We skipped our normal Saturday market yesterday in order to ride, so we needed to market today.
Usually if we market on Sunday, we head over to the other side of town for Bastille, which is a big bustling market with lots of choice, including the best olive vendor we've found so far. Last Sunday, we checked out the market on av Versailles in the 16e for the first time. It was a surprisingly big market, and though not terribly varied, the permanent shops on av Versailles offered a nice complement to the open-air stands. It's also considerably closer to the apartment and within walking distance of our favorite boulangerie, making it a good choice when we need the basics and want to market and have breakfast all in one trip.
Today we got on the metro to head over the Bastille but decided at the last minute to walk first to Blé Sucré, a good patisserie just a few blocks east of the market, for breakfast. We had an astonishingly good baguette (so good that after we polished it off, we bought another to have with lunch and dinner) and good croissants in the little park across the street, watching a friendly table tennis match being played on one of the permanent metal tables. And since we were already a little bit east of the market, we decided to check out the Marché d'Aligre/Marché Beauvau, a combination indoor-outdoor market in this decidedly north African neighborhood (there are several very good Algerian pastry shops nearby). I'd been there twice before on weekdays, but both times just after the outdoor market had closed down and during the mid-day closure of the indoor market.
Each market has its own character, and by and large our markets in the 16e are fairly staid affairs. Impeccably dressed women buying expensive (and exquisite) produce, and at one of our normal produce vendors, chefs stuffing their cars with bursting boxes of produce for the restaurants.
In contrast, I'd say the Marché d'Aligre was full of characters. The first difference we noticed from our local markets was the presence of hot peppers at almost every produce stand. The French palate in general is not tuned to spicy food, so this was a happy discovery, and we bought a basket of what look like habeñeros to celebrate. The market was also more chaotic and noisy than our markets, lots of hawking, guys in accented French cutting mango, pineapple, and tomatoes and stuffing them into the mouths of passers by (if you've got the ripe produce, flaunt it!). We came home with 3 succulent mangoes, at least one of which will become, with some of the chiles, a "BBQ" sauce for some thick pork chops we bought in the indoor part of the market. It was also notable that there was considerably more self-service/choose your own on offer than in our local markets, where many vendors place "do not touch the fruit" signs on their wares. With lots of permanent shops bordering the market, selling lavash, unfrozen phyllo dough, preserved lemons and other north african staples, it's definitely a place we'll return.
Returning home with a rotisserie chicken has become a fairly standard part of our Sunday marketing experience. I don't think I've ever been to market in Paris that didn't have at least one butcher with a rotisserie loaded with chickens, small potatoes roasting in the chicken fat at the bottom, all caramelized and creamy. At most markets, there are several rotisseries to choose from. The rotisserie birds at the permanent butcher shops on our local rue commerçant are so good that the locals will actually line up properly to get them-- even in the rain! The chickens are relatively inexpensive and uniformly delicious. With some arugula fresh from the market, a half-chicken with potatoes, with maybe a glass of chilled rosé, make a perfect lunch.
Gasp-- an orderly line!
The butchers at today's market were in permanent shops or in the indoor market. In contrast to the high-energy and friendly market outside, the indoor market was a little dreary and sad, and just one of the butchers had a rotisserie. Though there were just a few measly chickens turning, the chicken's roasting companions made visit inside well worth the trip: 2 whole suckling pigs. Judging from the head on the back counter starting up at the ceiling, there had been a 3rd earlier in the morning.
As we waited in line to order our pork chops, a woman ahead of us asked for some of the rotisserie piglet, and the butcher came out, pulled a spit out of the rotisserie, slid the pig off the spit, and -- whack!-- there were 2 heads looking at the ceiling. Whack-whack-whack-- the pig had been chopped roughly into quarters. We wanted in on that action and came home with a front leg and shoulder, juicy flavorful meat and crispy brown skin just perfect as sandwiches on our baguette, with some thinly sliced cornichons to add a little acid and crunch. The bones (and hoof) went into the stock pot along with saved bones from the last few weeks for some meat stock.