September 6 2018. Still in Paris. Some time ago Pilgrim Pauline found a food tour online, the secret food tour what’s more. She booked us and we wondered what we were getting into. Often on these types of tours there is pressure to purchase extras from the ‘best’ vendors of this or that. In true Kiwi style we are resistant to such selling techniques and hoped we would not have to endure too much of it.
We got sorted early on the Sunday morning, leaving our bags at the hotel, we took an uber to Montmartre, outside of Paris. The locals here refuse to be a part of Paris or be called Parisian.
The uber dropped us beside the subway entrance where we were to meet our guide. It was early and businesses were just opening. The church opposite the station was beautiful. Rather new but built in the old style. We went to a cafe that was just opening because breakfast out in Paris – why not? I had a cheese buckwheat pancake thingy called a gallette, which I thought was the name of ice-cream but turns out that is gelato. It was delicious! Could be my favourite breakfast if I can learn how to make them.
Returning to the subway entrance we met up with some others doing the tour. We all looked around wondering when the guide would turn up and suddenly there was this rather large kilted dude with a leather vest and a motorcycle teeshirt and boots. This was PJ, holding a pink umbrella, and he was not what we expected.
There is a large map on the fence by the subway, and using this we had a 10-minute history of Paris and Montmartre including the reasons behind the revolution. Very interesting. Then we found out why Montmarte is not part of Paris and sits outside the original city walls.
Going to the bakery, we learned about bread. Who knew that a baguette is only a baguette if it weighs 250g? If it is heavier, it is something else. Why? Because it was designed by an engineer! Seriously! How good is that? Apparently back in the day everyone took a round loaf of crusty bread to work in the fields or wherever, cut it up at meal breaks with a knife. Baking was once a week so it could get pretty tough by weeks end and a knife was needed to saw through it.
Society got a bit industrialized; workers came from all over to work different trades, factions arose, rivalries began and, well, knives are good for stabbing people. So an engineer came up with the idea of smaller loaves that could be torn with the hands and knives were banned from the workplace as the baguette was born.
PJ bought some fresh bread from the oven and on we went to the cheese shop. Volumes have been written about French cheese. We learned about types, tastes, rinds, probiotics and quality marks. And we got to taste some cheese. PJ bought some cheese and off to the butchers we went.
Meat, how it is presented – ducks and chooks have their heads and feet left on so the customer can identify what they are getting. Everything is fresh. Really fresh. We learned about the relationship between the vendor and the farmer, quality and traceability. PJ bought some meat.
Then we went up a side street where with a joke about breaking and entering, PJ unlocked a closed wine bar and led us inside. We were a mixed group with a young family in the mix. PJ was lovely with the girls, including them in the food discussions. Now we had a session on wine tasting, with cheeses, 4 or 5 different types. Then another wine and meats, the histories of different cuts and the flavors… oh la la!
By now we were in seventh heaven, wine, cheese, meat, good company, entertaining guide. We were having fun.
But wait, there was more! Following the meats came red wine, tasting and aroma and cellaring information and two more amazing cheeses, including Roquefort blue cheese. I did not know it was sheep cheese or made in a cave that has some special mould spores to make it blue (some is now made in factory conditions with the mould introduced by a bread with the mould). Great story, great cheese, lovely organic wine, what’s not to love?
After this sumptuous feast we headed out thinking the tour was done. But no! We stopped at a sweet shop and had a talk on the chocolates (handmade) and the macarons. Such variety! We were allowed to choose 2 macarons and 2 chocolates. I chose an almond and a grassy/herby type macaron, really soooo good, with a wasabi and a salted chocolate. PJ paid the account and off we went to the crepe shop where he took orders from the group and we all had a crepe each.
It was an amazing tour, no pressure to buy anything. Jam packed with information, jokes, anecdotes and fun. We had an amazing time and would highly recommend the experience.
(Photos: Brenda and Pauline with PJ outside the bar; my galette breakfast; the church opposite the subway)
Next stop, Lourdes via Biarritz.