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The day after my birthday I had the most amazing food tour with a long-time favorite blogger — Clotilde Dusoulier from Chocolate & Zucchini.  I am a fan of Clotilde’s style of cooking and her storytelling, and when I found out she does these two-hour food tours around Paris, I had to schedule one during our vacation.

Our tour took place in Montmartre, we met at a Metro stop and began walking around, stopping at various bakeries and food shops, and ending with a cheese course that was out of this world.

Our tour started at Le Grenier à Pain, a bakery that won the top prize for best baguette in Paris in 2010. This means, aside from the title and prestige, that they get to provide the bread for the Elysee, the home of the French President.

Clotilde showed us what to look for in a good quality baguette compared to a more industrially made one. As with many things, imperfection or unevenness is a sign of a hand-made bread. Also the bottom of the baguette can show you whether it was machine or hand-made. Ours was delicious, of course.

Next we stopped at one of the locations of a celebrity baker’s chain. Gontran Cherrier makes an amazing croissant, and that is saying something in Paris. We also tried a roll made with squid ink — perfect to accompany a seafood meal — and I purchased some brioche for the next day’s breakfast. So good. You can see the croissant and the squid ink roll on the tray between Steve and Clotilde, and my brioche were in the bag.

Our next, delicious “lesson” was at another bakery where we sampled a rustic plum tart. Let me just say that I have tried making plum tarts since we have a plum tree in our yard and my creations did not come close to the crumbly, sweet and tart loveliness that was this one from Les Petits Mitrons.

We stopped at a fancy foods store, where you might get a gift for your Parisian hostess if you were invited for dinner. So many pretty and delicious things! I am a soup fiend and wanted one of each of these bottled soups:

Last but not least was the cheese shop, La Fromagerie Lepic. Cheese is a huge deal in France. Like Champagne, which can only call itself Champagne if it is made in the region of Champagne (otherwise it’s called sparkling wine here in the US), French cheeses can only be given their regional name if made in the specific region by a specific method. We sampled a cheese course’s worth of cheeses, from mild to strong, as you would present at the table.

Because I was too busy stuffing my face with baguette and cheese, I only took pictures of four of the five cheeses we tried, but Clotilde kindly sent me the list of what we sampled:
– Banon (the goat cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves)
– Moelleux du Mont Revard (creamy mountain cheese with small holes)
– Morbier (with a layer of ash in the middle)
– Comté (mountain cheese)
– Roquefort (blue sheep’s milk)

The one picture I missed is the one of the Comté, but in the collage you can see the other four in order of listing, clockwise starting from bottom left. My favorites were the Banon and the Comté, but they were all really good. Clotilde brought a knife and plates and we sat on a bench to enjoy our cheese course.

Clotilde kept up a running commentary on what we were purchasing, along with various tidbits on the shops and traditions in Parisian food life. Like her blog and books, her way of speaking is full of knowledge but approachable. There is no condescension here, you feel like you are walking around with a long-time friend. I would highly recommend taking one of her tours if you are planning on visiting Paris.