Déjeuner sur L’Herbe (Picnics)
Although restaurants are all very well and good, there’s a lot to be said for a quick and easy outdoor meal in one of Paris’s many lovely parks and squares. Picking up picnic ingredients is a pretty easy affair, though you should familiarize yourself with a bit of terminology. For good takeout food, look for the nearest charcutier (these specialize in smoked meat, pâtés, and other pork products) or traiteur (a store that sells prepared takeout dishes and salads). At almost any boulangerie (bakery), you can find what may well be the best lunch bargain in the city: their lunch formule (set menu). For around 7€ or 8€, you can get a long sandwich (usually half a baguette), amply filled with chicken, ham, or tuna and crudités (tomato, lettuce, and other salad-like items), a drink, and a fresh pastry. Often you can substitute a slice of quiche for the sandwich. Formules and sandwiches are usually only available from 11am to 2pm. Eric Kayser (www.maison-kayser.com) and Paul (www.paul.fr) are reliable bakery chains serving salads, sandwiches, and even hot dishes. But your best bet is to use your nez and find a place on your own. The telltale signs of a good bakery are an attractive window display and a queue at mealtimes.
The Best Food Shopping in Paris
Master Chef Alain Ducasse continues to expand his empire with the opening of BE, 73 bd. de Courcelles, 8e (tel. 01-46-22-20-20; Métro: Courcelles). Short for Boulangerie Epicerie, BE is part bakery and part upmarket deli. As a baker, Eric Kayser is famous in Paris, and he sells some 400 products from all over the globe, including 15 varieties of French bread baked fresh at least eight times a day. You can stop off here for the makings of a picnic, costing about 20€ to 30€ per person, depending on your selection. There are only 22 seats—if a table is free, grab it. You can eat an array of freshly made salads for 6€ to 9€, delicious homemade soups at 5€, and some of the best and most delectable sandwiches in Paris, from 4 € to 8€. Of course, if you want some walnut oil from the Dordogne or some lavender honey from Moustiers-Ste-Marie, they are standing on the shelves as well. Open Monday to Saturday 7am to 8pm.
Poilâne: The Mecca of Bread
Even the most stylish locals humbly bow their heads when they step inside this temple of baked goods. The store is tiny and unassuming, but the orders are meted out like communion wafers. You ask for your bread and wait silently while the baker solemnly counts out the slices (yes, you order by the slice). Then you meekly pay and leave room for the next suppliant.
This isn’t just bread; it’s history. Pierre Poilâne opened his store in 1932, serving country-style bread made with stone-ground flour in a wood-burning oven. Success was such that the recipe hasn’t changed an iota, and today the round loaves are shipped all over the world. Not many breadmakers rub shoulders with the jet set: In 1969, son Lionel even made Salvador Dalí a bedroom made out of bread. Today granddaughter Apollonia guides the mothership with a firm hand, making sure the tradition continues. Poilâne is at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi, 6th arrond. (www.poilane.com; 01-45-48-42-59; Mon–Sat 7am–8:30pm; two other locations are in the Marais and near the Eiffel Tower.)