Category Archives: grocery shopping

Saturday Morning At The Market

I got up early Saturday morning, borrowed a hotel umbrella, and walked over to President Wilson Market.The vendors and customers were exchanging New Year’s greetings (“Bonne Année!”), and people appeared to be in good spirits despite the misty rain. It felt like everyone was happy to be back. I know I was!

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Let’s begin with a few shades of pink, shall we?

This fancy Vespa was parked near the market.

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I am not familiar with this pink lettuce but it's gorgeous!

I am not familiar with this pink lettuce but it’s gorgeous!

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These heads of cabbage were gigantic!

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The scallops always look so fancy in their beautiful shells.

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It all looked so good- I wished for my little red shopping cart more than once.

It’s nice to revisit familiar scenes here, but always a little bittersweet that I am now just an observer. But I am not complaining! I loved my life here and I am excited about returning to my life in Texas in a few weeks. In the meantime, observing is not half bad, n’est-ce pas?

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Filed under flowers, food markets, grocery shopping, Paris, Uncategorized

Au Marché d’ Aligre

The markets in Paris have been overflowing with such gorgeous fruits and vegetables. I have fallen completely under their spell, rendering me incapable of thinking about anything but making the most of this glorious abundance. Yesterday I traveled 10 metro stops and a half a world away to the 12th arrondissement, home of Marché d’ Aligre. A lively and bustling outdoor market, Marché d’ Aligre is open every morning but Monday and percolates with voices, color, and the scent of dirt fresh produce. I had not brought my rolling cart, so my purchases were limited to what I could carry in my woven tote bag- probably a good thing! I wandered up and down the street many times, enjoying the scene and trying to decide what to buy. The prices were significantly lower than those at my President Wilson Market, which didn’t surprise me as Wilson is known to be one of the most expensive in the city. Another difference was that the vendors were hawking their wares with spirited gusto not usually heard in the 16th, and offering lots and lots of samples, which is always nice.

This was my view  upon exiting the Gare de Lyon metro station.

This was my view upon exiting the Gare de Lyon metro station.

on the short walk to the market

on the short walk to the market

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ahhhhhh

ahhhhhh

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Really? Who could resist this?

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Just behind the produce market is a flea market. I browsed bins of old table glasses and silverware, tables of paintings and other decoratives, and jewelry. There also was a lot of second-hand clothing and shoes.

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The real bonus of the Marché, though, is the historic covered market that sits right next to it. Marché Beauvau is one of the few remaining covered markets in Paris. When I entered it, it felt like a quiet, cool oasis. Inside are very nice shops selling pastries, pasta, flowers, cheese, meat, and gleaming fish that had absolutely no smell.

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By the time I had seen everything and decided it was really time to go home, the vendors in the produce market were ready to go home, too, and were slashing prices. I got a bag full of peaches for one euro! Merci!

I had to pop in this precious shop, which was just steps from the market. It was tiny but chock full of grains, and different kind of flours and rice and beans. In the back room were bins of grains for birds. I bought a small bag of almonds, just because the man inside had been so nice to me.

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The flower shops always make me happy.

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So are you hungry yet? Tomorrow I will share with you what I made with all my market bounty.

On my return ride on the metro I admired these shoes on the young woman sitting across from me.

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Just as I took the photo, an older woman (wearing much less fashionable shoes) got on the metro and wanted to sit next to this woman. The younger woman was holding a very large leather bag across her lap, and the bag extended quite a bit into the empty seat next to her. The older woman nudged her to indicate she wanted to sit there, and the younger woman moved over just the tiniest bit. The woman sat down (sliding in around the bag) and then began to tell the woman that she ought to have moved her bag. The well-shod woman disagreed with whatever she had said, and the two of them exchanged quiet insults/retorts/facial expressions all the way to the next stop, where the younger woman got up to exit the train. They continued their debate while she waited for the door to open, the older woman saying, “oui, ma coquette, c’est comme ça” as the young thing shook her head in disbelief. I was amused watching them, as I always am when I witness the French having confrontations with strangers. People on street corners yell at drivers, and drivers yell out their windows at other drivers and pedestrians. We tend to think of the French as being reserved, but they certainly let it all hang out when they don’t approve of what someone else is doing! It’s a constant source of amusement for me, even if I don’t understand much of what is being said. Being ridiculously non-confrontational myself, I admire their spirit and fortitude.  And their shoes, of course.

Go forth and find some fresh seasonal produce today! Just don’t piss off any old women while you’re doing it.

 

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Filed under flea market, flowers, food markets, grocery shopping, Paris

Home Again

Bonjour, mes amis! I have been back in Texas for a week and a half but it seems like thirty minutes. No sooner had Easter brunch at the Houston mini-casa been cleaned up that daughter Martha and I drove to Austin. She had to return to school, and I was happy to drive her so that I could spend some time with my mother and my sister and my poor, neglected lake house. It was so good to be back. Spring is lingering in these parts. I haven’t even turned on the air conditioning at the lake, which is just the way I like it. Fresh breezes and sounds of birds floating through the open windows. Yeah, that’s pretty much heaven to me.

