Saturday, February 9, 2013

From Field to Fork

Our particular neighborhood in Paris is blessed with an abundance of food stores. Across the street, literally, is "Bio c'Bon" (whose name is a nice play on words in French), with an extensive selection of fresh produce, dry goods, breads, cheeses, oils and fresh and frozen meats. All "Bio" (organic).  On our side of the street and half a block away is "Naturalia", another all organic market. And then there's the rue Montorgeuil itself, packed with butchers, bakers (no candlestick-makers that I've noticed), cheese shops, fishmonger, greengrocers, chocolate boutiques, etc. etc. It is a foodie paradise.

So, it came as a bit of a surprise when we learned of a new enterprise, recently opened on the rue du Nil, which is one block away from us, across rue Réaumur. History note: there are several streets in our quartier with Egyptian names: rue d'Aboukir, Passage du Caire, etc., all honoring Napoleon's military expeditions along the Nile.

The rue du Nil is short, narrow and its only claim to fame so far has been that it is home to "Frenchie" a tiny, hip, chic, expensive bistro where we've never been able to reserve a table! Across the street, is "Frenchie Wine Bar" -- no reservations, and packed to the gills most evenings. The rest of the street once housed fabric manufacturers, dress shops and other businesses to do with the garment trade. Today, most of the store fronts are shuttered.

 Until last December, that is, when two enterprising young men, Alexandre Drouard and Samuel Nahon, opened up "Terroirs d'Avenir", which is hard to translate, but basically means promoting foods of the local region - ie, encouraging consumers to become "locavores"!!

In three small shops on the rue du Nil, they offer an impressive selection of seasonal foods, from over 60 local producers, 15 or so of them located on the Ile-de-France itself. The two young men had been working with these producers for four years, providing their products to local restaurants. Now, they are ready to offer the same to members of the general public, like Matthew!

Following up on a tip from our good friend, Alain, it didn't take us long to cross rue Réaumur and find out for ourselves. And it didn't take long to fall in love with the little shops, and the philosophy behind the enterprise.  Being February, root vegetables predominate -- lots of orange, yellow and white carrots, turnips, rutabagas, various types of potatoes, squash, etc. We loved the fact that they looked as though they had just been pulled from the field, traces of soil still clinging to them.

Matthew was very taken with the size of the Céleri Rave (celeriac)! The proprietors' main mission is to seek out farmers who respect the land (ie follow crop rotation practices, etc.), who grow seasonal plants, with no chemical additives, assuring that the natural, good flavor is preserved. They know the producer of each vegetable and will recite their famille Berrurier, Jacques Mercier...les fromages de Sylvie Gardes, and so on.

And speaking of cheeses, there is substantial selection of Comtés, Cantal, Salers, Saint-Nectaire and Brebis cheeses, as well as farm butter, creamy milk, yoghurts and other products that belong in a "crémerie". Yum!

We found small containers of fresh herbs, like this "oseille de la lune" which is some kind of sorrel, and below it "oca petit", which we had never come across before. Turns out to be a small tuber, like a potato! To be tried on some future visit.

Meanwhile along the other wall of this small shop, a big array of dried herbs and infusions stood ready for selection...

...along with a big display of oils and vinegars and wines and champagnes.

This first visit, we contented ourselves with some carrots, potatoes, brussel sprouts and Cantal cheese before heading across the street...

 La Boucherie, the second arm of Terroirs d'Avenir, with home-made saucissons, smoked hams...

...and a display case packed with an excellent selection of fresh meats: lamb, veal, beef, chicken, pork, etc.

The very cute young butcher, sliced us two escalopes de veau for our dining pleasure, and we headed home for the evening, promising we would return the next day to visit the fishmonger, the third boutique of Terroirs d'Avenir.

Friday saw us back on the rue du Nil, this time at "le poissonnerie," run by a young Japanese man, whose display of this big old ugly monkfish head kept Matthew strictly out on the street!

Too bad, really, because he missed a pretty spectacular display of fresh fish, centered with a swordfish "sword"!!

Along with turbot, plaice, hake, mackerel, and other fish that I have to learn to identify in French, you could buy sea urchins, squid, clams and mussels.

I settled for a dorade (sea bream), which the young man told me came from waters near the Spanish border. He carefully fileted it for me, and wrapped it with great care in three different pieces of paper.

Once home, I got to work, roasting the brussel sprouts, creaming the potatoes, and "egging and breading" the fish. We were hungry by this time!

The results were absolutely delicious, accompanied by a lovely bottle of chilled Graves!

So, we are delighted with this new addition to our shopping map. It will be fun to follow the seasons, anticipate the arrival of the first white asparagus, and support this enterprising group of young fellows, who would fit in so well with the manners and mores of all the locavores of West Marin.

And with the news today of frozen English "pure beef" Lasagnes actually being made of 100% horse-meat, it's not a bad idea to know exactly where your food has been produced!

Meanwhile, the bewitching "winter light" continues to shine down on us...

...and there's one little blossom peeking through among the hyacinth bulbs for sale at the florist on the rue Montorgeuil!

À bientôt!


  1. Absolutely delightful.... What a find! Look forward to wandering thru Rue Nil this summer...

  2. Aaaaggghhh... one day Paris I will visit you. One day!

  3. Is a "Rue Nil"(markets with local and organic food) possible in Oshkosh?

  4. Reading your post makes me miss Paris dearly! I've only been once (it was this past November) and I can't wait to go back. Have you been to the falafel place? Here's the post

  5. Thanks for the link, will check it out, not too far from us!

  6. Oh that has made me so hungry!!! Yes horse meat!!!

  7. Terroir D'Avenir looks fabulous — all best wishes to the proprietors!We grew oca at Pt Reyes community garden for a couple of years. they were described as "potatoes with sour cream" and I found them quite tasty. Worth a try.