Food Crawl Paris: What to Expect When You’re Hungry

by AnnaDutkowsky on September 21, 2012

[ Be forewarned, I like puns. ] 

photo credit: etravelblog.com

Holy Crêpe!
It may be a cliché but it’s a true cliché. Crêpe stands are everywhere you look in Paris. Choose between “galettes” (savory crêpes) with ham, cheese, chicken, and more on it and various sugary delicacies. My personal favorite is the “citron”(lemon) crêpe. Perfect sweet touch after a big meal. But for those of you with bigger appetites, there’s always the banana Nutella crêpe. And you can always add more ingredients!

Forget peanut butter. You actually love Nutella.
Yeah, I said Nutella crêpe. Even if your lifetime is dedicated to peanut butter, don’t be too proud to taste the European alternative. And don’t try to explain your love of peanut butter to anyone here… they… just… won’t… understand. (Ps. Peanut butter DOES exist abroad, by the way, only for a price.)

Special crêpe mention: Sauce Algérienne.
Surely this infamous crêpe sauce exists elsewhere in the city, but my most notable mention is a crêpe stand next to 100 rue Oberkampf, off of metro Rue Saint Maur. When craving something spicy (abnormally Parisian), this is a necessary and unforgettable stop. Order a galette with chicken and cheese on it and ask for the sauce algérienne. He’ll know what to do.

Let’s talk about bread.
France is known for the best bread in the world. But did you know it was cheap too?? Never going back after the French Revolution, there are laws stating that the standard baguette cannot cost more than, let’s say, 1,20 euro. And a demi-baguette (enough for one person) costs under 50 centimes!

The Parisian S’more.
Make your own pain au chocolat : buy a pain au lait (or baguette, for adults), smear it with salted butter, and insert chocolate bar! But if you’re feeling lazy, you can always take a few steps from ANYWHERE and find one pre made in a nearby boulangerie.

Bagels are simply considered a weird bread substitution to baguettes. Same innards, though.
This is a cultural misunderstanding. Bagels do, in fact, exist in France. Only the notion of a simple bagel and cream cheese doesn’t. Not only is cream cheese impossible to find (forget about your pimento or chive flavors right now) but walk into any “bagel shop” and there will only be versions of your favorite baguette sandwich… except stuffed in between a bagel instead.

Speaking of which, innards are everywhere! From foie gras to gizzards.
The squeamish beware. In case you didn’t know, the French love using many parts of the animals they kill. If you can get over knowing what it is (and, you know, you’re not vegetarian), though, the tastes are quite delectable and rich.

Picky eaters not welcome. No substitutions (there WILL be butter and/or mayo on your sandwich, deal with it), or allergies understood. And vegetarians apparently should eat things with wings.
This is a key note. Asking to substitute or take things out of a menu item is not normal. This includes restaurants. But particularly in boulangeries where they make their sandwiches fresh for lunch… but not for you specifically. Oh, and apparently even if you’re a vegetarian, chicken is always ok.

Not for vegetarians: Rillettes, otherwise known as greasy animal bits.
A fun, authentic find for those who are meat eaters, rillettes are a meat spread for your baguette or even toast. It’s known for its rich taste and layer of white fat on top (not popular in the U.S.). But I promise, it’s amazing! Oh, and this one isn’t made of guts… only the drippings from the bottom of a pan.

Don’t be surprised if your steak is the depth of shoe leather.
Cultural differences. If you order steak, it’s likely to be ¼ to ½ inch thick. What we think of as steak is called côte de boeuf, and it doesn’t come cheap.

You know it’s raw, right?
Every single time I order steak tartar (raw beef patty) or beef carpaccio (pounded flat raw beef), the waiter asks me this. Once again not for the squeamish. The French aren’t as paranoid as we are about raw products.

Coca is different than Coke.
Fun fact: Coke (or Coca, as they call it) is made with real sugar in France… none of this high fructose corn syrup. Basically, it’s better and less sweet.

They don’t even like their duck sweet.
Duck with a fruit sauce is a common item on American French restaurant menus. But good luck finding it here. The duck may be confit but it’s not à l’orange. Instead, served with roast potatoes and a mustard vinaigrette salad.

Back to things with wings, get used to runny eggs.
Once again displaying the French’s lack of paranoia of rawness. What’s salmonella? And while we’re on eggs, you may want to know that any dish – steak or bread, for example – described as “à cheval” does not mean it’s made of horse but that there’s a fried egg on top.

The egg white omelet does not exist.
Just don’t even ask.
 
Mayo is made with raw egg yolks, olive oil, and mustard.
Those aren’t the ingredients of your standard Hellman’s.

FRESH vegetables and fruit. Discover the Marché.
Paris has gone through countless physical changes throughout its history, but one thing that has never disappeared is the marketplace. A proud part of Parisian identity. Sure, you could go to your local grocery store and get the same stuff, but half the fun is finding your local marché, interacting in broken French, and feeling like a true Parisian. And if you’re cute and smile, the guy at the fruit stand might just throw in an extra apple for free.

Non-genetically-engineered grapes.
When you throw a grape into your mouth and start chewing, don’t be surprised when you encounter something crunchy in the middle. That’s the pit and, no, it hasn’t been removed.

Great cheap wine in clear bottles.
Go to Nicolas, a popular wine chain store, and get any of the clear bottled wine. Not only is it colorful and under 5 euros, but it’s GOOD too.

Cocktails are for Americans (oh, and expect to pay 10 euros); the French drink wine.
Once in a while it’s worth it, but in the best country in the world for wine, why deviate?
 
 Your friendly fromager will be your best friend.
While drinking wine, do cut the cheese, don’t break it.
The French treat their cheese nicely and cut it into neat triangles instead of attacking the platter from all sides to grab a slice.
If the cheese smells like a shoe, eat it.
You won’t regret it.
Genetically engineered cheese vs. letting it happen.
Even the cheese here is organic!
 
Escargot, escargoing, escargone.
I couldn’t resist. A punny mention of escargots!

The cornichon: small but perfectly formed. No big pickles around.
There’s only one kind of pickle here, and it’s the tiny but mighty cornichon. No need for dill pickles or other American varieties. If it ain’t broke…

Smaller portions, bigger enjoyment.
The secret of all those skinny French people: moderation. They can use all the heavy cream and butter they want and still look like that, yes.

Oh, and what they call Chinese food is actually Vietnamese.

 

 

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