Sampling Specialties in the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain
duration 2 hours
France’s culinary traditions have been the envy of the Earth for nigh on half a millennium. Because they live in the capital of the country, Parisians have ready access to food and wine from all around the Hexagon. And though the City of Lights is chock full of Michelin-starred restaurants, it also has a spectacular variety of simple fare on offer – from savory to sweet, from mild to wild – in bistros and sidewalk cafés. And your Expert Local Guide knows just where to go. On this 2-hour stroll through the Left Bank neighborhoods of the Latin Quarter – home to the Sorbonne and the center of student life – and Saint-Germain-des-Prés – featuring traditional brasseries and world-renowned literary cafés – you’ll lick and sip, nibble and slurp your way through one of the most vibrant areas of Paris.
“I have been in Paris for almost a week and I have not heard anyone say calories, or cholesterol or even arterial plaque,” writer Mary-Lou Weisman observed. “The French do not season their food with regret.” In France, the pleasures of the table are essential elements of a life worth living. Eating is an event, but it’s not just about extravagant experiences reserved for special occasions. Time, energy and attention are dedicated every day, for every meal. Even simple things rapidly prepared and quickly consumed are elevated to art.
Snacks and Scholars in the Latin Quarter
You will be led on a leisurely promenade by your Local Expert Guide on this gastronomic jaunt through two of the most captivating neighborhoods in Paris. As the center of student life in Paris, the lively Latin Quarter features a wide variety of tasty treats and interesting places to sample them. This is where, in the mid-13th century, the University of Paris was founded by theologian Robert de Sorbon. It grew rapidly to become one of the most important centers of higher learning in Europe, and the best young minds came from across the Continent to study under great masters of letters and law, such as Thomas Aquinas. With students from numerous countries speaking various tongues, Latin was not only the language of lecture and learning, it was also the lingua franca in the neighborhood’s streets and bars. Here today, you’ll sidle up alongside young scholars for sugary crêpes or savory buckwheat galettes stuffed with meat or cheese, traditionally washed down with a glass of cold, sparkling cider.
Croque Monsieur: The Perfect Casse-Croûte
More than a century ago, a Parisian bistro came up with a quick lunchtime bite for working people on the run, and thus the Croque Monsieur was born. A simple slice of toasted bread covered with smoky ham and melted cheese and slathered in creamy Béchamel, the Croque Monsieur is served these days as the perfect case-croûte, or between-meal snack. Its vegetarian alternative, the Croque Madame, replaces the ham with a poached or gently fried egg. Have a glass of cool, light-bodied wine, red or white, as the ideal accompaniment.
A Light Bite in Saint-Germain Style: Saucissons et Fromage
In the years following the Second World War, this traditionally working-class neighborhood – in close proximity to the university and to several publishing houses – played host to non-conformist musicians, experimental artists and existential thinkers. French New Wave filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut gathered in groups, and writers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir held court, in now-legendary locations like Les Deux Magots, Café de Flore and the Brasserie Lipp. The exchange of ideas was often accompanied by light fare, especially charcuterie, cheese and wine.
Traditionally part of a larger meal, the salami and cheese plate is increasingly taken alone as an early evening nosh. Virtually every region of France features its own variations on full-flavored saucissons, with cheeses to match. Pâtés are typically served with pickled pearl onions and cornichons, and, of course, plenty of fresh baguette, to be perfectly paired with a glass of ruby red Saint-Émilion or a playful Brouilly, depending on your mood. A sweet Sauternes is an exceptionally palatable partner for foie gras.
The Patisseries of Saint-Germain-des-Prés
Paris is known the world over for its delectable pastry delights, and the Saint-Germain quarter is the perfect place to learn precisely why. The area features any number of venues – venerable and nouveaux, refined and relaxed – for sampling the serendipitous selections on display in pastry shop windows. You’ll find the best of French traditional confections, from buttery croissants and chaussons aux pommes (apple turnovers) to éclairs au chocolat and mille feuilles (Napoleons), to tasty tarts and tortes and delightful little petits-fours. Have a piping hot espresso for the ideal blend of bitter and sweet. And we can’t forget those Parisian pillows from paradise, macarons. Gently baked puffs of chewy meringue, filled with raspberry jam or lemon, coffee, chocolate or pistachio cream, or even more exotic elements like mango or lavender, these delightful delicacies will send you into seventh heaven. Sit back with a flute of effervescent champagne to finish off this pleasant pastry pause.
Your friendly neighborhood Expert Guide leads you down the broad boulevards and picturesque back streets of the vibrant Latin Quarter and elegant Saint-Germain-Des-Prés, regaling you with stories and anecdotes of the poets and painters, the dreamers and philosophers, who have ambled these very avenues for centuries. And while you see and hear, you taste and smell the best of what this quaint corner of Paris has to offer!