Marché du Mois: Marché Bercy

If you mention the Bercy neighborhood to a Parisian, it will likely evoke memories of giant concerts at the arena or date nights spent at the movie theatre in the cour St. Emilion shopping center. 

While this corner of the 12th arrondissement may only be visited by most on the occasion of a Beyoncé concert or a blockbuster film release, there is more to Bercy than the cinema and superdome. 

On Wednesdays and Sundays, place Lachambeaudie welcomes a small market that wraps around a quiet street. The market is made up of the usual vendors- fishmongers, fromageries, a stall with Lebanese specialties and, of course, fresh fruits and vegetables

Local commerce also gets into the spirit of the market, with the nearby butcher offering a Sunday afternoon hamburger special and the neighboring florist seemed to take special care arranging an assortment of spring blossoms outside their shop. 

There are no local farmers at Marché Bercy, but there is an orchard owner from the Seine-et-Marne region of Ile-de-France who brings a variety of apples to the market in beautiful wooden crates. 

Marché Bercy also has a stand dedicated not only to organic produce, but also bio grains and other dried goods. Their selection of fruits and vegetables was a mixture of seasonal and out-of-season varieties imported from abroad. Still, it was one of the most popular stands at the market, proof that consumers are paying more attention to the quality of their food. 

After picking up a few pommes or even a hamburger to go, head to Parc de Bercy which is the perfect place for a Sunday picnic. The park is located on a site that used to be the city's wine warehouse- dating back to the 13th century when Paris was a large wine producing region.

The area in and around the park, which during the wine heyday was not technically a part of Paris, was known for rowdy parties and cheap wine- due to lower taxes on the beverage thanks to its being sold outside the city. The park has a much calmer vibe than its wild past, and you can now visit a small patch of grapevines in the center of the park to pay homage to the city's winemaking history. 

Marché Bercy

place Lachambeaudie, 75012

m° Cour Saint-Emilion (line 14)

Open Wednesday 15-20h and Sunday 7h-15h

Marché du Mois: Marché d'Aligre

Market baskets on sale at La Graineterie du Marché

Market baskets on sale at La Graineterie du Marché

The Marché d'Aligre is a favorite among Parisians, so much so that it has almost a cult following of loyal shoppers. Despite its renown and reputation, I never really got what it was that charmed people so much about this market. 

Since I judge markets mainly on the amount of farmers present- of which Marché d'Aligre has none-it seems normal that this market never made it into my list of favorites. Still, with so many friends and food writers singing the praises of this celebrated market in the 12th arrondissement, I couldn't help but think that I was missing out on something.

Wild Asparagus on sale at Marché d'Aligre

Wild Asparagus on sale at Marché d'Aligre

Inspired to understand the lure of Marché d'Aligre, I asked my friend Terresa to make me on a tour of the market, which is in her neighborhood and also a spot she knows quite well, often taking students there to stock up for the vegetarian cooking classes she gives in her home.

Teresa graciously accepted to be my guide, and we started our visits with warm croissants devoured on the doorstep of the covered market. These delicious croissants from a nearby bakery were to be the first of many snacks involved in our grazing tour of both the covered and open air market, along with the lovely shops lining the Place d'Aligre.

Lemon bars at Jojo & co

Lemon bars at Jojo & co

Once inside the Marché Couvert Beauvau we were offered spoonfuls of olive oil at the organic and artisanal ingredients shop Sur les Quais and then moved on to lemon tarts at the market's newest addition, a charming bakery called Jojo & co.

After chatting with the friendly vendor at the specialty Italian stand, it occurred to me that the success of a market isn't necessarily based on the sum of its producers, but also depends on the commitment of vendors to curating quality products.

We then wandered the outdoor market which vies for space with an all-day, everyday, flea market on the square. Terresa agreed that not much of the produce here is worth buying- although there is one vendor that she trusts- Gilles Flahaut, who brings excellent seasonal produce, mostly from France, to the market.

Mini Poivrons at Gilles Flahaut's stand

Mini Poivrons at Gilles Flahaut's stand

And then we came to my new favorite Paris shop- La Graineterie du Marché (8 place Aligre). This tiny shop is lined with bin upon bin of dried grains, beans, flours and fruit. Bulk herbs and spices complete this cabinet of curiosities, where hard-to-locate fèves and farines find a home.

In addition to the exciting food selection, La Graineterie also sells a wide range of products for the home. From practical accessories- sponges, soaps, and dishtowels- to unique finds such as vintage cookware and eclectic collections of flatware to handy - and handcrafted- market baskets and bags.

Stores like La Graineterie, kept by friendly shop owners who offer a unique service to the community, are reasons why Parisians get so attached to their neighborhoods. I could imagine the simple joy that would be coming home from work on a cold winter day and popping into La Graineterie du Marché for a handful of dried peaches- just the right out-of-season treat to warm you up and encourage you to get through those dark, dreary Paris nights.

