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Paris is a traveler’s dream come true. Known as The City of Light, it’s also filled with culinary delights. The storied bakeries and corner cafés feel anchored in another time, while a dynamic food scene keeps evolving.
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- I'm Aida Mollenkamp. I'm a chef and writer with a passion for exploration, and I'm in search of the best food a city has to offer. Whether it's a locals-only favorite, or a chef's secret special, join me as I go off menu in Paris. Paris, the city of light, is a traveler's dream come true. Storied bakeries, corner cafes, and markets seem to stretch for miles, filled with every kind of imaginable. It's easy to see why French culture has been adopted worldwide as the standard to live by. I'm meeting up with food and travel writer Adrian Dentzel. Adrian is living the dream. A California native, he and his wife live in Paris, authoring the popular travel blog Trail of Crumbs. - [Adrian] I want to take you to some newer and some more unique and special places. - [Aida] He's taking me on a culinary tour of his favorite shops, starting with the bakery. Master pastry chef Benoit Castel opened Liberte in the ultra-trendy Canal St. Martin neighborhood. Not only are these some of the most delicious pastries in Paris, you can actually see and smell every step of the process in the open kitchen. - Merci, look at that, beautiful. - Yeah, that's absolutely gorgeous. Okay, so we're starting our day here at a pastry shop. - [Adrian] Yes. Yes, as you should in Paris. Typical breakfast for probably 90 percent of Parisians would be a croissant and a coffee. - That is everything a proper croissant should be. A good amount of buttery-ness, and no-- - [Adrian] Flaky. - On your hands, it's super flakey. - And that still crispy, no spongy bounciness, just crispy, flakey-- - [Aida] Exactly. Why did you decide to bring me here? - This neighborhood is a place I come a lot. This part of the Right Bank, the tenth arrondissement, around the Canal St. Martin has been developing this really high-level gastronomic reputation. And with a lot of different places opening. And it's sort of out of the way, and I think a lot of people who come to Paris want to get away from the big crowds and the tourists and all the classic things, and so they can come over here. And you have tons of different restaurants, bakeries, and it feels more like real Paris, to me. I think we should just dive right in to the financier now. - Do it. So basically a financier is kind of like a pound cake. - Mm hmm. What I really love about a good financier is when you get to this little crust that contrasts with the dense, soft, crumbly rest of the cake. You're probably more used to seeing this in its traditional form of a little circular cup of shortbread, but this is Chef Castel fashion. The presentation has changed but still very much, when you taste it, you'll instantly know that, that's that tarte de citron flavor. - I just found the lemon bar's much more refined older sister. It's like the grand dame of lemon bars, and it's this right here. - Where you have that tartness, but then it's rich, the custard-y flavor, and then the crunch of the sable shortbread. - [Aida] Shortbread. Where are we headed next? - Well, now that we've had tons of pastries, we're gonna try another French staple, which is ham. - Let's do it. Caractere de Cochon, a charcuterie lover's dream, translates to "pig-headed" in English. This tiny shop offers a world tour of ham. And owner Solo is the encyclopedia of charcuterie. We're here for the elusive jambon beurre, Paris's popular but hard-to-find ham sandwich. But something tells me there's more than just sandwiches in this tiny treasure-house of ham. - [Adrian] All right, here we are. - [Aida] Oh my goodness. - [Adrian] Caractere de Cochon. - Tiny, I love it. - Tiny and full, yeah? - [Both] Bonjour. - [Voiceover] Bonjour. - Yes. - Never heard of that. - [Adrian] So look how tender this-- - Yeah, and the color is beautiful. Even the smell is very different, yeah. - To taste first time, you have to put just on your tongue first. - This is really interesting, though, because it definitely has some saltiness, but like really good terroir. Yeah, it's not as sweet as like a Parma ham. - Exactement. - Where do we go from here? - It's, how do you say? "Porc laineux." - [Aida] It's a wooly pig. - [Adrian] A wooly pork. That's incredible. - [Solo] Very cute. - Yeah, lighter. - Enjoy. - Ooh, I think this might be my favorite. - No no no no, wait for it. - So far. - They add "le mou de vin," I don't know how English-- - [Aida] Grape must. - [Adrian] Must. - [Solo] Voila, the grape must. - So grape must is what you would use to make balsamic vinegar. - [Solo] Voila. - [Aida] You can see all