Marché du Mois: Marché Barbès

Last night, after a long day and a stressful week, I decided the perfect way to wind down would be to watch Back to the Future II. I'm not sure why that seemed like the right thing to do, but it just did. The next day, I was reminded of a scene from that classic film of my childhood while visiting the newly opened Brasserie Barbès that took over the space left behind by an abandoned building under the Barbès-Rochechouart metro station. 

The reason my encounter with this mini-mansion of a "brasserie" (brasserie is the French word for "brewery" which, upon the disappearance of actual breweries in France, came to be used in reference to any place you can get beer and food- the fact that there is now a growing number of real breweries in Paris- not to mention one just down the road from "Brasserie" Barbès makes the name seem like at least an ignorant oversight and a most a slap in the face) reminded me of the previous evenings cinematic séance was because it made me feel much like Marty McFly, who is gobsmacked upon entering an 80's themed restaurant that mimics the era he just flux capacitored out of. Unlike Marty, however, I wasn't seeing a decade of my youth mimed back to me 30 years later, but rather I was seeing a 2015-themed restaurant in 2015

Brasserie Barbès has everything a young, white, gainfully employed urbanite expects to find in this day and age; white walls, high ceilings, meticulously placed draping green house plants, and an over-priced menu that includes dishes elaborated by adjectives about the ingredients rather than their origins, uninspired organic (not natural)  wines and (besides Deck & Donohue) a list of borderline or not at all craft beers. The latter is possibly the most scandalous given that the Brasserie de la Goutte d'Or  , brewer of iconic made-in-the-18th-arrondissement beersis less than a ten minute walk away. 

The fact that this establishment straddles the line between priding themselves on transforming a neighborhood that many are wary of by creating a banal space that residents can't afford and profiting off, and poorly replicating, a food movement that is already alive and authentic in that very vicinity is annoying. The fact that it's happening down the road from me is infuriating. Because I love this neighborhood. So much.

photo courtesy of Ben Nerot

photo courtesy of Ben Nerot

I love the combination of cultures and languages and the fact that here people sit on benches in the streets and remember your name in stores. That they'll pick up your wallet and call you to come get it after it fell out of your bag while walking through the Chateau Rouge neighborhood (true story). 

I love that the 18th is home to new addresses that respect the neighborhood they call home. Café Lomi has gently introduced craft coffee into French culture and been host to many community events. Le Supercoin, with its exclusively French craft beers and total dedication to showing all PSG matches and holding regular Belote tournements. Brasserie de la Goutte d'Or with each beer lovingly named after a street that makes up this diverse and animated part of Paris

And that's just to name a few. There's so much to discover and enjoy around Barbès.  And maybe I'm just being grumpy, but Brasserie Barbès doesn't make that list

The anecdote to seeing your adopted 'hood turn into a theme park for tourists and Parisians who wouldn't come here otherwise is crossing the street (preferably from the Tati side of Barbès, because even that horrible store and its Made-in-China stock has a soft spot in my heart- its bright fluorescent sign announcing that you've made it home after a chilly night's bike ride) and going to Marché Barbès.

Marché Barbès is a mash up of sounds and shopping caddies and slaps on the back as neighbors run into each other. It's a mess and it's kind of a stressful shopping experience, but that's Barbès

Piles of fresh herbs stacked on boards over milk crates are scattered throughout the market. I dare you to get a whiff of fresh mint or cilantro and keep walking. You won't, because the temptation is too strong to stop and pick up a bunch for 30 centimes before going on your way. 

