In the hipster Marais, you can choose if you want your freshly-ground coffee made with beans from Madagascar or Nicaragua. Here, cakes are designed rather than baked. In the mood for something savoury to go with your natural, organic wine? Just nip around the corner to the pistachio shop for a bag of handpicked nuts. No food trend is ignored, no niche unfilled. For example, when a pizza restaurant near our flat closed down, it was promptly replaced by a Japanese milk bread shop.
On Rue Rambuteau, standing strong amongst all the latest food fashions, is a traditional butcher shop. The narrow shopfront displays country patés in their pastry crusts, homemade duck rillettes, trussed-up quails and beautifully prepared brochettes. On the other side of the door, plump chickens roast slowly in a roasting cabinet, their juices dripping down onto a tray of sautéing potatoes, ready to dish up as the perfect take-away lunch.
The entranceway opens up to reveal a long glass-front counter displaying cuts of beef, pork, lamb, rabbit and chicken. A team of smiling butchers in red-striped aprons efficiently manage the queue of shoppers that snakes out the door. When it was my turn, I asked for something good to put on the barbeque. Almost before I could nod in agreement at the entrecote suggested, the butcher was slicing off a large piece (pour deux personnes) and asking where I was from. “I have some beautiful duck and fig paté for you to try, Madame,” called another. “Juste un petit peu pour l’aperitif?” This is what I love so much about shopping in France: the service so often comes with advice – how long to cook something, or what to serve it with – or a recommendation based on the personal favourites of the person serving you.
When you buy meat at the butcher in Paris, it should always be the star of the show. We sprinkled the entrecote generously with salt and pepper and placed it onto the searing hot barbeque for about three minutes on each side, before letting it rest for five. Peaches are in season right now and we thought they would go nicely with our steak. Quartered and stones removed, they went onto the barbeque too, for around ten minutes. After they had cooled, we tossed them in olive oil, a little salt and some basil leaves, and finished them off with a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Courgettes right now are sweet and tender. Grilled and bushed with a little olive oil and lemon, they rounded off our simple supper nicely.
The steak was tender and tasty. Testament to the quality of the meat is that we don’t have steak knives in our little piece of Paris and we didn’t miss them at all. The peaches added a sticky sweetness and the courgettes a fresh touch of green.
Like all fashions, food trends come and go, but sometimes you just can’t beat a simple steak supper. Shop at a reputable butcher and follow their recommendations. Whatever you do, don’t overcook it. Then sit back and savour with a glass or two of your favourite red.