Earlier this year with my mother, Dan’s mother, sister, and aunt, and our friend Pryor (frequently on this blog) and her mother went to Paris over Valentine’s Day. On this lovely Girls’ Trip, we took a food tour through Montmartre on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon – I’m talking sunny and 60 degrees! It was pretty great and a fun walk to explore a usually too touristy part of Paris!
For those unfamiliar with Montmartre, Montmartre is well-known as an old artist and student neighborhood on a hill in the North of Paris. Its also home to the famous Moulin Rouge, a few historic windmills (i.e. “les moulins”), and the only vineyard remaining in Paris. In the recent past, Montmartre has also held a seedy reputation to be avoided by tourists at night, being known as Paris’ “Red Light District.” This was the case when I studied aboard in Paris in college. In any case, Montmartre has certainly reinvented itself in the last decade, and Montmartre is now a bustling neighborhood with lots of people (local and tourists), shops, and cafes. Very different from what I remembered!
Our tour started around 11 AM at the Abbesses Metro station, which, as I mentioned, was not the nicest area at all when I studied in Paris. I was completely shocked to see how the area has turned around. Our trusty food tour guide, PJ, arrived right on time and our tour started with a laugh – PJ is very funny and immediately engaged everyone in the tour! PJ, a longtime resident of Montmartre, gave us a quick history lesson about Montmartre to start the tour!
The food portion of the tour kicked off with a stop at the most amazing boulangerie that I never would have stopped in on my own – Boulangerie Coquelicot. And, I’m not sure why I wouldn’t have stopped in, because it was crazy packed with locals. PJ gave us some history on the business and we got a quick peak at the bread making, which was in full force this Sunday morning! PJ purchased some bread to go, while all of us took a sample of a small bread treat! Mine contained raisins, other had chocolate or apricots.
We next moved just down the street to the cutest fromagerie, or cheese shop in English, La Butte Fromagere, with so, so many types of French cheese! PJ schooled us (seriously) on the various types of French cheese and we tasted a bit of French cheese! We also learned the secrets of French eggs, and they are seriously way better than the ones that we have in the US… PJ purchased some more cheese for us to eat later.
The next stop on the tour was at a boucherie, or butcher shop, Boucherie des Abbesses. We did not eat anything at this particular stop, but PJ educated us on the many types of French meats, how they are purchased (sometimes with the head and feet!), and various cuts that are popular in France. PJ also picked up some meats for later!
We moved on and walked up a small hill (I mean, it was Montmartre) to PJ’s own restaurant/shop. Everyone sat around a small table and PJ poured glasses of white wine – a Loire Valley Sauvignon from Domaine Charbonnier – to start our proper food and wine tasting. If you had not gathered, unlike some other food tours, this tour took us shopping for bread, meat, and cheese, and then we tried everything at a little picnic in PJ’s shop. This was not totally different from the other Paris food tour that I took in 2016 (in the Marais) with Paris By Mouth.
We first tried a truffle cheese served with 3 types of French bread, everything picked up earlier in the day! The truffle cheese was 100%. No question. We also tried a hard French cheese (I cannot recall the name). Both were very good, but not nearly as good as the truffle cheese!
We next moved on to our finds at Boucherie des Abbesses and a glass of light red wine – a 2016 Pinot Noir from Maison Roche de Bellene in Bourgogne (Burgundy). First up, a salami type of meat and a summer sausage style meat. Both were very good; I preferred the summer sausage meat, but I was probably the only one! And I will also note, that if you are thinking this is a lot of food – it is! Anything that you could not finish or did not want to try, PJ was very cool about it and not judgmental at all.
Our tasting took a bit of a wild turn at this point – an andouille sausage that contained brain and headcheese. I’ve had both before, so it was not that strange for me, but it was kind of a shock for most of the tour. As mentioned, PJ was really nice and did not pressure anyone into trying it, but I think most people took at least a bite. Actually, the youngest member of our tour (I think 13?) ate the entire piece of head cheese in one bit! Needless to say, the first two meats were the fan favorites! PJ poured everyone another large glass of red wine around this time to ease the pain! This wine was a big red from Bordeaux – a 2014 Chateau du Payre!
We were next served some of my favorite Parisian treats – duck rillettes and pork pate! Both are spreadable meat dishes (I love spreadable meat!) that paired very well with the fresh French bread. I think most of the tour liked these dishes; they are not too crazy if you can get over their different “look.” We also ended the meal with an aged Comte cheese! After this dish, everyone got read to move on to the dessert portion of the trip, but not before making a trip to see PJ’s mother-in-law a/k/a the wild boar head on his wall.
The first dessert stop (yes, FIRST dessert stop), was a short walk away at a really cute store called Les Coupettes for choquettes, a quintessential Parisian dessert. Choquettes are small pastries with sugar crystals on the top that are, at times, stuffed with whipped cream. This is also the name of Karl Lagerfield’s (RIP) famous cat. The chouquettes were excellent and had just come out of the oven. And, we saw Owen Wilson and his mom here, which kind of overshadowed the couquettes… HOW EXCITING!!
Our next stop was less exciting but just as delicious, macarons and chocolates at Chocolat Illèné. Everyone go to pick two macarons and two chocolates to take away (since we were so full!). Chocolat Illèné offers some really interesting flavors and the display is very pretty. I went with Cassis and Rose Raspberry macarons and milk and caramel sea salt chocolates!
While everyone was totally full, we still had one stop left – crepes and champagne!! Our final stop was at La Crêperie. Each person got their choice of sweet crepe, and there were a lot of options! I went with the classic Nutella, and it was nothing short of amazing! We enjoyed our crepes with a glass of Burt Champagne from Vignoble Brisebarre. Our tour ended in a busy square a few minutes walk from where we started. Since it was a Sunday afternoon, everyone was out and about enjoying the weekend!
The entire tour was fantastic, but what really made this tour was our guide, PJ! PJ was fantastic and took an interest in each of the tour participants. He is also from the area, knew so many people that we passed no the street, and is incredibly knowledgable about French food and food culture. I would not hesitate to take this tour again and recommend it to any foodies traveling to Paris.
If you do this tour, I would note that our tour last much longer than the 3 hours expected (about 5 hours total) and it ended very close to where we started (maybe 3 blocks away). Looking back, I would probably allot an hour or two to explore Montmartre after the tour. I leave you with a couple pictures of Montmartre from our afternoon!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Secret Food Tours Paris: Offering multiple food tours of Paris, we did the Montmartre tour at 89 euros/person, which included all food and drink mentioned in this blog post. Book online in advance, as tour participants are capped and these tours sell out. Note that there is also a drink addition, that permits guests a few extra adult beverages. We did not to this option. Wear walking shoes, bring a bottle of water, and do not eat much before the tour! There’s often a 10% coupon on the website.
I typically link all of the places that we stop on food tours that I take. However, many of these stops did not have helpful websites, or any at all. And, I think this tour would be next to impossible to recreate on your own. If you are a foodie and interested in Montmartre, do yourself a favor and take this tour.
Le Petit Moulin: 18 Rue Tholozé, 75018 Paris. PJ’s wine and cheese bar. Since this place is tiny, reservations are necessary and can be made online. Sample menu online.