Out and about in Paris region markets

November 25th, 2012

Sunday morning’s market in Antony, on the RER metro line just south of Paris, is a hubub of a hundred vendors selling everything from foods to flowers, tablecloths to corsets and sewing items, and a good range of cooking tools….a one-stop shopping op!  Changes noted in the passing (can it be twenty?!) years since the vagabond first rambled through this busy market include the new, swooping rooftops and enclosed sides to shield all from winds.  It took four years to construct the enclosure with scooped roofs, designed by Nantes’ architects ARS/Rocheteau & Saillard.  Other changes include more ethnic food vendors, giving shoppers a broad choice of flavors for their Sunday repas.  Amidst a great array of greens, the vagabond noted chard and bok choy for a quick stir-fry, radishes, onions and salads of all sorts, and of course, cheese from all over the map.

Greens for all…

Think about a starter of girolles, mushrooms with herbs, a squeeze of lemon, a touch of butter…and succulent pork to roast or braise, as well as beans to shell while waiting for autumn’s morning fog to lift.

Inspired to roast a shoulder of milk-fed pork with apples and onions – and de-glaze the pan with a splash of Calvados?

Onions galore caught my eye along with herbs wrapped and ready for a stew.

Scallions and onions to add color to a braise

And then, think about dessert while chatting with the amiable vendors of Lebanese pastries.  Oooo, so tempting….pistachio-honey cakes, as well as variations on the almond theme.

This calls for a palate-cleansing bunch of sweet-tart grapes…. from Italy or southern France.

Then it’s time to trot home with my sister-in-law to stir up a rich, autumn Sunday lunch and catch up on family news.

Food vendors inside, tabletop textiles and clothing outside.. one-stop shopping in Antony!

Getting there:  Antony lies on the RER line south of Paris, a short walk to the city center down Rue du Marché. Market days are Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings, from 7:30 to 13:30.  An early round of the stalls is suggested on Sunday to avoid heavy stroller traffic.

Versailles market, overflowing with tasty treasures!

December 12th, 2009

Vagabond Gourmand – Versailles Market
Click on lamp post to view Versailles market gallery

Versailles in winter is truly overflowing with treasures, royal and otherwise.  It’s just a ten minute ride on the Transilienne train from Paris Montparnasse (lowest level) station. A bus from Versailles “Chantiers” station takes you to Notre Dame market, its square framed by a halle on each corner.  On a recent Friday, we were plunged into a hubub of activity:  vendors of cheese, fruit and flowers, salt and sausages fill the marketplace center, an intersection traversed by buses and bicycles dodging shoppers.  From clementines to fancy terrines, there are more upscale victuals to the square foot than any market I have ever seen. The vagabond was astonished by the cheeses alone, stall after richly appointed stall of fromages from across France and beyond.  Hankering for a wedge of gorgonzola , mimolette or spiced gouda, herbed chèvre from Provence, or curls of parmigiano-reggiano? This is your hunting ground.  Inside the halls, fish from all waters, glistening eyes a sign they are fresh today, are spread in a seemingly endless array. Sole, rouget or barbet/red mullet, rosy rascasse/red scorpion fish, and even slabs of dried morue/cod appeal to a variety of shoppers. With over thirty permanent stalls inside the halls open daily, and seventy vendors outside on Tuesdays and Saturdays, Versailles draws Ile-de-France shoppers to the best selection west of Paris.

And when it is time for a short break, step up to a plate of oysters and a glass of Muscadet – the only on-the-spot eating option I noted in Versailles halls. In the mood for something salty? Greek olives, capers, all sorts of pickled veg are ready to be scooped up. Almond-studded cornes de gazelle, among many honey-glazed Middle Eastern sweets tempted the vagabond during this market romp. Of course the market answers gift-shoppers’ quandries, too:  a little oval salt cellar with a wooden scoop, colorful packets of sugar-dusted fruit paste tied with a ribbon, even a chocolate Santa Claus will win up in someone’s stocking.

Vagabond Gourmand – Versailles Market Try just a slice, or buy an entire terrine for a “festive first”
All of these market aromas and visual delights can trigger appetites, so shoppers need not look beyond the halls’ periphery – take a few steps and you are sitting in the sun with a coffee or a tall Belgian beer. We joined the locals at a corner café bar, the Franco-Belge on rue du Baillage for hearty traditional fare. When the vagabond tucked into a mound of choux-farci, she thought it would easily serve four…an hour later, the waiter removed the empty plate. Markets do stimulate appetites!  After lunch, a stroll through eighteenth century ruelles of the Bailliage antique dealers’ quarter led past fifty shops filled with everything from arm chair frames (which Louis ?…. don’t ask) to lamps, statuettes and paintings. In fact, this first visit to Versailles was an appetizer, with a follow-up planned for April…to find signs of spring in the Potager du Roi.

