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The Rue Cler Open Market in Paris
Our Favorite Market, the Rue Cler, is in the 7th arrondissement
Rue Cler Market: Open weekdays, all day Saturday, Sunday mornings. Many of the stores are closed on Mondays.
The 7th arrondissement, home to our company, Paris Perfect, is blessed with more open markets than any arrondissement in Paris. We love living here for that reason. The thriving markets, which Parisians flock to, have helped the 7th arrondissement maintain its village feel. Our focus in this article is rue Cler, one of the best and most famous in Paris.
When I first moved to Paris over 20 years ago, rue Cler was a nice little pedestrian street, great for our weekly shopping trip to a few favorite stores for meat, fish, greens, and cheese. Over the years, it has expanded and flourished! There are more food shops, specialty food stores and simple choices than any market street in Paris. There is a growing pedestrian area, crowded with locals from morning to night - especially popular on Sundays before the traditional family lunch. From a local neighborhood market street two decades ago, it has been transformed to a Paris-wide destination for food lovers.
Rue Cler is especially convenient for the neighborhood because it is open on Sunday mornings. Many families attend mass at 11am at St. Pierre du Gros Caillou on rue de Grenelle, then head immediately to rue Cler for their baguettes, cheese, bottle of wine, cuts of meat, and desserts. Get there early as it becomes extremely crowded after 11am on Sundays. Being near rue Cler is one of the great pleasures of living in Paris, whether for a week or a lifetime.
Fraises de campagne - strawberries - on rue Cler
What You Will Find on Rue Cler - Left Side
Start at the top of the street, near the Ecole Militaire Metro stop, on
the corner of La Motte Piquet and rue Cler. There is a large post office with
yellow signs on the corner. You will see the famous gourmet food shop, Fauchon
(described below). Now start down the left side of rue Cler, after the Post
Fruit and vegetable stand. One of four or five greengrocers on rue Cler. The competition among the fruit and vegetable merchants means prices are competitive. Always shop for their specials out front.
This is my favorite flower stand; they put together the most beautiful bouquets, even on a budget. Their prices seem lower than the other flower stands on rue Cler.
Deli Zius Gastronomia Italiana
Excellent Italian Specialties: you recognize it by the Olive trees outside. Delicious olives, pastas and other Italian specialties.
Olivier and Co.
This high quality group of stores is becoming known in the US, as their products are now distributed by Williams Sonoma. As their prices are significantly lower than in the US, it is worth stopping in and sampling their oils and specialties. We love their lemon flavored olive oil especially on salads; their basil flavored olive oil on grilled fish. www.oliviersandco.com
Chinese restaurants and takeaways are springing up all over Paris. This is one of them.
Trendy new cafe with good service. Busy all year long, and an "in" place to have your cafe or a light meal.
Tribeca, trendy new bistro on rue Cler
Cafe du Mache'
You are now on the corner of Rue du champ du Mars and Rue Cler. The Cafe du Marche' is one of the most popular cafe's in the neighborhood, with a covered area outside where you can eat winter and summer. Get there early, as you cannot reserve; it becomes very crowded especially with the chic people of the quartier. There are a number of daily specials on blackboards, at reasonable prices. It's a fun place to sit and people watch.
If you feel like having a snack or light lunch go to the small creperie next on your left. I love the Crepes au Grand Marnier; our children ask for the Nutella ones. If you haven't tried it, Nutella is a paste made out of milk chocolate and hazelnuts and is delicious. When we were growing up in Italy, my sisters and I would finish a large jar in a day and not have any appetite for dinner. Now, as an over conscientious and hypocritical mother, I forbid it in the house. They beg the crepe maker for the biggest possible dollops on their crepes. There are two kinds of crepes, sucree and sale, one for dessert and one for snacks or a meal. The sucree'd crepes are made with white flour and the sale'd crepes are made with buckwheat flour. Order the sale'd crepes with ham and cheese, like a croque monsieur.
Popular, family-owned cheese shop. We always approach rue Cler from rue St. Dominique, so tend to go to the other two fromageries, but they have an excellent selection.
One of the four butcher shops on rue Cler. We find they all offer good quality and reasonable prices.
Les Quatre Saisons
Large greengrocer; as with the others, good prices due to the competition on the street.
