Food Travel - Paris

Posted by OmarTarakiNiodeFoundation
31 December 2015 | blogpost

A few weeks ago we were in Paris for COP21 - United Nations Climate Change Conference. It was not our first visit to Paris but it was the longest trip since we stayed there for almost 3 weeks. We were part of a team that organized the Indonesia Pavilion inside the UN Compound, or the Blue Zone as people called it.

The Indonesia Pavilion had series of events such as talk shows, seminars, workshops, panel discussions, and film screenings. The place was a hit with 50 sessions organized during COP21 and special sessions with eminent persons as speakers, including Ministers from several countries, CEOs, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, and The Honorable Al Gore. The President of Indonesia and one former president also visited the pavilion.

What we would like to share with you is not our technical activities, but the amazing food travel experience we had while in Paris. We were always curious with a graphic of the 20 elements of the food travel industry outlined by the World Food Travel Association and often try to find out what we have experienced among the 20 elements. Paris quenched our curiosity of "Meetings and Conventions" in the part of "Travel and Hospitality Businesses" chart.

Here are some of our food travel activities while in Paris:

Flavors of Paris

The Flavors of Paris Tour is a walking, market visit and tasting tour of French foods in charming St-Germain-des-Pres, a classic Parisian neighborhood. Our guide Lisa Rankin is a Canadian who has been living in France for many years and seems to know all merchants personally.

St-Germain-des-Pres has a number of art galleries, designer boutiques, museums, impressive restaurants, and century old cafés. Writers Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir smoked cigarettes and spent hours at Café Flore while painters Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir and Pablo Picasso made St-Germain their artistic abode.

We walked around the neighborhood and visited local shops, markets, cafes and restaurants and tasted the finest in French delicacies, from the simplest crisp-crusted croissants, and velvety chocolates to exquisite olive oils and fabulous cheeses.

Ma Collection Marchande de Saveurs in 33 rue Mazarine amazed us with its collection of French gourmet products such as bottles of jam by 'Les Jardins de Marie' chosen as the best jam in the world in 2013.

Epicerie Fine carries artisanal products of vendors from Provence in south-eastern France including olive oil, which proceeds will be donated to the victims of the Paris Attack.

We can see macarons in almost every corner of St-Germain-des-Pres although the tastes and types may not be similar depending on the patisserie chef’s creation. Some places that we spent some time in were Pâtisserie Gerard Mulot, Un dimanche à Paris a Michelin-starred restaurant with a pastry shop, and the most trendy of them all - Pierre Hermé Paris.

It was impressive even to do just window-shopping in the neighborhood for the stores are quaint, colorful and exquisitely decorated. At some point we were confused to see blankets in outdoor chairs of some cafes. Apparently people prefer sitting outside even in winter, thus the cafés provide blankets to warm them up.

Le Taillevent  

We understand that food travel is neither gourmet nor high-end dining. However, we just could not pass an invitation to a private dinner at Le Taillevent. It is a 2-star Michelin restaurant, the only one that that has a full membership at Comite Colbert, an association of 75 French brands that promotes the concept of luxury.

Housed in the former private mansion of the Duc de Morny, built in 1852, this restaurant has a classic décor. The Saturne room where our group were seated was once the bedchamber of the Duc de Morny, elegant in Louis XVI paneling.

As with many fine-dining restaurant, our food didn’t come without an elaborate explanations of the ingredients constituting every dish. We just wondered what about this restaurant that makes Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet regular patrons. 

The dinner menu came flawlessly. Amuse-bouche was followed by Hand-Made Fregola from /Sardinia with Lobster; and a choice of either Pollack fish, Lettuce Cream and Celeriac or Duck from Challans Country with Seasonal Fruits. Dessert has only one choice, Mont-Blanc – a black currant biscuit with light cream.

Le Musee Gourmand du Chocolat  

Our visit to The Chocolate Museum was on early Sunday when the place was not so crowded. The museum has three levels with stories of the origin of chocolate and the 4000 years evolution of chocolate through a collection of thousands of objects.

In the first part of the museum we were transported back to 4000 years ago when The Olmecs started to use cocoa, followed by The Mayas, The Toltecs and The Aztecs. Apparently cocoa was precious means for payment, where at the time a rabbit cost 10 cocoa beans and a slave would cost 100 cocoa beans.

The second part of the museum showcases the cocoa values and utilization from the 16th century to the 19th century. Of our interests were the introduction of cocoa in Europe, the evolution of tearooms and chocolate rooms, and modern chocolate manufacturing.

Contemporary chocolate is the theme of the third part of the museum. A demonstration center explains in detail how the best quality chocolate is made and we can taste the chocolate produced on site.

Mini Indonesian Food Festival 

During COP 21- Paris Climate Change Conference, we had some catered food at the Indonesia Pavilion. Nonetheless we invited the Indonesian communities in Paris to cook Indonesian food and prepared snacks for some sessions.

We also had Indonesian traditional dances and Mini Food festival at the Pavilion. Food served were Indonesian delicacies such as nasi tumpeng (cone shaped turmeric rice) with its side dishes, ayam goreng pedas (spicy fried chicken, sayur lodeh (vegetables in spicy coconut milk), sayur urap (mixed vegetables with grated coconut), telur balado (spiced boiled eggs), tahu isi (stuffed tofu), lemper (rice roll with chicken filling), klepon (glutinous rice balls stuffed with palm sugar and rolled in grated coconut) and kue lapis (traditional layered cake made from rice flour).

We were even able to present Binthe Biluhuta, Gorontalo traditional corn soup. You can just imagine how hard it was to find the ingredients in Paris.

COP21 was a climate conference but the food part with coffee from Indonesia, really won the heart of many people. 

COP21 Caterer

The official caterer of COP21 was the Elior Group that handled the meals of more than 50,000 people during COP 21. The company claimed to only used fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables with 33% locally sourced, 20% organic, and 95% grown in France. The meat was 100% sourced in France while the coffee served was 100 % fair trade served in Ecocups as Elior aimed for zero waste.

Elio's decision is important as factors that contribute to food's climate impact, include: how low on the food chain it is, how much energy is used to produce it, whether the food is grown organically, and how far it has to travel before it is served.

 Image: Elior

The group’s large-scale catering promoted French cuisines, and consisted of:

*A restaurant featuring chefs from its finest establishments (Louvre Museum restaurants, Les Ombres restaurant in the Musée du Quai Branly, Le Ciel de Paris restaurant in the Tour Montparnasse and more);

*Theme-based lodges offering soups and crepes, along with heartier fare such as raclette and tartiflette; *

A Paul bakery complete with a bread oven;

*Pop-up restaurants: Italian cuisine, Asian cuisine and sandwich bar;

*Three restaurants to highlight French regional specialties;

*A dozen coffee and snack carts.

 Image: Elior

If you have time to read, this link offers Elior's Behind the Scenes at COP21. It was really an amazing experience for us to watch and to read Elior's efforts in what they called "the largest diplomatic event ever organized in France."  At the last count the company served COP21 with more than 100,000 meals and 70,000 cups of coffees.

We returned to Jakarta 2 weeks ago, but the Paris food travel experience still lingers mostly because we were able to relate the Paris activities with what we learned from the World Food Travel Association.


Images: Omar Niode Foundation, unless otherwise noted.