Getting to Versailles: Trains to Versailles Rive Droit station run regularly from Gare St.Lazare and take about 30 minutes (closest to center). From Gare Montparnasse, it takes about 10 minutes, but is a 20 minute walk from Gare Versailles Chantier on the outskirts.  Or take the RER from St.Michel metro stop or Quai d’Orsay stop, about a 40 minute ride to V. Rive Gauche stop.

Inside tips: Tempted to linger for more than one day, especially when the Versailles center for Baroque music has a full concert schedule? Watch the concert listings on www.versailles-tourisme.com . Even on a slim budget, Versailles for a weekend is a treat:  Hôtel Cheval Rouge faces the market place, and has 38 reasonably priced rooms (less than 90 Euros for a double room) – simple, and recently renovated.  Located near the Rive Droit station for trains from Paris, it is five minutes’ walk to the château and gardens. Visit: www.chevalrouge.fr.st for map and information in English.  Or, rent a car in Versailles for a few days and venture another 10 kilometers on the route to Dreux to stay in a dreamy B&B, www.clos-saint-nicolas.com.  For 90 Euros a double room is yours, with breakfast in the conservatory….and do visit the Grand Marnier distillery in the village of Neauphle-le-Château. The 1810 mansion has just three guest rooms, so reserve in advance for a remarkable base to explore the historic region.

Saint Nicolas, my how you’ve changed!

December 8th, 2009
Gingerbread or chocolate, still Santa

Gingerbread or chocolate, still Santa

Oh, jolly old St. Nick  – the emblematic figure has gone through many transformations.  St. Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors, school children, and pawn brokers is honored with December feasts and festivals across northern Europe. Long before he began sliding down chimneys on Christmas Eve, St. Nicholas (spellings also evolve) was a bearded saint who left treats in childrens’ shoes on December sixth.  Last weekend, folks in the French city of  Nancy were nibbling on gingerbread figures of St. Nicolas as they celebrated with their annual festival and parades.  But it was in the Versailles market that a chocolatier’s display caught my eye, the first time I had ever seen the saintly figure side-by-side with more rotund Santas.  So here they are, the bearded men, all rolling their eyes, back again for our gift-giving season. Maybe they know whether we’ve been naughty or nice?

Daubos Chocolatier is in Versailles market hall, and the shop in Versailles’ Saint Louis district is jam-packed with temptations, worth a stop. For their Chocolate Crème Brulée recipe (in French), see recipes on #

Go with the grape on rue Mouffetard

September 25th, 2009


Rue Mouffetard on Thursday – even in light showers – is a bustling jumble of fruit vendors, fish stalls moved out on the sloping street, and oh, what cheeses!  This shopping street is legendary, nothing new to Paris shoppers, but for some of us from “the provinces”, rue Mouffetard has it all. And the story this week begins with grapes, voluptuous bunches of French Chasselas de Moissac and Italian Italia grapes. The vagabond hopped off the bus just a few steps from this market in the 5th arrondissement, drawn to a vendor’s stall literally draped with grapes. In addition to chasselas, translucent and pearly pale green to gold, the larger and less-sweet-more-racy- italias begged to be plated for an autumn banquet. Perhaps a cheese or two would be good companions, I thought, and peered into the shop windows of Androuet Fromagerie, the classic Parisian Cheese Shop founded by Pierre Androuet. His Guide du Fromage (published by Stock in 1971) has been this cheese-lover’s bible for fifteen years.  So it began well, an uphill market ramble  on rue Mouffetard.


About midway up the street, between butcher shops and racks of Indian scarves, I had a hankering for a warming cup of cappucino, answered immediately by a stop at a cozy Sicilian café. As I pondered the choice between a hot chocolate and a capucino, I was informed that this café is more than a coffee stop, it is a phenomenon. Beyond espressos, crèpes or Sicilian pastas and salads for lunch, to live jazz on Saturday nights, the crèpe master exclaimed: the Sweet Lounge is five cafés in one! After my last drop of cappucino, I took note of this espresso stop/crèpes extraordinaire/pasta lunch/bar/jazz-corner/international crowd’s watering hole…. for future reference. Continuing along the street between shoppers’ caddies and strollers, I resisted the urge to choose an ice cream at Berthillon and chocolates from Jeff de Bruges or sweet delights from Octave. Past sizzling, crisp-skinned chickens on rotisseries, wine shops and pâté boutiques, past a host of aromas and temptations, the vagabond resolves to return for more flavors on rue Mouffetard in upcoming seasons.


Black Friday at Rungis

March 13th, 2009

Before dawn today, thick, billowing clouds of smoke filled the skies over the vast Rungis market, the world’s largest wholesale food market near Paris.  Over a hundred firemen battled the blaze from 23 fire engines, and brought it under control in three hours.  The 1,600 square meter warehouse storing citrus fruits, engulfed in flames, was completely destroyed.  The good news was that there were no deaths, and the fire was contained; an adjacent warehouse/garage for semi trucks and fork lifts was spared. No cause for the Rungis fire has yet been established.  Spokesmen assured us that there will be fruit today at Rungis for weekend shoppers.