Davoli - La Maison du Jambon
The lines leading onto the street indicate one of the best shops on rue Cler and in the quartier. This Italian delicatessen sells homemade specialties ranging from Italian sausages and meats to pasta, Italian cheeses, side dishes such as roasted peppers, desserts and finally, the best Choucroute in Paris. This is an excellent dish for a cold day. Tell the vendor how many people you plan to serve and he will make the selection. Heat over a low flame and serve. The portions tend to be large, so keep that in mind for leftovers, or give a lower number to the vendor. As the lines will tell you, go there early!
Davoli, the best delicatessen in Paris
Chickens! The smells from this shop will make your mouth water and you may not get any further. This is a chicken brasserie; they cook flame roasted chickens, sold in bags which remain hot for an hour. You can buy whole chickens, breasts or legs so everyone can have their favorite meat.
Nice flower vendor with a good selection of green plants.
The Droguerie is not a drug store; it sells household goods from cleaning products, knives, mops and knives to shopping carts. They have a good selection of panniers or carts on wheels which everyone uses for their food shopping. There are new ones with special wheels to push it in front of you, like a pram and even one with two extra wheels, which allow you to roll up flights of stairs! This is a brilliant idea, since many apartments still have no elevators and lugging the shopping up the stairs every day is exhausting.
Asian fast food shops are springing up everywhere in Paris! I confess to eating there from time to time, especially because their tables always have room on warm days outside. The food is fine, but it just isn't the Hunan in San Francisco. They do a roaring trade for lunch, as even the French are taking shorter lunch breaks.
La Sablaise Poissonerie
This is one of the finest fish merchants in Paris, with an enormous selection of everything from sea snails, to crab, to fresh fish from the Channel every day. Their displays alone make your mother water with an enormous selection of seafood on three large counters. My in-laws feel that I prepare too many of our meals from Picard, the frozen food store on rue de Grenelle. I feel that if I managed to grow up healthy in the 1950's on canned food and spam, then frozen food can't be too bad. When our children were born and my in-laws visit, my father in law goes there every day to buy a fresh sole for them. He chooses two whole fish and insists the poissonier skin and filet it in front of him so he is assured of its freshness. My son won his grandmother's heart when he told her at age six that she made best sole in the world. It is breaded with egg and quickly fried in butter.
One of the best butchers in the neighborhood. High quality meat, excellent selection and good advice on how to cook a cut of meat. At Christmas and New Years, they sell boar's heads and other specialties for this gourmet season! The French celebrate both holidays, but New Years is the most important for them, especially from a perspective of food. That's when you order your oysters and meats far in advance and prepare your best dishes for family and friends, for the Reveillon dinner!
A large greengrocer which I've enjoyed shopping at for 20 years. It is across the street from another greengrocer so there is good quality and prices stay competitive. As anywhere, try to buy their "specials" - whatever is displayed in quantity outside - and you are guaranteed the best flavors and prices. The country of origin must be posted; smell the differences between the small French melons and the ones from Spain.
What You Will Find on Rue Cler - Right Side
Now cross the street and head up on the other side.
There are two "supermarkets" on the street; FranPrix and Leader. Good for the basics, from toothpaste to cereal. They have just remodeled FranPrix and it offers higher end specialty foods - great for finding gifts to bring home.
This wine shop is a good one and they do a good job recommending wine for a particular meal. Our favorite wine shop is at 145 rue St. Dominique where Julien does an excellent job. He knows his wines and offers good value for money. When we walk by, he signals Philippe if he has a good deal on red wine or Champagne. He is a character who roller blades to work and always wears sunglasses on his head; kind of a heartthrob in the quartier. When I first introduced my French husband to California wines in Napa Valley, he couldn't understand the American obsession with brand and price. Now I understand his point: in France, a good wine often means it is delicious and not too expensive. It does not have to be a famous brand with a high price tag.
We have been going to this cheese store for decades and love it. The lines outside on Sunday mornings can stretch down the block, so get there early! The less expensive cheeses and basics such as eggs and better are usually sold at the counter outside. Go inside for most of the selection, for yogurts, for superb taste and quality. My favorite cheeses are their goats cheeses and St. Marcellin's, but everything is excellent.
Favorite cheese shop
Buying Soft Cheese: When you buy a soft cheese, such as Camembert, Brie or St. Felicien, Neuchatel, be sure to tell the clerk when you are planning to eat it; that evening, tomorrow or at the end of the week. That way, they can choose just the right freshness for the moment you plan to eat it. It's really a treat! If you haven't had St. Felicien or Marcelin (same cheese), do try it and make sure it's fait (ready to eat). It's so creamy you almost need a spoon and you will be back the next day for more.
