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Food & Wine
Nothing is more French than fine wine and gourmet cuisine. Enjoy a bit of hands-on cooking classes to perfect your magret de canard or master the art of the soufflé. There are many options , from full-day courses in a private Parisian home (in English) that include a market tour, to quick lunch lessons with the locals where everyone dines together afterwards on the results. An appreciation for wine is greatly enhanced when you know what you’re drinking and where it came from. Wine tasting classes range from fun and casual lessons in English for absolute beginners to more formal dégustations of the finest vintages by seasoned sommeliers. There’s something to fit all budgets and experience levels.
La Cuisine Paris
Tel 01 40 51 78 18
La Cuisine Paris is the creation of a FrancoAmerican couple and is hands-on cooking school in the heart of Paris, just minutes away from Notre Dame, the Marais and the famous Hôtel de Ville. The newly remolded school is a three floor facility including a Seine view top floor kitchen. The school regularly gives classes in both French or English, and has something for every taste bud and budget (ranging from €65 per person to €150). From Traditional French Pastries to Classical French Dishes to French Market Visits followed by a hands-on cooking class. All materials are provided and wine is included with the meal. If you are looking for something special for your group, ask about creating a private event! Read Heather's article on their Healthy Cooking Class.
La Cucina Di Terresa
Tel 01 43 48 01 14 or 06 09 26 85 31
Theresa Murphy grew up in Los Angeles and San Francisco before moving to Paris in the 1980s. Her private, peronalized cooking classes and food tours celebrate the vegetable kingdom, emphasizing local, organic produce, with a strong Italian influence. Classes are in English or French, recipes and aprons are included. More than just about cooking, when you're with Theresa you'll also learn about seasonal products, the history of many recipes, nutrition, issues concerning GMO, farm-to-farm seeds, domestic fair trade, and CSA (community supported farms - AMAP in France). Half-day classes for private parties of 2-6 in their vactioning apartments or group classes in her kitchens are €220 for individiuals, €170 per person for private parties or group classes. Full-day classes with organic food tour: shops, markets, restaurants...are €330 for individuals, €230 per person for private parties or groups. Morning or afternoon organic food tours alone are €120 per person. She also does Loire Valley tours with lodging in an old farmhouse in Pontlevoy. Check out her website for more info.
Paule Caillat's Promenades Gourmandes
Tel 01 48 04 56 84
A day with Paule begins with a market tour of her northern Marais neighborhood for the day’s supplies. As the small group of six or less guests goes from bakery to butcher shop to cheese store, Paule explains how to choose the best produce, which cuts of meat to buy, and the difference between buying fresh or aged French cheeses. Then it’s back to her large kitchen, where everyone gathers around a large wooden table, each armed with a clean apron and a print-out of the day’s three-course menu. Paule specializes in contemporary cuisine bourgeoise, with recipes that are impressive enough for entertaining, but simple enough to prepare for everyday dining. The atmosphere is very laid-back and convivial, with lots of hands-on participation and time for questions. After lunch, Paule leads the group on a gourmet walking tour that combines sightseeing anecdotes, secret culinary addresses to stock your own kitchen, and a peek behind-the-scenes of a popular Parisian bakery. Paule also teaches in California , so not only is her English faultless, she also provides a list of substitute ingredients and cooking supplies for the US (essential for getting those French recipes perfect). Fees vary from €250-360, or €110 for just the gourmet walking tour.
Les Coulisses du Chef
01 40 26 14 00
Olivier Berté gives cooking classes for groups, individuals and children in his cooking workshop, a relaxed and laid-back environment near the French Bourse. He passes on the tips and magic of French cuisine as well as delving into more international dishes from Japan , Thailand , India , Spain and Italy . The goal of the workshops is to show budding chefs of all ability levels how to effortlessly prepare a meal for guests in their own homes. In English or French, three-hour classes start at €100.
