Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wednesday May 26th: Promenades Gourmandes - A Foodie's Paradise

Today was the BIG day!  My Christmas gift from Mark was a unique culinary experience with Paule Caillat of Promenades Gourmandes.  The day is broken into four segments: the market tour, the cooking class, the cuisine, and the gourmet tour.

My class had eight foodie pupils from the US, Canada, and Brazil in it.  We were instructed to meet at Patisserie Stroher on Rue Montorgueil.  It was here that I was first introduced to my instructor Paule.  

From my journal:  I arrive to meet Paule and my classmates at the patisserie.  Paule is friendly and warm and welcomes me into the group immediately.  She takes us through the markets that line this beautiful and charming street.  She knew everyone in the bakery, fish market, cheese shop, and produce market we visited.  Oh, the produce!  The leeks were wonderful: green and plentiful.  The fennel smelled of licorice as I passed them on their shelf.  The asparagus, whether white or green, were fat and fresh. 

Here is a collage of photos from our market tour.

I could not have been more excited to get cooking.  We learned we would be making bechamel sauce, twice baked souffles, roasted pork, glazed pork roast, Moroccan style vegetable tajine, strawberry tart with almond cream featuring the Caillat family pastry crust, and a flourless chocolate cake.  That's a pretty astounding menu, right!

Paule gave us handouts that contained the recipes for each dish as well as helpful tips for reference to use when we want to recreate this delicious feast at home.  We learned that a good souffle must contain egg whites perfectly fluffed and lightly incorporated into the bechamel base so that the souffles remain light as air.  Paule taught us that a good pork roast must contain a decent amount of fat in order to keep the pork moist and flavorful.  Morocco and France are sisters in the culinary world and their use of herbs and spices marry well together, especially in vegetable dishes.  Finally, a pastry crust and flourless chocolate cake are NOT impossible to create on your own!  A little patience and, most importantly, the highest quality ingredients make it  something you can do all in your own kitchen!

Paule seasoning the pork

The pork is about to go into a low oven - take note of the scoring on the fat

The base of any good French jus we learned was onions and carrots

A perfectly risen souffle!

This was the best tarte I have ever tasted!  I am sooo happy to have a good pastry crust recipe!

As you can imagine, we were all very excited to taste these amazing creations.  Before we got started with the meal, we had a cheese tasting.  Holy cow!  Actually, in this case, I should also say holy sheep!  The cheese we sampled were both cow and sheep's milk cheeses.  Paule taught us that a cheese tasting should begin with the most mild sample and progress to the most pungent or flavorful cheese.  We had:

In the picture start with the grey goat cheese log and go clockwise:
  1. St. Maure de Tourine - a soft, mild goat cheese
  2. Crottin de Chavignol - a second goat cheese, a bit firmer than the first and also a bit more flavorful
  3. St. Felicien - my favorite one!  It is a very soft cow's milk cheese that is served with a spoon.
  4. Coulommiers - soft cow cheese like brie but much stronger than the brie we're used to
  5. Cantal - a sharp cow's milk cheese much like Parmesan
I loved the cheese tasting!

After a morning of hard work, we were all excited to enjoy each other's company.  The food was delicious, but the company was even better!

Mark joined us at 3:00 for the gourmet walking tour.  I am so glad that we decided he should come along for this part of the day.  Paule introduced us to the most wonderful shops that would have never found on our own!

Our first stop, Goumanyat et Son Royanne, was a spice shop that made its own spice blends.  It's here where I bought my first Paris souvenirs : fleur de sel, herbs de Provence, and Raz el Hanout du Roy (a fragrant blend of spices we used in out Moroccan veggies).

We also went to G. Detou, a gourmet grocery store that sold Valhrona chocolate in giant bags!!, and E. Dehillerin, a professional kitchen supply store.

Our last two stops were our favorites!!  The first was Legrand Filles et Fils.  This combination specialty foods shop/wine shop/wine bar was filled with rows of wines and jars of beautiful candies.  The walls were made of wine crates and the ceiling of corks.  We loved it here so much, we came back the next day for  a glass of wine!

And finally, Paule took us to Poilane.  You could tell from her excitement that this bakery was something very special!  Paule knew Lionel Poilane personally, and she had some wonderful anecdotes to share with us about what made Poilane bread such a high quality product.  With Paule we were able to go downstairs to meet one of the bakers and see the beautiful oven where these breads are made.  It was the highlight of our tour!
This day was as perfect as I could imagine!  I was sad to say goodbye to Paule, but I felt so lucky to have met her and learned from her.  It was truly a dream of a day!


  1. How fun! You were right by the apartment we stayed in when we were in Paris. We were right off Rue Montorgueil, at an apartment on Rue Mandar (it's a pedestrian cross street of the market street)

    Were you able to get any sweets from Stohrer? That's where we got our macarons from everyday.

    How fun! What a great way to learn! When we go to Paris in 2 years, I think we are going to do a culinary tour of sorts and possibly take a class like that! :)

    I'm so glad you got to experience it!

  2. What a fantastic experience! I'm really loving your France posts--I feel like I'm actually there.

  3. What an amazing experience. Did you feel a little bit like Julia Child at all?! My husband loves to cook so the next time we go back to Paris we may have to do this!

  4. What - what a dream come true of a day! This is probably going to go down in history as one of the best gifts, if not THE best gift, from Mark! What an amazing day.

    I love how there is usually a cheese course in every French meal. I really loved that when I was in France. :)

  5. Um, wow! So much amazingness! That's obviously not a word, but seemed like a good way to explain how I feel about this post! The cheese looked amazing. And the market tour? Wow, what a place. I wish I could grocery shop like that every week! Such a great experience - glad you had a great time and made some fabulous food as well!

  6. Oh my goodness this sounds like heaven! What a fabulous experience. Makes me hungry for some delicious eats!

  7. Ahhhhh, you're killing me! I would fly there for the cheese alone!

  8. Awesome!!!! I bet that cooking class was a blast! That is right up your alley girl!! Thanks for sharing your trip with us!! :)



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