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Picnic in Paris, a suggestion (Long)

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Picnic in Paris, a suggestion (Long)

Maurice Naughton | Aug 4, 2002 11:51 AM

On Thursday last (August 1) there were some postings under the general heading "Dinner in Paris." One of the responses was from Kelly at k.flynn@viptravel.be, offering this sound recommendation for a weekend picnic in Paris:

"I offer this in case you overdose on dining out and need a break: Get two baguettes. Head immediately to fromage-ophile heaven at Barthelemy (7th arr, rue de Grenelle and Blvd Raspail). Splurge on exquisite cheeses. Walk a couple of doors down to a Nicolas shop for a bottle of decent red wine. Proceed to the park of your choice (Place des Vosges, anyone?) for a picnic a la parisienne. Bliss! Especially when followed by a scoop of Berthillon sorbet on Ile St-Louis."

I endorse this plan entirely, but I've a little, slightly more elaborate weekend plan of my own.

Make sure you have a corkscrew and some glasses. Ice and an insulated bag are probably only a dream unless you're staying at the Bristol or the Georges V or some other equally posh digs.

Go to the Grand Epicerie de Paris in the Bon Marche department store, in and of itself a Paris excursion not to be missed. (It's on the rue de Sevres, two blocks southwest of the Metro Sevres-Babylone) .

There's a bakery corner there where you can get excellent baguettes, but you might like to try a fougasse de lard, a sort of lattice-shaped loaf of bread with bacon, or another of the filled fougasses.

There's also a cheese department with almost anything you might want. Maybe try the Mimolette (the only orange cheese I've found in Paris), or the Chaource (from Champagne), or the forme d'Ambert (a blue cheese from the Auvergne), or if you have a brave nose, a fine ripe Muenster from Alsace. You're not likely to find any of these in the USA, since the good ones are made from raw milk and can't be imported.

There's also a charcuterie where you can get a myriad of saucisses and saucissons, pates of liver or pork or rabbit or pheasant, some raw ham from Bayonne or the Ardennes or from Spain, the incredible jamon Iberica (called pata negra or pied noir, black foot), the best jambon cru in the world.

Elsewhere in the store, you can get prepared salads, roasted chickens, champignons a la grecque, and a bounty of other picnic stuff. Oh yes, since they're set up for picnic fetchers, you'll find free, plastic silverware and napkins, in cellophane with packets of salt and pepper

The wine department should be able to provide a sturdy red Minervois or pais d'Auge or a deep flavored Gewurtztraminer from Alsace (if you have some way to chill it). If you're really well-heeled, you can find a bottle of already chilled Champagne. Try something new, a Besserat de Bellefon or a Salmon-Billancourt, or the Champagne for all occasions, the non-vintage Lanson Black Label.

In the produce department, you'll find tomatoes and grapes and peaches and pears and kumquats, and the patisserie should provide some little tartes au citron, or mirabelle, or pommes.

Thus equipped with food and wine (and perhaps a bottle of water for rinsing off), you'll need a bit of green where you can eat it.

I'm loath to reveal this next bit, but I will anyway.

Walk back down the rue de Sevres the way you came. Cross the boulevard Raspail toward the beautiful Hotel Lutetia, then turn left (North) and cross the rue de Sevres. Turn right and walk a short half-block to the pedestrian-only rue Recamier. Turn left there and another short half-block will take you past the fine (expensive) Burgundian Restaurant Rcamier to the gates of the hidden parklet, le Square Chaise Recamier, a wonderful little island of quiet green, landscaped with trees and flowering shrubbery and flowers and walled in by tall buildings on every side, with unpaved paths, benches for picnics or reading, and a little playground for kids. It's a great surprise to find this quiet, isolated little park in the midst of the bustle around Sevres Babylone. I've not yet met any Americans who know about it, and I'm a little sorry to have spilled the beans.

Oh, and if you don't want to go all the way to the Ile St Louis for a sorbet from Berthillon, you can recross the rue de Sevres from the rue Recamier, and find La Maison du Chocolat, a decent substitute.

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Maybe this can start a new thread for memorable picnics or picnic sites in Paris.

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