010 Paris

Wine

Now that you know where to buy cheese, you’ll need some wine to go with it! It’s the same rule as for cheese shopping—don’t buy wine in the supermarket! France, and moreover Paris, is filled with wine shops called ‘cavistes’. French cavistes are on almost every street corner. The Parisian wine shops are fun to go in to with tastings, off-the-beaten-path wines and great prices. Amazingly, guess what you can often find just a few steps away from a local wine shop… et voilà! A cheese shop!

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Whatever the milk (goat, ewe or cow), whatever the taste and, obviously, whatever the smell—there is always a perfect wine to match your cheese. There is only one rule that you need to follow: don’t drink your best wine with it! That’s just foolish. Why? Because wine flavours are so delicate and some cheeses can be very overpowering. You could end up wasting one, the other or both. Other than that, red, white, sweet or dry—it’s simply up to you! Just have fun… and don’t forget the Bread!

Our favourite wine shops:
Les Caprices de l’Instant
12 Rue Jacques Cœur
75004 Paris
&
Le Rouge et le Verre
8 rue de Maubeuge
75009 Paris

Didier Quémener is an executive chef, private chef, and food & wine consultant based in Paris. You can find him at Chef Q Paris and Food Me or on Twitter @ChefQParis and @FoodMeParis.