La Grande Epicerie is a high-end, fine grocer in Paris’ 7th arrondissement that many describe as a “Disneyland for foodies”. It was high on my list to see as there really isn’t anything quite like it where I live. Anything one could possibly want from any culinary region of the world is available within its aisles from black truffles direct from Italy to Ethiopian passion berries (I bought both). There was even an American section that had overpriced Reese peanut butter cups and Hershey syrup, which offered great perspective on the food habits of North America compared to Europe. I never imagined I would take such delight in cooking after years of eating based just on convenience but now that my tastebuds have been awakened, I treat it less as a chore and more of an art form. The kitchen is now my canvas. La Grande Epicerie was the perfect place to evolve my palette further. My wallet and I came prepared.
At first I thought I would pace myself and wander before filling my handcart but after being met with the chocolate section, located right near the front entrance of course, that stance quickly went by the wayside. I must have spent at least twenty minutes studying all of the different types and their premium packaging. This wasn’t 7-11. Most of the bars on display here have won international awards for their taste and production, including the varieties I bought:
• Bonnat Chocolatier Madagascar 100% Criollo: made with the rarest cocoa bean in the world, this bar was the silkiest I’ve ever eaten. Absolutely exceptional.
• Dolfin Chocolate bars in lemon ginger, bitter orange and masala chai. Very flavourful.
• Mademoiselle de’Margaux boxes in earl grey, raspberry and pear.
Indulging my sweet tooth was just the start though; the spice aisle is where my imagination really went wild! I bought several unique flavours of salt, including a pungent viking salt from Norway and a French espelette pepper salt that I now sprinkle on nearly everything, as well as spice blends from around the world, vanilla beans from Madagascar and Saint Lucia, black rice, smoked rice and even a pink rice coloured with beet juice that can traditionally be found at Indian wedding celebrations.
Besides all the ingredients I was set to haul home in a very, very packed suitcase, I also picked up a takeaway lunch from La Grande Epicerie’s in-house boulangerie. A simple sandwich with three visible components—roasted cajun chicken breast, guacamole and a fresh French baguette—I was so enraptured as I ate it that I completely zoned out of a conversation with my friend to focus on the flavour notes and mouth feel. It was easily one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve since tried to replicate it at home but haven’t been successful (giving me reason to return again one day).
When I returned to Canada, the first meal I made with purchases from La Grande Epicerie was a lemon rosemary garlic chicken with a side of herbed vegetables and black rice, served with an après dîner drink of absinthe. It was great to bring a bit of France home to share with my loved ones.
My friend and I also visited the Palace of Versailles. This was my third visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and while it forever remains preserved in time, it is always fascinating to experience it again (especially the gardens, which is one of my favourite places in the world).
Continuing my culinary adventures, I also purchased more spices here as well as tea made on the grounds that is the same recipe Marie Antoinette favoured during her reign (black tea with apple and fragrant rose petals).