Les Visiteurs: When I first moved to Paris, I found some small worms on the piece of goat's cheese that I hadn't just eaten! Being a pasteurized American, I panicked wondering if I was going to contract serious medical problems. Philippe, my doctor husband laughed at me: "Don't worry if you've eaten any, they won't exit as flies!" I was away on business for the following week, so threw it in the freezer until following Sunday. They laughed at my frozen worms and were quick to exchange it for me with apologies for "les petites visteurs".
Frozen Cheese: Our lifestyle was more hectic when we both were working fulltime. Being a thrifty person, I froze some camembert for a few weeks until we had friends over to dinner. I took it out that afternoon to eat after dinner but it was still frozen when I set the table. I quickly threw it in the microwave to thaw it out, thinking it would be just right for dessert. Philippe was mortified when we passed it around as it was rubbery and hard. He asked what had happened and I explained. Typically French, he couldn't believe I would freeze and microwave the cheese! I have had to live with that story ever since: "Les Americaines; elles congellent leurs fromagent." Since then, a number of our friends have started to freeze their soft cheeses and they recommend it now. But never microwave them as it kills the living parts!
Famille Mary - Miel et Nature
An excellent natural store, specializing in honeys. Also sells specialty breads made with honey and wonderful regional specialties.
They offer a wide selection of meats and prepared dishes. Their specials on the table in front are delicious; they have won several awards for their sausages, which we recommend.
Belgian chocolates which are excellent and reasonably priced. Much better than Godiva which I find taste too waxy. There are some wonderful chocolate stores in the quartier, but this is a staple.
This is the other supermarket on rue Cler and sells more bulk foods. Again, fine for all of your staples. An ugly store but good for basics.
This boulangere is on the corner; note the beautiful windows and original features. Good bread, including the flute and grain breads. Long lines just before lunch.
Off Rue Cler
The choice doesn't end here, because the smaller streets off of rue Cler are home to more excellent specialty stores:
More on that later!
Don't forget to stop at Fauchon, the takeaway gourmet food shop, on Ave. de la Motte Piquet, just before rue Cler. It is a successful chain in France, popular with professionals who don't have the time to cook a good meal after work. Prices of meals range from a reasonable daily special to lobster and other delicacies. Every meal is fresh and marked clear instructions on how to heat and serve. The dishes are even garnished so you can set it on a porcelain dish, serve it with style and say you attended Cordon Bleu on your last vacation.
The staff is friendly and will help you select the entire meal: from the salad section to the main dish area, to the cheese, wine and bread counters. Top it off at the dessert counter for that little something to finish your meal; their desserts are excellent. Do take your time as they are patient and understand the importance of eating a good meal.
The Importance of Quality of Life in France
A few years ago, I was waiting my turn to be served at Fauchon and struck up a conversation with some American visitors who wondered about the economy and French business in general. The famous 35 hour work week law had just been passed. I explained about this important new law in France and the changes that were being forced on all businesses. The headlines were about a new police force, called the Work Police (la Police du Travail), who had descended on two large companies and found some white collar workers working beyond 35 hours! Horror of horrors; they tried to arrest some executives and actually imposed enormous fines on both companies to set an example.
We laughed at the oddity of this, trying to imagine a similar scenario among white collar workers in the US. What would they say? "Excuse me, I've got to close down my computer, postpone the conference call, get off the plane, cancel the last patient; my 35 hours are up!" A French businessman was standing behind me, following our conversation. He blurted out: "I know it sounds very funny, but to us, it is a catastrophe! We need to stay competitive and it is becoming more difficult." His point is well taken as France tries to compete in the world market.
On the other hand, the French understand the importance of family and quality in life and nothing demonstrates this better than the wonderful food markets in Paris.
Schedules of the Open Markets in the 7th Arrondissement
Rue Cler Market: Open weekdays, all day Saturday and Sunday mornings. Many of the stores are closed on Mondays.
Saxe-Breteuil Market: Thursday and Saturday from 7:00am to 2:30pm
Marche de Grenelle Market: Wednesday and Sunday from 7:00am to 2:30pm
Marche Ave President Wilson Market: Wednesday and Saturdays: 7:00am to 2:30pm
For more articles on Paris including Flea Markets, Couturier Shopping in the Triangle d'or, etc. go to www.parisperfect.com.
© Madelyn Byrne, 2006
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