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Nothing says Vive la France during the holiday season better than the gift of food. When I lead my gourmet food tours of Paris, my clients are seduced by the taste and smell of the top gourmet food shops, pastry shops, chocolatiers, and markets. Here’s a list of our five top choices for great food gifts. Bon Appétit!
Foie Gras from Aux Ducs de Gasgogne
If you desire the crème de la crème of foie gras, look no further than Aux Ducs de Gasgogne. Located in the Marais on the food shop rich rue Saint Antoine, the shop sells the highest quality foie gras with gold medals to prove it. Sold in jars, cans, and fresh, there are some that come with flavorings such as Sauternes and fig. Classic accompaniments of fig and onion confiture and dried toasts are also sold. The genial owner Franck speaks English and gives each customer an instruction sheet on how to serve and store their foie gras. Many other tasty made in France delicacies are available including flavored mustards, Armagnac, terrines, vinegars, oils, and duck confit.
111 Rue Saint-Antoine, 75004. Tel: +33 1 42 71 17 72. www.ducsdegascogne.com
Tea from Dammann Frères
Dammann Frères is the most beautiful teashop in Paris on the most beautiful square in Paris, the Places des Vosges. As you are wooed into the shop with the intoxicating perfume of over 200 types of tea, once inside your sense of sight is inundated with the visual glory of the soaring ceilings boasting the original hand painted wooden ceiling beams from 1611. The location and interior are a fitting match for the tea brand dating back to 1692. Teas are sorted in categories of black, green, orange, and Rooibos. Christmas teas are packaged in festive red and green tins and gift sets include handsome carrying cases with tea strainers. All the proper accessories for tea drinking– including glass, ceramic, and cast iron teapots, timers, teacups, and strainers– are also sold.
15 Place des Vosges, 75004. Tel: +33 (0)1 44 54 04 88. Open every day. http://www.dammann.fr/fr/
Chocolate from La Manufacture de Chocolat/Alain Ducasse
In my former life in New York City, I was a chocolatier creating my own recipe chocolate truffles with Belgian chocolate in a small shop in Manhattan. It’s safe to say I know a thing or two about good chocolate, so when Alain Ducassse opened the first “bean to bar” chocolate shop near the Bastille, I stood at attention. Chocoholic that I still am, I’ve tasted chocolate at almost every shop in Paris and hands down the Ducasse chocolate brings it to a whole new stratosphere. The sublime taste, like a fine wine, lingers a few moments after you finish it, and believe it or not, one piece can totally satisfy you, even though you could eat more in a heartbeat. The main focus is on the chocolate tablets, which come in 44 flavors, and the cacao percentage runs the gamut, from 35% for milk chocolate to 75% for the darkest, as well of the country of origin for the beans, from Venezuela to Vietnam. Some of my personal favorites are the caramelized almonds, pistachio mendiant, and the Muesli bar– which has a crunchy bite to it.
For the holidays La Manufacture de Chocolat is offering a multi-tiered chocolate Christmas tree with each disc adorned with organic cereal and dried fruit, a flat geometric milk chocolate and praline tree, and a chocolate snowflake.
Boutiques in Paris: 40 rue de la Roquette, 75011. 26 rue Saint Benoit, 75006. Lafayette Gourmet. http://www.lechocolat-alainducasse.com/en/
Mustard from Maille
Only in Paris could you have an entire shop devoted to mustard. Maille has been producing classic Dijon mustard since 1723 and the shop honors the age-old tradition of dispensing it from a pump, much like a beer tap, into ceramic crocks topped with a cork stopper. In recent years the brand has introduced an array of over 50 flavored mustards, adding new ones every season. Pesto and arugula, apricot and curry, fig and coriander, truffle, and Crème de Cassis are a few of the unusual flavors, and if you’re more daring, taste the gingerbread and honey, Thai spice with mango, or prune and Armagnac. A great gift choice is a set of four tiny sampler jars in one package for 9.80€. Vinegars, pickles, and dressings are also sold and non-food products include aprons, Provencal mustard servers, and special designed wooden mustards serving spoons.
6 Place de la Madeleine, 75008. Tel: +33 (0)1 40 15 06 00. Closed Sunday. www.maille.com.
Caramels and Fruit Jellies from Jacques Genin
Jacques Genin has elevated the craft of chocolate and candy making into an art form. His creations are not only sublimely delicious but packaged and presented in an equally sublime way in his two magnificent shops in the Marais and Saint Germain. Although all of his products are fantastic, the standouts are his caramels and fruit jellies. The caramels, with their smoky aftertaste are as close to an outer body taste sensation as you can have, and they come in overwhelming number of flavors such as pistachio, licorice, Macadamia, and pecan. Jelly candies are a burst of fresh fruit in your mouth with a tinge of sweetness. Cassis, rhubarb, blood orange and mango and passion fruit are just some of the fruit flavors and if you are feeling adventurous, go for the vegetable flavors of beet, fennel, carrot, green tomato, and pumpkin.
Paris boutiques: 133 rue de Turenne, 75003. 27 rue de Varenne, 75007. www.jacquesgenin.fr
Lead photo credit : courtesy of Ducs de Gascogne