Fall brings an abundant harvest to the streets of Paris

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Fall brings an abundant harvest to the streets of Paris
Summer holidays are officially over. Scarves are flung around necks and copper leaves spill from the chestnut trees along the Seine. With a nip in the air, chairs are disappearing from breezy terraces; umbrellas are snapped shut, and doors slam on cosy cafés as Parisians prepare for cooler months ahead. Gone too are the mountains of strawberries, the flowing streams of summer cherries. Stuffed with the fullness of autumn, the French countryside has been trucked to Paris and the open-air markets explode in fiery shades of scarlet, bronze and gold. Shopping baskets now brim with treasures found on forest floors. Stalls swell with cheery clementines. Rickety crates of corn are banged down next to mounds of purple plums and pears with windblown cheeks.     As the weather turns, chefs cast seafood and salads from menus, roll up their sleeves with relish and bring down their pots to prepare the first of the season’s rich, robust sauces. Restaurants begin to feel warm and homey again, their blackboards scrawled with comforting delights that capture the flavours of fall: sautéed wild mushrooms, quail with roasted figs, rabbit in mustard sauce.     The French live by the seasons, anticipating and cherishing each new market pleasure. The rural connection remains strong, with discerning Parisians yearning to draw closer to ‘the source’. But in a city fiercely passionate about food, le marché not only provides a venue for fresh regional produce; it plays an important part in the daily art de vivre. Armed with trolleys and baskets, the ritual daily market trip gives locals a chance to meet friends over a café crème, exchange cooking tips with the eccentric poissonnier and banter away to the bloodstained boucher. Customers form strong relationships with their favorite merchants, who act as culinary counsellors. Even the French pharmacist is trained to identify les champignons, and dispenses advice on preparation and cooking.     A ramble through the produce market provides an interesting way for food lovers to discover Paris – revealing much about the character and habits of those who live in each neighbourhood. There are three types of markets scattered throughout the city: roving markets, merchant streets and small covered markets, each with its own personality and flavor. Generally, covered markets have become more of historical interest than culinary, unable to compete with supermarkets.  Open-air roving markets set up at dawn under colourful canopies, only to vanish again around lunchtime. They come alive twice a week, leaving in their wake streets strewn with boxes and broken baguettes. With the help of pecking pigeons and an army of brooms, the cobbles are soon returned to normal.     Straddling the eastern fence of the once noble Marais and the working class Bastille is one of Paris’ most fashionable roving markets – the lively Marché Bastille, with more than 200 merchants.  Erected along the broad tree-lined Boulevard Richard Lenoir under the protective wing of Genie de la Bastille, it draws a mix of artists, designers and advertising types from the hip neighbourhoods nearby. Originally the site of a “Ham and Scrap-Iron Fair”, you are now more likely to encounter oozing farmhouse cheeses, exceptional seafood at Jacky Lorenzo’s, herb and butter-filled escargots de Bourgogne and the occasional squawking chook or baby goat. Jump the fence into the Marais for lunch, a quarter loaded with restaurants.    Across town, Marché President-Wilson is the smartest, most genteel roving market in town, catering to the well-heeled 16th arrondissement, home to embassy families, wealthy executives and celebrities. Under the watchful eye of George Washington on his horse, Avenue du President Wilson is transformed twice a week into an opulent banquet. Step into the long aisle of stalls sandwiched between the Musée d’Art Moderne and the Musée de la Mode et du Costume and you’ll be swept past huge pans of steaming paella, crepes on the griddle, speckled quail eggs and foie gras. With a local clientele who demand superior quality, you can be assured pristine produce. Many locals do their flower shopping here, choosing from a breathtaking array of blooms. Bouquets are arranged while they fill their plaid trolleys.    The eastern end of the market runs into Place de l’Alma, made famous by the death of Princess Diana, and from here you can stroll over Pont d’Alma into the exclusive 7th. Wander down Avenue Rapp to the charming rue St Dominique, and lunch at this restaurant that defines vieille France—the welcoming La Fontaine de Mars, with its red and white checked tablecloths, clanging kitchen bell, lacy curtains and traditional cuisine from the south-west, opened at the turn of the 20th century. It was named after the small fountain nearby, commissioned by Napoleon.    The few tables set up in fine weather under the stone arcade are always jammed with residents from the bourgeois 7th tucking into seasonal bistro fare – try the excellent cassoulet or the heavenly crème brûlée. Across the street is the pretty pastry-shop Duchesne, endowed with chandeliers and dense croissants aux almonds – and close by, the tranquil Musée Rodin.         Despite its proximity to the Eiffel Tower, tourists usually leave the quiet 7th alone. But trek further in and you’ll discover a very intimate side of old-money Paris. Marché Saxe-Breteuil, a large market with a lively country village atmosphere, has set up its colorful striped canopies under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower since 1873. Bustle past pots of lavender honey, tubs of tapenade, rustic fruit tarts and poodles. Try some Tomme de Savoie cheese, wines from Sancerre, fish transported that very morning from Trouville and geese from the Perigord.       A…
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