In France, the year's end is commemorated with celebrations that encourage submerging both the good and bad of the 365 days gone in an onslaught of bubbles and oysters. It's a great way to see the end of the past year, but often renders the beginning of the following year a bit rough. To avoid starting your new year with regrets and a headache avoid the primary causes of both which can often be attributed to sulfite-laden, sweetened champagnes.
You never know what you're going to find when you go to a market. The most exciting times can be when you find something you didn't know you were looking for- a new-to-you vegetable, a farm-fresh recipe, or even a new neighborhood.
For me, the most exciting part of visiting a new market is finding exactly what I'm looking for: local farmers.
I could easily write many months worth of Marché du Mois based on Paris markets that have no independent producers whatsoever. Many of the city's open-air markets count zero farmers among their stands. The list includes markets such as Marché Bourse, Marché Jean Jaurès, and the majority of the city's covered markets (Marché Couvert St. Martin, Marché Couvert de Passy and Marché La Chapelle to name a few).
In my quest, I've at times encountered markets that aren't even markets anymore such as Marché Couvert Treilhard in the 8th arrondissement which is occupied by the chain grocery store G20 and Marché Couvert St. Quentin in the 10th which is now essentially one big flower shop (incidentally, why have so many of the covered markets been left to industrial goods or general disrepair? I hope to see more places like My Kitch'n bringing new life to these poorly used venues).
In my ideal world, every market would be a farmers market with every stand stocked with locally grown and raised products indicative of the season and the region. But since that sadly is far from the reality in Paris, I'm happy to find a producer or two as I tour the markets. At markets like Marché Alésia and Marché Port-Royal you will only find one local producer, but at least that's a start.
Marché Jeanne d'Arc is another one of these one farmer markets that I discovered recently. In the shadow of the towering church on place Jeanne d'Arc in the 13th arrondissement you will find an Ile-de-France feast of vegetables from local producer Jean-François Dondaine.
M. Dondaine also sets up shop on Saturdays at the Marché Saxe-Breteuil but at this smaller neighborhood market his vegetables stand out as exceptional as they are the only locally grown produce to be had.
A steady line forms in front of chez Dondaine where springtime shoppers peruse the season's first zucchini along with baskets of spring onions, carrots, rhubarb and fresh garlic- all grown less than 20 miles south of Paris.
Take advantage of the selection of fresh lettuce and herbs and don't hesitate to ask for suggestions on how to perfectly prepare a handful of snap peas- as always the friendly and resourceful vendors at these farm stands are just as inspiring to encounter as their freshly picked produce.
Marché Jeanne d'Arc
place Jeanne d'Arc, 75013
m° Nationale (line 6)
Open Thursdays and Sundays, 7-14h30
Whenever I visit a market for the first time, I always go with the hope of finding a local producer amongst the vegetable stands. Oftentimes I am disappointed, but the odd time that I do find local produce at one of Paris' open-air markets makes these visits worth it. This morning I was doubly rewarded when I visited the Marché Alésia because not only did I encounter a local producer, but it was one I had never met before! Daniel and Isabelle Behuret have a farm in Montlhéry which is located only 30 km from Paris. This morning they were selling a variety of vegetables that are in season, but what caught my eye was the Haricots Coco:
What: Haricots Coco (Cranberry or Berlotti Beans)
Where: Marché Alésia, 75013
When: October 24, 2012
Who: Local producers Isabelle and Daniel Behuret
How: Easy! Extract the beans from their speckled pods and cover them with water- you can add any spices or herbs that you see fit (the vendor suggested onions, thyme, and sage).
Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 45 minutes. Drain beans and dress them up with a little olive oil and salt.
Serve warm alongside an Autumnal meal of stuffed squash!