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One evening “severe weather” was reported to the west of us, but of course not a hail stone nor a drop of rain fell here.  As consolation, we received a few moments of gorgeous light through our cove, just as the sun was setting.

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Thanks but next time we'll take the rain, please.

Thanks but next time we’ll take the rain, please.

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After ten days, I am really missing some good bread. Mom and I had startlingly good bread at 34th Street Cafe in Austin. When I inquired about it, they told me it was flown in from a California bakery. Is that really what it takes to get amazing bread around here?  I am also missing locally grown produce. In a grocery store the size of several football fields, I have to buy vegetables that would have higher airline status than I do (if they awarded miles to vegetables, of course). In my relief at finding large shrimp that were already peeled and deveined (I detest that chore), I inadvertently bought them from Indonesia. A stone’s throw from the Gulf Coast, and I buy Indonesian shrimp. Arghhh. Fortunately, they were delicious. But still. I lashed myself about that all the way home from the store.

This week we head into a family wedding, which portends lots of laughter, champagne, and trying to make my hair look good. The good news is that after enough of the first two, the third becomes unimportant.

I hope you have many causes for celebration this week. Rain, good hair, a juicy local melon- rejoice in the small things!

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Filed under Austin, champagne, grocery shopping

To Market, To Market, Or Be A Fat Pig

Mark and I arrived in Paris on Sunday.  I don’t like a Sunday arrival because our pantry and fridge are always bare, and the grocery stores close at 1:00. Not surprisingly, we are never inspired to go shopping when we stumble into the apartment at 10:30 or 11:00 am, in desperate need of a nap and a shower. I’m not sure we have ever made it to the store on such an arrival morning, and this time was no exception. We snacked on a bag of chips and then bought a croque monsieur from a vendor at Trocadero while waiting for the Bra Toss festivities. I do not recommend it unless you are as famished as we were at that point. That night we dined out.  Monday night Mark had a business dinner out, and I made myself a pizza. Tuesday night we ate with friends at a tiny restaurant called Le Severo, said by some to be the best steak and frites in Paris.  Dinner was delicious, starting with this.

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Salami and a hunk of French butter.  Yeah, that happened.  And we ate it, shamelessly, with this.

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Followed by steak and crispy, twice-fried french fries, and topped off by chocolate mousse and creme caramel.  Oh yes we did.

My point here is that it’s now Wednesday and we haven’t eaten a healthy meal at home (or anywhere, truth be told) since we arrived.  Fortunately, today is market day, and I headed out with my little red grocery cart to load up on some veggies before our pants became too tight to button.

Going to the market used to fill me with terror.  It’s all so French- the language, the money, the protocol at each vendor. Do I help myself? Is there a queue here somewhere? Am I invisible? I still get a little stressed, but I have learned that if I walk in there with fake confidence, I emerge at the other end feeling triumphant and marginally competent.

The President Wilson market is a bit of a hike with a cart, so I usually take the metro two stops to get there.

my chariot awaits

my chariot awaits

When I ascend from the metro, the market is just across the street.

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The flowers always tempt me, but I make myself wait until I have done my shopping.  It’s my little reward.  Here are some pics from today’s offerings.

fresh pasta

fresh pasta

delicious breads

delicious breads

scallops

scallops

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Somehow, the photo I took of all my purchases has disappeared into the cyber-junkyard, never to be seen again.  I bought a big bunch of beautiful new potatoes, an artichoke, a bunch of kale that was so big it looked like a baby when she handed it to me in its brown paper wrapping, a huge bunch of scallions, some garlic and onions, and two gorgeous lemons.  The potatoes I have already par-boiled and roasted, and will use them in a green salad tonight and with tahini sauce later, as recommended in Clotilde Dusoulier’s The French Market Cookbook (which I love).  Tomorrow night will be a kale salad from Joy The Baker and a roasted vegetable tart.  I was hoping to find asparagus and rhubarb today, but I guess it’s still too early.  Actually, there was asparagus, but at $10 a pound, I had to pass.  I’m hoping it will get less expensive as the season progresses.

Yeah, this post was pretty much all about food, wasn’t it?  Sometimes you have to quit hanging out at museums and restaurants and get your hands in some real food.  Because there is plenty more bread and cheese and tarte tatin waiting for me out there.  And butter.  Always the butter.

Enjoy some real food today, mes amis!

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Filed under cooking, flowers, food markets, grocery shopping, Paris, Paris dining, Uncategorized

Tuesday With A Friend

I spent yesterday with a good friend who lived here with me for a year and a half but moved back to Houston last summer.  She was a good partner in crime, and my shopping muse, and I miss her! We wandered around some of our favorite places and pretended that she still lived here.

On my way to our meeting spot, the Museum of Decorative Arts, I enjoyed my first visit to the Tuileries since my return.  The day looks colder than it was, although it definitely did not feel like spring.