Traditional French cooking classes have always been fairly formal, almost old fashioned affairs. In 2005 the Atéliers des Chefs changed all that by offering à la carte cooking classes of 30, 60, 90 or 120 minutes in a stylish, contemporary setting. Conveniently located in four locations around the city, including the business districts of the Champs-Elysées and the Opéra, these ateliers have become the trendy place for 30-something professionals -- as many men as women -- to gather in a fun and informal atmosphere. All of the classes are hands on, so even if your French is rusty, all you have to do is copy what the chef if demonstrating. Afterwards the group eats together what they’ve created. The ateliers are also cookware shops, selling all of the latest kitchen gadgets. Reserve online as early as possible; the 30-minute lunch classes, at just €17, fill up fast! The two-hour classes are €72.
La Cuisine de Marie-Blanche
01 45 51 36 34
Since 1975, Marie-Blanche de Broglie’s classes have helped students discover the secrets of French gastronomy and the traditional art of entertaining à la Française adapted for today’s lifestyle. Classes such as pastry baking, dining etiquette, or cheese tasting take place in Marie-Blanche’s elegant apartment in the 7th arrondissement, in French and English, for up to six students. Individual cooking classes are €155, or five classes for €575. Six-week and three-month diploma courses are also available.
Lenôtre Ecole de Cuisine et Pâtisserie
01 42 65 97 60
The well-known gourmet caterer Lenôtre moved its cooking school into the historic Pavillon Elysée in 2003, offering a regular schedule of bilingual cooking demonstrations (€55), cuisine and pastry classes for amateurs (€121-165), and workshops for children and young teens (€40-80). The Pavillon is located in the gardens of the Champs-Elysées, and includes the Café Lenôtre restaurant and a gourmet food and kitchen boutique. Call or stop by for the complete program of classes.
Learning about and enjoying fine wine is a hobby in most countries; in France it’s a way of life. Those with a limited knowledge of wine tasting will find no better place than Paris to pick up a few essential lessons, while seasoned wine connoisseurs will find unlimited opportunities for enjoying the finest vintages from France and all over the world. In addition to wine classes, many wine shops hold regular dégustations (wine tasting) on Saturdays, often with the grower present if it’s from a small or independent domaine.
The young and irreverent sommelier Olivier Magny is no wine snob. That’s not to say he doesn’t take his wine seriously; he simply refuses to believe that wine tasting has to be a solemn, boring affair. He conducts tastings with three or seven wines – a mix of reds and whites – in his east Parisian wine loft. There are also cheese and wine classes, wine tasting dinners, Champagne cruises on the Seine , vineyard tours outside Paris , and his latest adventure: wine dating for singles. All of his events are conducted in English for a predominantly international clientele, from €20 - €129.
Legrand opened in 1919 as a spice shop, and expanded into the wine industry in the 1960s, specializing in hard-to-find wines from small domains. The original shop and its 1880 façade on Rue de la Banque still carries gourmet food products, but through the back passageway visitors will see the wine shop has taken over both sides of the lovely Galerie Vivienne (one of Paris’s historic covered shopping passages) with an accessories and gift boutique across from the Espace Dégustation (don’t call it a wine bar). Stop by anytime for a selection of wines by the glass with plates of cheese and cold meats, or sign up for the Tuesday night Soirées Dégustation du Mardi are bilingual presentations of carefully-chosen wines (€80-€150 depending on the vintage). Call to reserve.
01 42 97 20 20
3-5 Boulevard Madeleine, 1st
Opened in 2002, Europe ’s biggest wine shop is completely different from any other Parisian wine shop. Designed to be accessible to the masses, yet still temperature and humidity-controlled, it presents neatly-labeled wines, liqueurs and liquors from 43 countries on three floors, with special designations for the house sommeliers’ favorites and bottles under €10. There’s also a bookshop, accessories boutique and a wine bar where you can drink any bottle purchased in the store without a corkage fee. There are regular public dégustations on Friday and Saturday during open hours, or if your French is up to snuff, there are regular Cours d’Initiation à la Dégustation (€50-€140 per session) for learning the basics of wine tasting, and gourmet wine dinners from €600.
