You may have noticed that I have an ever-so-slight obsession with Paris. I can’t explain why or where it came from, but the City of Lights will always and forever hold a very special place in my heart and maybe, if I’m lucky, one day I’ll even be able to call it home. Until my fantasy retirement day arrives, I have to be content with visiting Paris as often as I can to enjoy the people, the sights and of course the food. Paris is a foodie town, both for the connoisseur of the finer things in life as well as for those more intent on casual culinary treats. No matter your taste, these are my choices for the five must-eat snacks in Paris.
1. Saucisson et fromage – My first trip to Paris was as a summer exchange student between my Junior and Senior years in high school. I have a lot of special memories from that trip, but one of the indelible food moments is packing a picnic to enjoy in the Jardin du Luxembourg. I followed my French friends that morning as we collected the ingredients for the picnic at local markets. Fresh baguettes were of course a necessity and to go with it my hosts selected a delicious dried saucisson or sausage, creamy Brie and some butter to coat the bread. Packed into a reusable bag, long before such novelties were fashionable back home in the US, we strolled around the gardens made famous by the Luxembourg Palace and the immaculately sculptured topiaries. After an hour or so, we found a shady spot under a large, verdant tree and set to work on the snack. As simple as it may have been, dry sausage, cheese and bread, the ingredients were so fresh and so exceptional that it forever branded my soul. I realize those happy memories didn’t all come from the food, but they helped contribute to a perfect day.
2. Chocolate Croissant – I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the classic chocolate croissant. I’m not sure why, but it’s become a must have snack on every trip to Paris. Universally found at cafes and pastry shops for breakfast, it can also make for a fantastic afternoon snack. The pain au chocolat, which is pure Franglais, is a cube-shaped piece of dough similar to puff pastry with one or two pieces of chocolate in the center. This delicious snack food isn’t limited to France, you can find it all around the world, but the best are almost always found in Paris. I don’t have a preferred location for my favorite breakfast food, but what I love most about it is how easy it is to find in the city. They’re everywhere, from train station cafes to the best bakeries in the city. For the ultimate in French experiences, grab a fresh croissant and a coffee and watch the world walk by from a quiet café as you enjoy your perfect snack.
3. Crepe – If you’re a frequent visitor to Landlopers, then you know I have a soft spot for French crepes. Even though they may not be the most nutritious snack, the indulgence is necessary for every visitor to Paris. The Parisians have fully embraced this culinary tradition, which is purely French in origin, and serve them up all around town, but especially around touristy areas. My favorite place to grab a crepe is at a stand near the Boulevard St.-Michel close to the Gibert Jeune bookstore. Here they have dozens of possible fillings and additions to help you construct the perfect crepe. I, however, in an act of dogged determination have never waivered from my usual order – crepe with Nutella. This choco-hazelenut spread turns into my own slice of manna when added to warm, steaming crepes. They may not be healthy and they’re absolutely messy, but few things indicate Paris to me like a good crepe.
4. Frites – The French may not have invented the fry (or chip, or French Fry, or etc.) but they have absolutely adopted them as a guilty afternoon snack. Much like their Belgian cousins, fries in Paris are double fried in order to maximize their crunch, a practice I wish we in America would adopt. Also like their Flemish friends, most fry shops often a wide array of sauces and toppings to add to your cone of awesomeness. A great place to enjoy a salty dish of classically prepared Belgian fries is at the Friterie Galande, located in the Latin Quarter at the end of rue St-Julien-le-Pauvre. The usual preparation here is with a side of mayonnaise and ketchup and a slight sprinkling of pepper. It’s the perfect guilty snack after a long day of sightseeing.
5. Macaron – The modern macaron was invented in the early 20th century at the famous Parisian confectionery house Ladurée on the Rue Royale. Nothing says indulgence like the delicately crafted macaron, which is a sweet pastry filled with butter cream or jam sandwiched between two cookies. The small cookies are light, airy and come in a variety of flavors. I’m sure they’re laden with tons of calories and are probably horrible for one’s health, but the allure of the macaron is strong and I soon found out that it’s impossible to eat just one. I think the macaron is in fact the perfect culinary emblem of Paris. Delicate yet enjoyable, sophisticated but whimsical, these delicious confections ARE Paris.
What are your some of your favorite snacks in Paris?