the grape must, right here, okay. - [Solo] You can see. - Oh wow. That's really amazing. - And look at the color. It's not pink, it's not dark, it's red. - It smells like really old wine. - Yeah. - Oh my gosh, Solo, that was phenomenal. All those different flavors. But he told me that we were coming here for sandwiches. - Yeah, that was the original hook. - The French call it jambon beurre de Paris. - Ham and butter sandwich. - We make it on demand. We have different kind of cooked ham with different flavor. I like it because you get a choice between two butters. - Yeah. - Choosing between butters! - [Adrian] Super important. - The French butters, in the west of France, they eat only salty butter. Never soft, and the rest of France, soft butter. - Okay, so you have salted butter in Brittany. - Voila. - And then you have an unsalted, kind of sweeter butter in the rest of France. Okay, so I feel like you should choose. - For the jambon beurre, you have to taste with-- - The butter. - Salty butter. - [Aida] Okay. Sounds good. - [Solo] Let's make this? - Yeah. Perfect. - And this is the kind of thing where a lot of people come from the States and they expect the sandwich to be like a Dagwood. - Okay, merci, au revoir! - Thank you, merci. - [Solo] Bon appetit. - Merci. - [Aida] A bientot. - [Solo] Bye bye. - [Aida] To walk off our lunch, we took advantage of Paris's winding streets, staircases and stunning landmarks. One of these, Sacre Coeur, sits atop Montmartre, the highest point in Paris. Arguably the best place in the city for a panoramic view. We encountered a layer of extra-cinematic fog. But Paris is gorgeous no matter what she's wearing. At our final stop, there's more than meets the eye to this family-run butcher shop. Les Provinces's incredible selection of meats are arranged like museum pieces behind sparkling glass counters. The owner, Christopher Dru, wanted to offer his customers more. Here you can choose your kind of meat, hand it back to the butcher, and then seat yourself in the dining room while it's prepared over a stone grill in the kitchen. Only in Paris. - [Adrian] Les Provinces. - [Aida] I'm gonna go check out the butcher case. - [Adrian] Yeah. - [Aida] This is phenomenal. - [Adrian] Special thing. Smoky bacon, smokier bacon, all the meat you want. And then, over here, which is most butcher shops don't have, is the dining room. - Oh, okay, so we're eating. - Yes. - [Adrian] I miss the French cuts of meat, so if you can tell me what that means, do. - Anglais, ham steak. - [Aida] Anglais. - [Adrian] You can see the filet, of course, that we know. But then what's more common here is a veal filet, - [Aida] I really do enjoy veal, so. - Bonjour. - [Adrian] Bonjour. - [Aida] They'll cook it for you on premises. - [Adrian] Yeah, and it's such a typical French thing where you pick your meat, and then whatever it is you pick, it comes with really good sauteed potatoes, and a small green salad with a really traditional vinaigrette. - Merci. - [Aida] Thank you. - [Both Merci. - [Aida] How is it? - Mm, so good, so fresh. - You know what I love about being in France? I don't need to say how I want my meat cooked. - [Adrian] That's true. - [Aida] Perfectly done. - [Adrian] Yeah. - That is a proper Bearnaise, too. And having a butcher shop where you a lot of times you have the juice drippings in the potatoes-- - [Adrian] Mm hmm. Mm, great potatoes. - Mm hmm. Ooh, super good. Already this is a beautiful butcher shop, but the fact that we can just eat in the middle of it all. - They just cut it, cook it, serve it. That's what they appreciate. - Okay, I'm gonna switch with you, try some veal. I love how lean a really nice veal roast can be. There's like grape flavors. - Mm, so good. It is deep, you get that depth, too. Something really nice about that. - And I think it also pairs very well with the red wine. - [Adrian] Yes. - What's amazing is that I've never even seen this concept before of being able to go into a butcher shop, order and then eat. I mean, I don't think it exists anywhere else. - No, that's-- - At least that I've been to. - Yeah, the only one I've seen. It's a really special thing. I think even here. - I would not have found a place like this if it weren't for you, so thank you, - [Adrian] My pleasure. - For taking the time and showing me your Paris. - Yes, no problem, my pleasure. - Cheers, sante. That was an incredible meal. Thank you so much. - [Adrian] So good. - [Aida] I mean this whole day, I feel like I know the classic of Paris and you just showed me little tweaks to it that are modern and fun. - [Adrian] Yeah, in a city this big and with so much food culture, when you're here long enough you find these little, teeny, sort of special things that you wouldn't normally find. - [Aida] Well I appreciate it. - [Adrian] Yeah, my pleasure.