There are so many things one “should” do in Paris: go to the Lourve, stroll the Seine, go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. All of them are wonderful things, but I did most of those “should’s” on our last trip to Paris. When picking things for this trip, I just asked myself, “what do I WANT to do?” One of my favorite things to do is find good local food markets, so this ended up being a top priority. I researched a number of food markets and Marche d’Aligre stood out. David Lebovitz described Marche d’Aligre as “especially bustling” and reflecting a rich cultural mix compared to other markets in the city. The Atlantic published a piece titled “Antidote to Stuffy Paris: The Last Great Daily Market.” So, naturally Marche d’Aligre topped my list of things that I truly wanted to see.
We spent most of Thursday walking around Paris. We started in Montmartre and headed to Canal Saint Martin, a neighborhood I had heard interesting things about. We wandered along the canal, poking through some of the stores in the area. Canal Saint Martin is quite an artsy and hip neighborhood, I’d compare it to Mississippi or Alberta streets in Portland, though maybe a bit more edgy and a bit less polished. The neighborhood is covered in funky graffiti, street art and hip cafes abound. The banks of the canals are where the Parisian youths gather for food and a bottle of wine (you know you’re old when you start referring to young people as “youths”).
We continued on towards Marche d’Aligre, though when we finally arrived at the market structure it was totally dead and the gate was locked. It turns out the market opens in the morning at 7am and then closes mid-day, then opens again at 4pm. We sat in a nearby park to kill time before the market opened again. Once the market did finally open, it was almost nothing like I expected based on the Atlantic and Lebovitz articles I’d read. I expected a sprawling complex of bustling stalls and a flea market component. When we arrived there were no wares being sold besides food (and flowers), and about half of the stalls within the market structure were closed. I concluded that to truly get the “bustling market experience” I think it is best to come first thing in the morning, or possibly on the weekend.
Despite the lackadaisical feel of the place, we still enjoyed surveying the offerings. There were stalls offering cheeses, meats, flowers, and different desserts. Earlier in the day Daniel had offered to make me dinner at our Airbnb rental. Admittedly, I didn’t jump on the idea because I wasn’t sure I wanted to miss out on an opportunity to dine of one of the multitudes of delicious street-side restaurants. But, Daniel convinced me that we should pick up ingredients from the market and cook them up into something tasty at home. After surveying the fresh pasta choices, I was convinced.
It turns out Daniel’s French is actually quite functional. He was able to talk a bit with the market purveyors and pick out thin sliced jambon, fresh tagliolini pasta, tomatoes, and some shredded cheese (which we thought was parmesan but may have been mizithra), and a slice of chocolate torte. On the walk home from the market we also picked up a fresh baguette, a pistachio meringue (needed sustenance for the walk), and two beers.
Back at home Daniel whipped up an absolutely spectacular meal with our market ingredients. The meal was simple, but oh-so flavorful. The French culinary axiom seems to be: use good ingredients, not too much or to many of them, and the meal will be spectacular. Daniel followed this with delicious results.