In Review: The Paris Tasting Passport by Le Food Trip

  • 01 of 07

    An Unintimidating Way to Experience Gourmet Paris

    Christelle at Le Petit Duc artisan sweet shop in Paris, offering a special nut brittle as part of the Paris Tasting Passport Tour.
    ••• Christelle at Le Petit Duc artisan sweet shop in Paris, offering a special nut brittle as part of the Paris Tasting Passport Tour. Courtney Traub

    Everyone knows that Paris has an enviable gourmet food culture, drawing from hundreds of years of tradition. It's all so beautiful and tempting. Who wouldn't want to sample local staples such as perfectly buttery croissants, delicate cakes and biscuits even more delicious than they are gorgeous, creative artisanal jams, fragrant olive oils from Provence, melt-in-your-mouth ham and foie gras, or wines that'll make you think you've just discovered the stuff for the first time?

    Few people would pass up the opportunity. But the truth is, the local food scene can also be genuinely intimidating.

    Read related feature: Paris Boulangeries 101 (How to Order Bread and Pastries Like a Pro)

    Curious visitors are all too often looking for a way to sample French gourmet traditions and gastronomic specialties, but can find the prospect of walking into local food shops and bakeries a little daunting-- especially when they fall off of familiar tourist routes. 

    Some of the best gourmet shops...MORE in Paris are either gems that few visitors know how to find, or are so artisanal and specialized that tourists may find the prospect of strolling inside a little nerve-wracking, especially when their French is limited or non-existent. 

    Enter the Paris Tasting Passport from local tour company Le Food Trip: a new concept designed to help newcomers to the French capital encounter local products and the artisans who make them in a totally friendly, accessible way.

    The brainchild of school friends Martin Herbelin, Pierre Laurent and Adrien de Dumast, the Tasting Passport allows you to sample 12 French gourmet specialties-- from butter croissants to jam, foie gras, Breton biscuits, and Provencal olive oil-- in three areas of the capital especially reputed for their gourmet shops and chops. 

    Testing the Concept, and Details on What The "Passport" Includes

    I recently tested out the concept myself over two days, and especially appreciated the self-guided nature of the Passport. Unlike many guided food tours which pin you down to specific times and routes, the Tasting Passport allows you to go at your own pace. This is a boon for travelers who, like me, don't especially like guided tours and the constraints they impose. 

    "We eventually settled on the idea of creating a pass that would allow visitors to trace their own gastronomic paths (in the city), whenever they wished", co-founder Martin told me, explaining that this made the concept more appealing especially to his French clientele who prefer more autonomy.  

    At the same time, what's nice about the Passport is that it steers you in the right direction, allowing you to explore places you most likely wouldn't have known to look for. This isn't a food tour that has an exclusive or hipsterish halo about it: refreshingly enough, it's instead designed to be accessible and welcoming to all. 

    • TOUR PROS: Accessible, friendly, autonomous, flexible, includes only high-quality products from artisan producers
    • TOUR CONS: Not currently veggie-friendly or suitable for gluten-free diets; probably not feasible to hit all 12 stops on the tour if you've only got 1 or 2 days 

    The "Passport" (see more here at the official website and reserve online) includes area maps and info on each shop, the friendly owners and artisans you'll likely meet (all English-speaking), and details on the products you'll be tasting, as well as  a booklet of vouchers for the 12 products. Showing your vouchers to shopkeepers will entitle you to delicious treats, and hopefully some stimulating conversations as well! Meanwhile, smartphone users can download an app that shows you the 3 gourmet routes and provides all the information and tour perks in digital form. 

    While at the moment only one version of the Passport is available, Martin says he and his partners are currently looking to roll out other passes for visitors with special dietary needs or interests. "We're currently thinking about creating Vegetarian, gluten-free, Asian-themed, World gastronomy, and chocolate-themed Passports", he confirms. 

    Click through to learn more about the Tasting Passport and see pictures of some of the shops, friendly artisans and delicious creations I encountered on this tour. 

    As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.