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When the Museum of Decorative Arts (part of the Louvre) opened at 11:00, we were in line to see a current exhibition of the creations and inspirations of the Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten.  The exhibition was very well done, and included gorgeous inspiration pieces by other designers, some from the 19th century. Sorry- photos were interdites.

Next we hopped on a bus to go across the river to St. Germain.  After a light lunch at Le Cuisine de Bar, the small restaurant associated with and next to Poilane bakery, we wandered over to our favorite department store, Le Bon Marche.  Everyone should experience this store at least once, if only to walk around and be amazed by its grandeur.  I could happily do it once a week.

The grocery section, called Le Grand Epicerie, is a wonderland of gourmet foods and gorgeous produce. It had been re-done since our last visit, so we were interested to see what changes had been made. Such a fun place to wander- a far cry from my little stinky Franprix!

wall of waters

wall of waters

you say tomato

you say tomato

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From there we crossed the street to the main part of the store.

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My favorite section was the bathing suit department, which was designed to look like a large swimming pool.  Fantastic!

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Isn’t that amazing? It’s almost enough to make the prospect of swimsuit shopping a tad less horrendous. Maybe.

Paris is the perfect place for wandering, and it’s even better to do it with a friend.

Merci, my friends, for sharing it with me!

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Filed under fashion, gardens, grocery shopping, Paris, Paris dining, Paris museum, Tuileries

Le Marche de Belleville

Last fall I spent a little time exploring the part of Paris known as Belleville, sandwiched between the 10th, 11th, 19th, and 20th arrondissements.  Belleville has traditionally been a working class neighborhood, and is a melting pot of immigrants.  The energy level was significantly elevated from that of the refined, and much less colorful, 8th, where I live.  I loved browsing the Belleville market, which was a totally different shopping experience from the President Wilson market.  In addition to the fruits and vegetables, cheeses, meats, and fish that are sold at every market, the Belleville market included fabrics, lots of peppers (not hot enough for my taste, but still..), shoes, socks, head scarves, and various household items such as combs, cleaners, underwear, and toiletries.  It was kind of like a traditional French market meets Wal-Mart or the Dollar Store.  The Belleville market was also much noisier than what I was used to, as the vendors attempted to out-shout each other for the attention (and euros) of the shoppers.  It really felt like another world- a lively, multi-cultural, energizing, and curious world.IMG_2877

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Filed under food markets, grocery shopping, Paris, shopping, Uncategorized

Mais Oui Potpourri

English: Photograph of the skyline of Downtown...

University of Texas at Austin

Bonjour, mes amis!  Did you think I had fallen out of the blogosphere?  Mais non, just taking a break while I tend to things here in Texas.  I canceled my April trip to Paris for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the weather here in Texas was heavenly and Paris was still, well, not.  Also, Mark had a business trip come up during the time I was to be there.  AND my daughter was working on the herculean task of compiling and distributing materials for sorority rush at the University of Texas in the fall, and I didn’t want to completely abandon her.  Turned out she didn’t need me- got it all done on her own and ahead of schedule. Funny how our almost-adult kids need us so much less than we tell ourselves they do.  Anyway, I stayed here and made several trips to Austin to visit my family and work at our poor neglected lake house.  Is it still a lake house if the lake is nowhere to be seen?  Or is it a fake house?

In my continuing quest to reduce food waste chez Mai, I am trying out a produce storage system I read about in this post by Barefeet In The Kitchen.  In a nutshell, she recommends abandoning our crisper drawers (which are black holes of death and decay in my fridge) and instead keeping fruits, veggies, and herbs in paper towel-lined Tupperware.  So far, I’m liking it.  I think it helps just having the good stuff up at eye level, rather than in the big drawers on the bottom.  It might not be good if you are short on fridge space, though.  Check it out and see if it’s something you might want to try.

Most of us didn’t know much about Chechnya when we awoke to the news that the Boston bombers were born there.  By some freaky coincidence, I had stayed up late the night before that news broke, finishing a novel set in Chechnya.  The book, which should be published in May, is called A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra.  This powerful story of human struggle, love, and sacrifice is set between 1994 and 2004, a period rife with unrest and bloodshed in Chechnya.  As specialists of the area attempted to explain the recent history of Chechnya to mystified Americans, I was grateful to have even a rudimentary understanding of the period from reading the novel.  I would have recommended the book even without the connection to the Boston tragedy, but now it seems relevant as well as riveting.

And finally, a recipe to share.  My immediate family does not share my love for lamb, so when I was thinking of what to cook for my parents last week I thought it the perfect opportunity to enjoy some of that delicious meat.  I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen for lamb chops with a pistachio tapenade.  Oh my.  Can I tell you how delicious it was?  And easy?  A perfect way to celebrate spring!  (And on another note, why oh why did spellcheck want to change “tapenade” to “tamponade”?  Anyone?)

I have a post of Paris pics all ready to send out to those of you who have remained loyal during my hiatus.  Thanks for hanging in there with me!  You are still out there, right?  Hello???

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Filed under cooking, grocery shopping, Texas