When some people think of the 7th arrondisement, they think of embassies, government ministries, imposing monuments, and broad avenues. I think of more patisseries per square inch then anywhere else in Paris. Well-heeled residents of this posh quartier can afford to be discerning, so some of the best food shops and restaurants in the capital compete here to cater to them. The seventh, which some Parisians call "The Golden Triangle," is heaven for food-lovers!
Rue Cler is Paris's most elegant daily market and one of its most colorful. Stall after stall of mouth-watering displays appear every day but Monday: stacks of fat white asparagus and piles of teensy green beans; towers of shiny black mussels and delicate pink crayfish; 10 kinds of fruit tarts displayed like the treasures they are; pastries whose meringue swirls and bonnets of spun sugar are (almost) too perfect to eat. On Saturdays and Sundays, singers and musicians materialize and the everyday wonder-of-it-all ratchets up three notches more. Who would be surprised if Maurice Chevalier came singing and pirouette-ing out of the fishmonger's?
Nearly every shop along the street is worth a look. But don't miss the beautiful interior and staggering assortment of hams, carryout salads, cold-cuts, and patés at La Maison de Jambon (Davoli); A La Mère de la Famille (Le Lutin Gourmand) offers special old-fashioned candy treats for special modern kids; and Dorius now displays, in addition to its usual savory take-away roast chickens, an array of sushi made by the Japanese-only speaking chef behind the counter. Off rue Cler, Marie-Anne Cantin one of the best fromageries in Paris (and a supplier to the French President), proffers a gorgeous cheese assortment. If cholesterol levels as high as the Eiffel Tower are not a concern, the mille-feuille ("Napoleon" in the U.S.) at Patisserie Millet is confection perfection.
Move on to rue Nicot. (In 1560, a Monsieur Nicot introduced tobacco to the Royal Court of France and got to have both the toxic substance and this little street named after him.) You can't miss the bright pink facade of Jean-Luc Poujauran's former bakery. It has been taken over and expanded by Monsieur Secco but long lines still snake out the door. Jean-Luc now bakes next door exclusively for restaurants, but Secco's bagette is a worthy replacement. Bellota-Bellota is a rare chance to savor astounding (and shockingly expensive) ham that was only recently allowed out of Spain. Sidle up to the tapas bar and have the "cortador" cut you a couple of "pétales." The perfume lingers in the mouth as the thin shaving melts on the tongue; a taste so sensual it ought to be illegal. Most of the great Parisian chefs, including Joel Robuchon, have given this hole-in-the-wall's ham their highest praise. Speaking of Monsieur Robuchon, few French foodies even know that he has a Monday-through-Friday 10-minute TV cooking show starting at 11:35AM on France 3. Check it out while deciding whether your conscience permits a lunchtime stop at Caviar Petrossian, the best in Paris.
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