La Graineterie du Marché, 8 place Aligre 75012

La Graineterie du Marché, 8 place Aligre 75012

More stops to nearby shops further confirmed the charm of the Marché d'Aligre neighborhood. We enjoyed a pastéis de nata and bought amazing olive oil at the Portuguese specialty shop Ma Petite Epicerie  (18 rue d'Aligre) which was followed by an impassioned cheese chat at the fromagerie L'Alpage (15 rue d'Aligre). We couldn't help but stop at Les Chocolats d'Aligre (13 rue d'Aligre) which is stocked with chocolates made by some of the most celebrated chocolatiers in France.

Selection of artisanal cheeses at L'Alpage, 15 rue d'Aligre 75012

Selection of artisanal cheeses at L'Alpage, 15 rue d'Aligre 75012

After our market visit, while enjoying glasses of natural wine at Le Siffleur des Ballons, I thought about me and Terresa's gourmet day and how happy a great Paris neighborhood makes me.

Something about neighbors working and shopping together, taking time to share their passions for their country's greatest products, or specialty ingredients assembled as a means of sharing culture- this is what makes markets the precious gems of a community.

Happy and well-fed, I felt satisfied in finally understanding what makes the Marché d'Aligre so special.

Marché d'Aligre

Place d'Aligre, 75012

m° Ledru Rollin (line 8)

Open: Tues-Sun 7:30-2:30 pm

5 Spots to Score or Sip a Bottle of Natural Bubbles this NYE

goin out 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.

Waking up sans morning after aches doesn't mean excluding yourself from the festivities, it just takes a little planning and enjoying a healthy dose of natural bubbly throughout the evening. These untreated wines, which have the benefit of being both less expensive and more forgiving the next day than your standard champagne, will guarantee a great night and an even better beginning of 2014.

Fancy champagnes may make you feel like a baller they evening of, but leave you feeling less glamourous the morning after

Many natural sparkling wines, or petillants naturels ("pet' nats" if you're in to the whole brevity thing) as they are referred to in France, contain no added sulfites or other chemicals, making them all around easier on the head.
Along with avoiding any added sulfites, natural wine makers also eschew adding sugar, and will not chapatalize their wines (add sugar to increase alcohol content) or practice what is refereed to as "dosing" a sparkling wine (adding a dose of sugar or sweet wine to the bubbly at the time of bottling). Adding sugar to a wine may increase the alcohol or amount of bubbles in your bottle, but it also increases your chances of a nasty hangover the next day.

A glass of bubbly at Ma Cave Fleury

There are plenty of options for spots to pick up a bottle of pet' nat for your New Year's Eve fête ce soir. Here are five of my favorites:
Ma Cave Fleury
Ma Cave Fleury is a small cave à vins in the 2nd arrondissement. The space has seating available and you can enjoy a bottle of natural champagne on site, or you can grab a few bottles to go. Here you will find a selection of natural champagnes (including a few non-dosed options) from the Champagnes Fleury domaine, which espouses a biodynamic approach to agriculture and winemaking.
La Cave des Papilles
La Cave des Papilles is an institution in the natural wine shop scene in Paris. The staff have developped close relationships with all the winemakers they work with and are happy to help you chose a bottle. A selection of natural bubbles from the Loire and southern France await you at this cave in the 14th arrondissement.

Triple Zero Petillant at Le Siffleur de Ballons

Le Siffleur de Ballons
Le Siffleur de Ballons is one of my favorite spots to have a glass of natural wine with an assiette de fromage because their constantly changing (and super affordable) wines by the glass menu is an excellent way to discover new wines and revisit old favorites. There is always at least one pet' nat available by the glass, but you can also choose a bottle from their boutique. I recommend Jacky Blot's Triple Zero, which has been a good companion for several happy occasions.
En Vrac
En Vrac is a fairly recent addition to the natural wine bar scene in Paris. Located in the up and coming Riquet neighborhood in the 19th arrondissement, En Vrac sells both bottles and bulk wine. As it's name (French for "in bulk") implies, the cave offers the option of bringing your own bottle to fill with your choice of reds and wines by the barrel. If you're looking for bubbles, ask the friendly staff to orient you towards a bottle among their small but well curated selection of natural wines.

Bottles of Natural wine at Ma Cave Fleury

Le Vin en Tête
Le Vin en Tête has two wine shops and one wine bar in Paris, all of which are staffed with incredibly helpful wine geeks and stocked with a beautiful assortment of natural wines. The shops regularly host tastings, often with winemakers from the Champagne region, and can help you pick out a great bottle of bubbly for your evening, and why not pick up a white to pair with your oysters while you're there?
I wish you a happy and sparkly réveillon readers and all the best in the new year!
Bonne Année from Paris Paysanne!!