Gourmet's Guide To The Open-Air & Street Markets of Paris

Let's unravel the mystery & wonder of food in Paris. We love exploring the open-air food markets of the City of Food. And it's easy to do since they're found throughout the city — even in the quiet suburbs. There is a strong connection in the minds of the French between food and where it comes from, and you see this in the gourmet food markets throughout Paris. All the food is labelled with quality, AOC and origin.

We had a chance to delve deep into one of the gourmet food markets, the covered market at Puteaux on a tour with a Paris foodie pal. We were thrilled to find out that even the signs at the fish stalls indicate where the fish is from (what ocean or sea and what part of the ocean or sea) and how it was caught — line-caught being the preferred method. We've included an excerpt from our book below, where you can discover the secrets and intricacies of the high-quality foods Parisians eat every day.

The Food Markets of Paris

Paris Markets

The scent of roasting chicken wafts towards us as we near the market. Among the scattering of outdoor stalls are the roasters found at every market in France, filled with a variety of large and small birds, pressed pork, and roasted potatoes.

"What are the four types of cheese?" she asks us. We guess more or less correctly – hard, soft, goat, and blue cheeses. She points out examples of each and explains their origins and launches into a detailed description of the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée system (controlled designation of origin, or AOC)...

"The system dates back to the 15th century," she tells us. "Champagne and Roquefort are two AOCs you probably recognize." The system… was created to ensure the source and the method of production of various foods, including cheese, meat and wine. Even lentils have an AOC,the best coming from Le Puy.


"Look at the signs…in France vendors identify where the produce is grown, not only the country but the region, and will rate the quality. Extra means best quality: no bruising, no spots, perfect. Catégorie 1 means good quality with little bruising. Catégorie 2 is everything else, still good product, but perhaps suitable for cooking or preserving. The fruit here is all Extra and Catégorie 1."

Aha! The signs that I've usually ignored actually contain vital information about the source and quality: the apricots are from the Drome, haricots verts from Kenya, the tomatoes from Bergerac. It's all about the terroir.

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