DIY Picnic Lunch in Beautiful Paris

What does your ideal day in Paris look like? Some might talk about shopping along the Champs-Elysees, or a visit to Disneyland, or spending the day absorbed by history, art and architecture in the Louvre. While I enjoy all of those things, I think the best day that K and I spent in Paris was one where we didn’t have much planned at all, and just took some time enjoying some fantastic culinary treats by creating a DIY picnic lunch.

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We started off by getting off the Paris Metro at the stop Saint-Placide. As soon as we exited the station, we saw two fantastic little shops in front of us – one of them was a boucherie charcuterie called Maison Verot, by Gilles Verot. We were drawn in by the glossy terrines in the front window, and further captivated by the blocks of pate and rows of cured meats in the shop. We had to buy something for lunch, and their offerings seemed as good as any – so $20 Euro later, we walked away with a hefty chunk of Pate de Campagne and Confit Provencal.  We didn’t eat it all for lunch though, saving the $13 Euro worth of Confit for dinners and lunches later in the week!

Maison Verot is located at 3 Rue Notre-Dame des Champs, Paris.

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Right next door to Maison Verot was the third best patisserie in France and Paris…as demonstrated by the signage out the front! While the pastries and tarts at Boulangerie Thevenin were very tempting, I had other plans for our dessert and so we just stopped in to buy a fresh warm-from-the-oven Ancienne Baguette for only about $1.50 Euro.

Boulangerie Thevenin is located at 5 Rue Notre-Dame des Champs, Paris.

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As a big fan of matcha and green tea in all its forms, I’d long had it on my list to visit Sadaharu Aoki while we were in Paris, and so we walked ten minutes up the street from Saint-Placide station to their store. They’ve made a name for themselves as specialists in matcha desserts and chocolates, and I found it difficult to choose just the one treat to try! At approximately $5 Euro per individual dessert (cheaper for some pastries, and up to $50 Euro for some boxes of chocolates), we bought just a few treats for our lunch – photos later!

Sadaharu Aoki is located at 35 Rue de Vaugirard, Paris.

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Ten minutes walk away from Sadaharu Aoki is the beautiful Jardin de Luxembourg. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon when we arrived, and many local Parisian families were out in force enjoying the sunshine from the hundreds of deck chairs that are located around the pond in front of the Luxembourg palace. Young kids had their sailboats out on the water, and the whole scene was one of laughter and happiness. It was here that we found some space to sit down and assemble our picnic lunch.

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First we unwrapped the thick slice of Pate de Campagne that we had purchased from Maison Verot. You could smell the meatiness and spices of the pate as soon as we unwrapped the greaseproof paper, and it was difficult to resist simply biting into the slice of pate by itself!

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The wonderful thing about baguettes (particularly the harder/crunchier ancienne-style baguettes) is that they actually taste better when you rip into them with your bare hands, rather than going through the rigmarole of cutting slices of it with a bread knife. That makes it all the better for constructing a DIY picnic lunch. So, we tore the baguette into two pieces for the both of us, gingerly tore up the pate into pieces, and constructed our own Pate de Campagne Sandwiches. The crunchy and sour baguette really helped to enhance the softer meatier pate (especially as we’d bought such a thick slice!), and I scoffed down every last piece of my sandwich with delight.

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After virtually inhaling my pate sandwich in less than five minutes, I took some time to allow my stomach to rest before turning my mind to dessert and the treats we’d bought at Sadaharu Aoki. The first, a matcha almond croissant. The matcha baked into the croissant was very subtle, and it was really only the powder sprinkled on top that gave it a stronger tea kick. This probably makes it more palatable for most people as the sweeter almond dominates the croissant, but I would have personally preferred a stronger matcha flavour throughout the pastry.

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Two more desserts from Sadaharu Aoki, shared between K and I. He’s a big fan of yuzu and so chose the lemon yuzu tart, and I chose a matcha and dark chocolate layered cake called the ‘bamboo cake’. The yuzu tart had just the right amount of alcoholic booziness, with a crumbly sweet shortcrust pastry that helped to sweeten the tartness of the citrus. I was a big fan of the bamboo cake as well, with just the right amount of subtle strong matcha and sweetness in the dark chocolate.

After a short break in the Jardin de Luxembourg, K and I walked on to Notre Dame Cathedral. With a long line of people waiting to get into the cathedral, we decided to skip touring the interior and walked on to the Marais district of Paris. It’s a busy district full of shops, and many Parisians were out that day doing their weekly shopping, having a coffee at the café, or simply window-shopping in one of the many boutiques.

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We joined them, wandering the streets for a few hours and ducking into shops to browse through some interesting items by local designers. I felt the need for a treat before long though, and we happened across L’Eclair de Genie by Christophe Adam, a little patisserie specialising in eclairs and chocolate truffles.

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While I was sorely tempted by some of the chocolates on display, and many of the other take-home items as well (who doesn’t need yet another jar of chocolate spread for brioche?), I knew that we had already over-indulged in sweets that morning at Sadaharu Aoki…so I restricted myself to just the one eclair.

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I chose the fig éclair – available only when figs are in season. K chose a hazelnut/praline éclair, very fancy with its thin sheets of chocolate and meringues on top. I have to say that of the two, I preferred mine as a lighter and fresher éclair as K’s éclair left a heavier creamier aftertaste on the palate. Unfortunately, they weren’t quite up to the standards of the Pierre Marcolini eclairs that we had in Brussels!

L’éclair de Genie by Christophe Adam is located at 14 rue Pavée, Paris.

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Of course, we didn’t eat our eclairs like common plebeians on the side of the street. Paris is full of beautiful old buildings, reinvented as public spaces. There are hundreds of little landscaped courtyards around the city which are open to the public for them to stroll in, take a seat, and enjoy a picnic treat. We had our eclairs at the Musee des Archives Nationales, but there were many other places around the Le Marais neighbourhood that we could have visited.

And there you have it – my idea of a perfect day in Paris. It’s all about indulging in some house-made specialities in a range of boucheries, boulangeries and patisseries, and enjoying the fruits of your shopping in one of Paris’s many beautiful public spaces.

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