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  • 02 of 07

    First Stop: Discovering the Concept, and Wine-Tasting at Les Petits Domaines

    Isabelle of Les Petits Domaines initiates us to two varieties of biodynamic French wine
    ••• Isabelle of Les Petits Domaines initiates us to two varieties of biodynamic French wine. Courtney Traub

    My test-tour began on a sunny weekday afternoon in the 7th arrondissement (district) near the Invalides, one of the three areas highlighted in the concept. Martin and the rest of the team at Le Food Trip invited me and About Paris Travel Contributor Colette Davidson to come discover three shops in the 7th featured in the Passport, along with several talented Paris bloggers and writers-- Lillian of The Smalls Abroad, Yanique of My Parisian Life, and Ariana from Girls Guide to Paris. Also there for an afternoon of gourmet tasting were Benjamin and Nina, the founders of another local startup, INSIDR Paris.

    Interestingly enough, a TV camera crew from a French station was on the scene to make a documentary on new tourist ventures in the capital--  making the experience slightly awkward at times since we were all in front of the cameras and interviewed. But it also added some unexpected excitement. 

    First Stop: Wine-Tasting at Les Petits Domaines

    First up on our gastronomic tour of the area was...MORE Les Petits Domaines, a wine shop specializing in French wines and champagnes-- the vast majority of which are organic or biodynamic.

    Read related feature: Paris for Wine Lovers (Tasting, Touring & Learning)

    The friendly owner Isabelle (pictured above) invited us to taste two wines, one white and one red, from Chateau Plaisance, a vintner based in the southwest. The white was surprisingly smooth and fruity, but had an intensely fresh and herbal note that seemed perfect for a warm summer's day. The red seemed less remarkable to me, but had a pleasant, round body to it and didn't "bite back". 

    Isabelle told me that in addition to her (obvious) passion for unique wines, she prides herself on getting shy tourists to come into the shop.

    "Once there was a Swedish couple who came in and said they were interested in tasting, but didn't have any glasses, so I gave them some plastic ones", she said. "Later they came back and said they had had a wonderful picnic, and thanked me. That's the sort of experience I want to create."

    Les Petits Domaines

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  • 03 of 07

    Second Stop: Foie Gras and Charcuterie at La Maison Dubernet

    Foie gras and charcuteries at La Maison Dubernet
    ••• Foie gras and charcuteries at La Maison Dubernet. Courtney Traub

    Next up in the tour, and just down the street on Rue Augereau, was La Maison Dubernet, specialized in French foie gras (goose liver paté) and charcuteries. 

    I'm admittedly not a habitual meat eater, but as a "flexitarian" I decided to adopt a "when in Rome" attitude, and sampled the foie gras and cured ham from the Landes region, offered by the warm, teasing staff member Muriel. "Eat everything up, or I'll eat it all myself tonight!", she joked, bringing around platters of artisan specialties from the southwest. So far, this was turning out to be a tour that genuinely highlighted this particular region of France.

    For carnivores seeking only high-quality products, this seems to be the place to find it: La Maison Dubernet is one of the only independent foie gras makers in Paris. 

    Address: 2 rue Augereau, 7th arrondissement

    Metro: Ecole Militaire

    Visit the official website

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  • 04 of 07

    Third Stop: Sweet Provencal "Calissons" at Le Petit Duc

    A platter of pistachio and ginger-flavored calissons at Le Petit Duc in Paris
    ••• A platter of pistachio and ginger-flavored calissons at Le Petit Duc in Paris. Courtney Traub

    The third, and last leg of my first day testing out the tour brought us to an adorable, old-fashioned confiserie (candy shop) and baked-goods shop called Le Petit Duc. Originally based in Saint-Remy in Provence, the shop, headed by pastry chef Hermann and his wife Anne, recently opened locations in Paris. 

    The affable and smiling Christelle brought around platters of calissons (pictured above) for us to try-- a little-known but coveted provencal sweet somewhere between marzipan and candy. Made with ground almonds, candied melons and oranges, the sunny treats come from Aix-en-Provence and are cut into squares resembling licorice all-sorts that melt in your mouth. My favorites? Tangy ginger and fragrant pistachio, complemented by the melon and citrus notes. 

    This was probably my favorite stop so far: the walls were packed with delicately packaged old-fashioned macarons, nougats, biscuits, candied flowers (!) and other Provencal specialties, in addition to the famous calissons. Christelle...MORE also offered us samples of a delicious, crispy nut brittle whose name I (neglectfully) forgot to write down. 

