Today was the day of my first workshop at Cordon Bleu – The Market Tour and Demonstration. Students gathered at 8:30am at the Cordon Bleu building and then went to the nearby St. Charles market to pick up local ingredients to try during lunch after the tour. The people taking the tour were mostly Americans visiting Paris or passing through Paris on their way to the south of France. However, I did manage to find a fellow Canadian in the group (and from Toronto no less). Having just arrived in Paris, he hasn’t been impressed with the food at all compared to what he’s had in Montreal.
I pointed him in the direction of two very well known food blogs that I’ve been using as my main food resources/virtual tour guides (David Lebovits and Chocolate and Zucchini) and told him if he followed them, he would not experience another disappointing meal à Paris. There was a group of 25 of us that went to the market and saw all the different items for sale. Fresh produce, eggs, meat (including horse, pig’s feet (trotters), all sorts of organ meats, rabbit, seafood, fish, goat cheese and a fromagerie (cheese shop) where we bought several types of cheeses to try (brie, fresh, mild and aged goat cheese, blue and compté – a hard cheese that tastes very much like Emmental).
Our tour guide – Kay – was excellent. She is a trained chef and used the visit the market to buy her ingredients for the week when she was working as a chef. I saw one of the butchers de-bone a leg of lamb for a customer and fish mongers clean and fillet fish for customers. Talk about full service! Kay was extremely knowledgeable about food and answered my questions about the different types of baguettes – traditional (regular), Parisienne (fatter) and bio (organic), demi-baguette (half a baguette) and how you could even specify how well cooked you would like it (for softer baguettes ask for one that is “pas trop cuit” (not too baked)). She was also kind enough to act as a translator for me while I was trying to decide between what kind of butter to buy for my baguettes in the morning. I finally settled on a small bar of fresh butter, made with raw milk with sea salt crystals in it so it would offer a nice bit of crunch to my morning baguette. If only I could have a translator whenever I went to the market in Paris! How great would that be?!
Having her solve my butter and baguette conundrum practically made the tour for me! I even managed to buy a small container of fresh eggs from the egg guy and after seeing such wonderful products, I have vowed not to make a repeat trip to the supermarché down the street from my apartment (especially for the produce).
After the market tour, the group headed back to le Cordon Bleu for a lunch that the chefs prepared including a sampling of the foods that were picked up at the market (four types of terrines, blood sausage, cheese, grey shrimp, salami, prosciutto, field strawberries and turnips). Lunch was followed by a cooking demonstration by Chef Marc Vaca (who also led the other half of the tour) who prepared a three course meal while we asked questions, learned how to make and tasted mushroom risotto, sea bream with endive and an apple tart with home-made caramel ice cream – yum! Chef spoke in French for the demonstration (even though I spoke with him earlier and knew that he speaks perfect English – I guess they want to keep it authentic) while one of the Cordon Bleu students translated while he cooked – just like what they do with the full-time students!
Speaking of the full-time students, classes were starting at the same time that our market tour was beginning so I managed to catch a glimpse of the students gathering in their uniforms. It’s a very multicultural group (but I did notice lots of Japanese and Chinese and have heard a few British accents).
Oh yes, on my way home from Cordon Bleu I decided to get off at the Palais Royal – Musée de Louvre metro stop and stumbled upon the Carrousel du Louvre Shopping Center which is connected to the Louvre. Went up a level and saw the Jardine Tuileries (it’s huge), the glass pyramid and the Arc du Triomphe du Carrousel. Ah, this is the Paris that everyone knows! And how nice it was to be in an area where the sales associates openly speak English to you. Haha! I know it’s only my second day but I really could use a break from using my tourist french. But alas, I could not stay long. I had fresh eggs and butter in my possession and had to B-line it to my apartment. But I will go back as that’s the moment that I realized I was in Paris. Everything up until that point felt a bit like Montreal with nicer architecture or a french version of New York City.