The fish at Marché Barbès, for reasons unknown to me, is amazing. Rascasse on ice inspires a Soupe de Poisson or, in summer, a market fresh Bouillabaisse. As the metro crashes overhead like the soundtrack from a line for a rollercoaster, you weave your way through an international crowd, ogling North African pastries, dried figs, fallen-from-the-truck goods, and stands full of produce that s priced for the neighborhood

There aren't any farmers at Marche Barbès (though some of the vendors sell locally grown produce) but for the price of a pint at Brasserie Barbès you can buy enough to make a homemade meal to share with family, friends, and neighbors and have a totally unco-optable evening.  

photo courtesy of Ben Nerot

photo courtesy of Ben Nerot

Marché Barbès

m° Barbès-Rochechouart (line 2 &4)

Open: Wednesday (8:00 a.m - 1:00 p.m)  and Saturday (7:00 a.m - 3:00 p.m)

Marché du Mois: Marché Ordener

My parents were in town this week so as any daughter or son knows, the occasion presented a great opportunity to make reservations at some of the restaurants that I wouldn't usually take myself to (thanks Mom and Dad!). After a few days of culinary delights which included a seemingly endless course tasting menu at La Table d'Eugène and all the modern conveniences (and fun wine list) of Coretta, I felt like I had caught up with fine dining food trends and was happy to get back to the more modest markets of the city.

I love eating out, but there are only so many emulsions and exotic Asian radish varieties that I can take before I want to be back in my kitchen with pumpkins and fennel and other exciting whole foods of the season.

A trip to Marché Ordener was exactly what I needed. Home to two local farmers, Guy Barrais and Patrick Messant (who you can also find at Marché Place des Fêtes), this friendly neighborhood market takes up the even-numbered side of rue Ordener on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Because the French generally know what's up, the two farmers' market stands are among the busiest at the marché, with lines made up of customers of discriminating taste and reassuring affability. While waiting to buy beets and shell beans at the Messant's markets stand, a friendly Monsieur decided to school me on the proper way to eat choux rave, or kohlrabi.

"Eat it like an apple!" he announced, paying €1.45 for the produce and then making a pocket knife magically appear from his...pocket. The demonstration continued with a brazen incision into the kohlrabi's thick skin as he peeled away the rough outer layer. "Here, try it", he encouraged, offering me a slice. Surprisingly sweet, with hints of green melon, choux rave turned out to be a delightful crudité that I'm surprised to not see more often in salads or next to an emulsion of something at the city's finest tables.

Engaged Instagram followers weighed in with preparation suggestions for this unexpected star of the season. Apparently the Germans are way into this root veg and the French go as far as to get it into a gratin. Any other suggestions for kohlrabi would be highly appreciated, as I think I'll be seeing a lot of it from now on.

I ended my market visit with a last stop for pears at the Barrais' stand and an after-thought artichoke because while I can't whip up most of the things served to me and Mom and Dad, I can handle a homemade mayonnaise and love nothing more than the gratifying reward of an artichoke heart.

Marché Ordener

rue Ordener m° Jules Joffrin (line 12)

open: Wednesday and Saturday 8-13h

In Season: Poireaux

Poireaux at Marché Ornano Poireaux, or leeks, can be found year-round, but I love them as an autumn vegetable because they go so well with the fresh veggies we find as we transition out of summer. Added to some late harvest tomatoes, leeks are an excellent addition to a pasta sauce and paired with a béchamel they make a hearty gratin or side dish.

Leeks are a staple in French cuisine and are also an under appreciated superfood, with more iron than kale, more B6 than broccoli, and more antioxidant properties than both cherry tomatoes and carrots.

leeks marche

What: Poireaux (Leeks)

When: September 24

Where: Marché Ornano, Jean-Michel Delahaye's stand

How: Leek velouté is a simple and elegant recipe, an airy homage to the vegetable itself. Serve topped with fresh parsley and ground black pepper and dig in!

Leek Velouté

Leek Velouté


1 tbsp butter

4 large leeks, halved and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 medium onion

1 large potato

1/4 cup milk

Salt and Pepper

Fresh parsley


In a deep pan, sauté chopped onion in butter until translucent. Add Leeks and cook until they begin to sweat. Add potato and a dash of salt. Cover with water and bring to a light boil. Let cook until potato is tender, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl and, using a hand or other electric mixer, lightly blend together, until you've achieved an airy, velvety consistency. There should be no chunks of potatoes in the mixture, but it shouldn't be blended to a liquid, either. Serve topped with parsley and ground pepper.