August 27, 2007

La Grande Épicerie


During our first several weeks living here in Paris, we became accustomed to shopping at either of two local supermarkets, a Monoprix and an ATAC. Both of them have a pretty good selection of the basics, though their prices are typically higher, and their freshness typically poorer, than any of the outdoor markets. Still, there were a few items we’d been unable to find here in our neighborhood, such as baking soda and baking powder (yeast is easy to come by, but not chemical leaveners), Swiffers, good sun-dried tomatoes (the brands we could find were all way too salty), respectable soy sauce, and a few alcohols (you know, gotta have Lillet Blanc for our Vesper martinis).

As Morgen wrote a few weeks ago in Truffles for Breakfast, we found all these items and much more at a famous old supermarket called La Grande Épicerie, which is part of a larger shopping complex known as Le Bon Marché.

La Grande Épicerie has one of the widest selections of any supermarket I’ve seen in any country. I’ve been in larger supermarkets and fancier ones, but the breadth of options here is what truly struck me. They have numerous foreign food sections, for example, so if you’re looking for Italian pasta or coffee, British specialties such as Marmite, Spanish spices, Thai coconut milk, or American staples such as marshmallow creme, popcorn, cream of mushroom soup, and maple syrup, you can find it all here. And, naturally, a full array of produce, meat, seafood, dairy products, frozen and canned goods, and everything else. Plus some awfully attractive pastries and desserts. Nearly everything food-related (and a few non-food items) we’d ever said we wished we could buy but couldn’t find elsewhere in Paris, we saw at La Grande Épicerie. If you’re a food geek in Paris, and particularly if you’re from outside of France and homesick for special foods, this is somewhere you must visit.

We’ve heard several people complain about the high prices at La Grande Épicerie, but most of the items we were interested in were quite reasonably priced—some considerably cheaper than at Monoprix. On the other hand, you’d have to pay the equivalent of about US$7 for a single large sweet potato (ouch!), eggs were terribly overpriced, and a few other items just didn’t seem to be worth what they were charging. So you have to shop carefully, but then, if you need something that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else in the city, it’s likely cheaper to buy it here than having it shipped from North America.

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