And quite naturally a persistent daydream once I get home.
But not all of my Paris food fantasies are restaurant driven.
It's a bit like pondering which came first: the chicken or the egg?
Paris is so well known for its intoxicating restaurant scene that we tend
to lose sight of the where what and why it's such an enduring pleasure.
Cracking this particular code may be where our favorite chefs begin their day.
The daily market is essential to Paris life, particularly for
those of us who worship our daily feeding.
Starting your day at a local market is a great way to
launch your Paris food adventure.
There are many choices out there and most of us have our return trip favorites.
But this time, my foodie radar took a different turn.
Most of us realize it's always a good idea to branch out a bit on the
restaurant scene; likewise it makes sense to spread your wings
and discover a new market or two on your next Paris trip.
And oh boy, did I make the right decision.
I chose a marché that some of the best chefs in the city single out as a favorite.
"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts
while eating a homegrown tomato."
Lewis Grizzard, American Humorist
Marché President Wilson,
sometimes called Marché du Pont d'Alma.
Every Wednesday and Friday, regular Parisians, chefs,
foodwriters and adventurous food lovers flock to this
one-of-a-kind food paradise in the 16th arrondissement.
Now before you say the 16th is too out of the way for you, consider this.
This part of the seizième curls up back to butt with the 7th, right in the heart
of the museum district* and within shouting distance of the Eiffel Tower.
It's a metro ride away (Iéna or Alma-Marceau) from just about anywhere.
The good stuff you expect -- vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, cheese,
flowers, olives, spices, baked goods -- all exceptional, all lovingly displayed by
vendors who are straightforward, ready to assist the admiring herd of hungry.
Then there are the ready-to-eat stalls where you'll wish you had remembered
to pack your picnic utensils so you could dig in right here, right now.
Think paella, choucroute, quiche, and crepes.
And oh, if you fancy a new sweater, you'll find it here, too,
snuggled inbetween housewares and fresh pasta.
Yes, Marché President Wilson has a lot going for it and may help you understand why going to market is such an important ritual in the daily life of a typical Parisian.
If a roving market like this is set up only two days a week, why bother?
Isn't is easier just to go to the market street down the block or a grocery chain?
The pat response is yes, but doesn't begin to address what's sexy and so aesthetically pleasing about the fine art of this complex food culture.
The orderly arrangement and color-coded perfection of a green grocer's stall
invites new customers, certainly, but it's the quality of his produce
and expert advice that keeps them coming back again and again.
Roving markets employ thousands of merchants around the city so consumers deduce if this one has been up and running successfully
since 1873 (!!), they're encouraged it's apt to be worth their time and money.
*Although all of Paris boasts its fair share of Paris museums, this quarter boasts some biggies such as Palais Galliera and Musée Guimet, literally just a few streets away from the market.
The day I visited, I must have needed my B and D vitamins because
I couldn't turn my eyes away from the fish and shellfish stalls.
Row after row of scallops slept soundly in their gorgeous fan-shaped shells
while mountains of oysters and mussels made me forget for a moment
that Paris is not a seaside resort.
When thoughts of the sad little plastic wrapped poisson at home
ran through my head, I vowed never again
to buy fish of such pathetic old age and distant origin.
Next came the produce section where I realized I need to ixnay
the sorry looking fennel presented on my grocer's shelf
stateside -- not to mention leeks, mushrooms and a whole lot more
shrinkwrapped, Monsanto-sprayed gobbledygook -- all of which pale
in comparison to the gorgeous green goods at this lovely market.
You will do a happy dance when you discover what this marvelous
open-air market has to offer -- but it will also give you much to think about.
Consider this, you can buy a gorgeous heirloom tomato from the same vendor
who services restaurant elite like Pierre Gagniere and Alain Ducasse.
It's true, in a Parisian market like this, whether you're chef, king or commoner
you can expect to get the good stuff, the superior quality and sound vendor
advice as well as good karma for contributing to
sustainable farming and many locally grown foods.
It makes you wonder if this is the reason for the bitterly fought French Revolution.
Liberté égalité fraternité -- displayed under a
striped awning -- a delicious harvest of pure Paris magic.
is an effortless way to add a little joy to everyday life.
At Marché President Wilson, whether you make the purchase or not,
you're sure to feel a sense of joie de vivre as you pass row after row of
colorful cuttings, their mismatched shape and delightful aroma
breathing new life into everyone's morning.
Of course, if you ask the merchant a few stalls away what's prettier than a
rose-colored bloom, he'll point -- proud as a peacock -- to his chickens,
the ultra special Poulet de Bresse variety that Parisians in the know look for.
And this is why we all fall in love with France.
Roses and chickens, thoughtfully displayed, doted on in equal measure
for the pleasure of all lucky enough to plug into a french market.
It's important to find a eatery with a talented chef, sure, but it's equally critical
that the boss is thoughtful when procuring their bread and butter.
Such mindfulness for food origin shows up in every bite you take.
No need to call your financial advisor this year.
When it comes to this particular market, I have infinite optimism.
At Marché President Wilson, the odds are always in our favor.