    Le Petit Duc 

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  • 05 of 07

    Fourth Stop: Olive-Oil Tasting in Montmartre at Premiere Pression Provence

    Varieties of French olive oils at Premiere Pression Provence in Paris
    ••• Varieties of French olive oils at Premiere Pression Provence in Paris. Courtney Traub

    My day sampling the Passport with fellow writers and Le Food Trip owners in tow had come to a close, but I really wanted to test out the pass under "real" conditions: without the presence of TV cameras, and going at my own pace, which is one of the real draw cards of the concept.

    Destination: Montmartre

    A few days later, I head to the northeast district of Montmartre, famous for its Sacre Coeur and crowded tourist-trinket shops, but also home to some of the best artisan products in the city. 

    My first stop was the Rue des Martyrs, a street that should probably take credit as one of the most gourmet in the French capital, lined as it is with specialty food shops, cheese-makers, wine sellers, etc. While it's not *technically* in the Montmartre neighborhood, running south of the traditional dividing line at Boulevard de Rochechouart, it's a worthy detour when you're visiting the area. 

    I ducked into  Première Pression Provence, where I presented my "olive oil"...MORE voucher from the booklet and was warmly greeted (in English) by Geraldine. She showed me around the bright, cheery premises, stocked not only with a dizzying array of olive oils (both plain and flavored), but also wines and other specialty products.

    Boasting six locations in Paris, this is an olive-oil distributor who works only with small producers, mostly in the south of France, and it's quickly become one of the most coveted in the city. The best thing about the shop is that you're given little plastic spoons and can taste different oils, from sharply herbal and fresh, almost grassy early-harvest varieties to the buttery, rich "black" oils made with fermented olives. I ended up buying a bottle of oil that represents the mid-range between the two, and that has turned out to be sublime drizzled on salads and fresh pasta. 

    Première Pression Provence

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  • 06 of 07

    Fifth Stop: Artisan Jam-Tasting at La Chambre aux Confitures

    A dizzying array of artisan jams at La chambre aux confitures in Paris
    ••• A dizzying array of artisan jams at La chambre aux confitures in Paris. Courtney Traub

    After tasting olive oils to my heart's content, I headed next door (also at #9 rue des Martyrs) to La Chambre aux Confitures, an artisan jams shop.

    Opened by Lise Bienaimé, who conceived the collection, the tiny shop immediately impressed me with its dozens of varieties of jam lining the walls from floor to ceiling, in shades from pale apricot to rose to deep purple and even lime green. 

    Lise was not at the shop that day, but the warm Sophie lined up something like 30 different varieties for me to taste using disposable plastic spoons, thrown away between each tasting, bien sur

    Classics like fraise gariguette  (gariguette strawberry) and blackberry were deliciously fresh and full of intense flavors-- and for those with a desire for a kick, try varieties like strawberry with rose. My personal favorites included rhubarb and ginger, green tomato, and apricot-orange blossom. For those with a major sweet tooth, chocolatey varieties and even an apricot jam with the aforementioned calissons...MORE mixed in can make special treats. 

    After tasting more jam in one sitting than I probably ever have, I went away with a small complementary jar of the blackberry jam. This is definitely a good place to stock up on gifts. 

    La Chambre aux Confitures

    • Address: 9 rue des Martyrs, 9th arrondissement
    • Metro: Notre Dame de Lorette
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  • 07 of 07

    Last Stop: Specialties from Brittany at Ty Miam Goz

    Owner Olivier poses in his shop at Ty Miam Goz, specialized in products from Brittany.
    ••• Owner Olivier poses in his shop at Ty Miam Goz, specialized in products from Brittany. Courtney Traub

    My final stop on the Montmartre leg of my tour (sadly, I didn't have time that day to sample the croissant and comté cheese also on offer in the Passport) led me back up the hill to Montmartre proper and to Ty Miam Goz, the only food shop in Paris dedicated to specialties from the Brittany region of France. 

    Read related feature: Best Crepes and Creperies in Paris

    Olivier Goasdoué, a Breton native who founded the store, explained that when he moved to Paris he was surprised by the near-absence of shops selling products from his region in the city.

    "I wanted to open a shop where Bretons could come find their favorite foods when they were homesick, and also allow tourists to discover more about the region", he told me, smiling away. 

    The store is well-stocked with everything from buttery traditional biscuits called palets and galettes (I left with generous samples of both), beer and wine, savory and sweet goods. This is an ideal place to learn more about Brittany and its...MORE distinctive cuisine, and Olivier is both warm and welcoming. A real gem. 

    Ty Miam Goz