If you really want to splash out on a special occasion, Wine Dinners is a French group that organizes gourmet meals (in 2 or 3-starred Michelin restaurants) with a selection of ten vintage wines. Really vintage. Most of the bottles are at least 30 years old, and quite a few are more than a half-century old. One on the list is even from 1828. Wine like this doesn’t come cheap, so expect to pay anywhere from €850-€5000. A real once-in-a-lifetime treat (or twice if you can stand it). English-speaking guests get to sit next to the bilingual François Audouze if translation are needed. Have a look at the past and futures wine dinners planned by the group on their website, or contact François directly for more information and dates for the next dinners (be sure to plan ahead, there’s only room for ten guests at each dinner).
Located in an exceptional setting, the Musée du Vin (Rue des Eaux, 16th tel 01 45 25 63 26 www.museeduvinparis.com) was built in the ancient limestone quarries mined between the 13th and 18th centuries to provide the stone to build Paris . In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Friars of the Minimes Monastery used the location to store the wine they made in the vineyards that used to occupy the land surrounding the museum. Today it’s a museum, with exhibits creatively set up in the maze of tunnels, and a restaurant offering wine-tastings (from €14-26, including museum entrance). The museum visit alone is €7.50. An English guidebook for the museum is available for €2 in the boutique. You can purchase a combined ticket for the Musée du Vin and a Seine sightseeing cruise with the Vedettes de Paris (Port de Suffren, 7th) for just €13 (ask at the museum for more information).
Vineyards in Paris may be few and far in between, but they sure know how to celebrate the annual Grape Harvest Festival. The best-known is the Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre (www.fetedesvendangesdemontmartre.com), which takes place around the Clos Montmartre vineyard (corner of Rue des Saules and Rue St-Vincent, 18th) on the second weekend in October. You can purchase a bottle of the Clos Montmartre only at the Syndicate d’Initiative de Montmartre (21 Place du Tertre, 18th) or from the wine cellar of the Mairie of the 18th (Place Jules Joffrin), with the funds going to local charities. On a smaller, but no less festive scale is the vine (there’s only one) at Jacques Mélac’s Wine Bistro (42 Rue Léon Frot, 11th, 01 43 70 59 27 www.melac.fr), which, planted in the bistro’s cellar in the 70s, grows up and along the façade, producing enough grapes for 35 bottles. Mélac’s Fête des Vendanges take place in the fall with a big block party and grape-crushing in wooden vats.
The annual Beaujolais Nouveau Festival, on the third Thursday of November, is celebration welcoming the first wine of the year, Beaujolais Nouveau. Since the 1960s it’s been celebrated around the world with much fanfare as everyone races to serve the new wine first. A wise man once said that the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau is like the arrival of a new baby. When it comes, you don’t worry about whether it’s smart or good looking, you celebrate because it’s arrived. The point is to enjoy the Beaujolais Nouveau and wait until the morning to decide whether it was worth it or not. If you’re lucky enough to be in Paris, park yourself at the nearest wine bar and you’ll be guaranteed a good time (if not a good wine)!
Wine fairs (foires and salons) are the ideal places to test and purchase wines direct from growers from around the world. After paying a small entrance fee (and sometimes even receiving your own personal wine glass), you’re free to browse the stands to sample different wines. Some stands are simple affairs run by the growers themselves, others are big and flashy stands sponsored by familiar names like Moët-Chandon. There’s often food stands and entertainment as well, making it a nice day out. Check the Pariscope or ask at the Tourism Office for the schedule of annual fairs. The two biggest ones are the Foire de Paris (the largest fair in Paris , not just for wine; www.foiredeparis.fr), for two weeks end of April/beginning of May, and the Salon du Vigneron Indépendant (Independent Wine Growers, www.vigneron-independant.com), which takes place twice yearly at the end of November and end of March.
Warning: If you’re there to shop, use those buckets (to spit out the wine), or else you may find by the end of the day that you can hardly tell the difference between a glass of Cabernet and a glass of grape juice!
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