Who stole my croissant

Style secrets of the French by Casilda Grigg

What Frenchwomen bring back on the Eurostar

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Naughty but nice: Picard’s mini éclairs

Eclairs, you’re thinking? But these aren’t any old éclairs. They’re from Picard, the gourmet French frozen food chain. If they could, the French in London would transport Picard lock, stock and barrel back to London. The chain doesn’t exist anymore in the UK (we have Iceland, sigh). The only thing similar is Cook, which produces frozen ready meals, but that’s a bit like comparing a Mini Metro to a Maserati – both are highly respectable cars, but one is infinitely more sexy than the other.

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Just something I rustled up earlier: canapés from Picard, the French frozen food chain

Picard apparently sends its frozen lorries right into the fields at harvest time so that the fruit and veg are picked at their peak. Its dishes are considered so good that many French hostesses don’t bother cooking at all. (Isn’t it heartening to know that instead of making the daily rounds of greengrocer, butcher and baker, then slaving over a hot stove, Parisians are just defrosting that night’s menu?). Every French person I know raves about Picard’s tagines, purées, papilottes and risottos, as well as its chopped up fruit and veg, and its little cubes of chopped up frozen herbs. Some of them even travel back on the Eurostar to London with entire frozen dinners stashed in their luggage.

In the meantime here are some of the sensible things Parisians take back to London. My shortlist, if I had to give one, would be Diptyque perfume (current favourite the tuberose-scented Do Son), Eau Micellaire, Phyto shampoo (I promise to blog about this at some point separately), Monoprix children’s clothes, French children’s shoes (often sweetly old-fashioned), Provence honey, La Roche-Posay sunscreen (light, invisible and non-sticky), tarragon mustard, lemon verbena tea (mysteriously hard to find in London) and French biscuits of any kind.

Here is my list beginning with les bonnes choses:

Food & Drink

Lemon verbena herbal tea (easily found in French supermarkets)

Chestnut purée for cakes and desserts

Chicorée coffee (an acquired taste – personally I haven’t acquired it)

Maggi Arome Saveur (a very useful Asian-style bottled sauce that my Parisian friend Angelica uses for jazzing up chicken dishes and salads)

Mariage Frères tea (exotic flavours, exquisite packaging)

Any kind of French honey (ideally sold in no-frills 1 kilo tubs)

Olive oil from Provence (a softer, more mellow alternative to peppery Tuscan oils)

Just about any French biscuit, whether industrial or lovingly made in the boulangerie

Charcuterie (Gilles Vérot is the current charcuterie king of Paris)

A top-quality cheese (from Barthélémy or failing that Monoprix) – although the French rate Wholefoods, La Cave à Fromage (near South Kensington Tube) and the market stalls of Portobello, Fulham and elsewhere generally they think French cheese in London is very poor indeed (but they rather like our own native cheeses)

Fresh puff pastry for making apple tarts and quiche lorraine (sold in supermarket chill cabinets)

Fresh pizza dough (also sold in supermarkets)

Unusual mustards (truffle or tarragon are popular ones)

Anything from Hédiard, the luxury food shop on the Plaçe de la Madeleine, or Le Bon Marché‘s deluxe food emporium on the Left Bank

 

Health & Beauty

Soaps, scents and candles from Diptyque (cheaper in Paris – there’s a great shop at 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain)

*La Roche-Posay sunscreen (this is the brand endorsed by dermatologists – see earlier blog entry)

*Phyto shampoo (not cheap but the best shampoo I’ve ever used)

Makeup from the French brand By Terry (its founder, Terry de Gunzberg, invented YSL’s bestselling Touche Eclat often described as ‘Eight hours of sleep in a tube’)

*Eau Micellaire from Bioderma (a super-gentle makeup remover easily found in French pharmacies)

*Extra large makeup remover pads (when I discovered these I never bought Boots cotton wool balls again)

Fluocaril toothpaste

Suppositories (the French belief in rear end medicine remains unshakeable)

*If Paris is a distant dream the products marked with an asterisk can all be found at the excellent Harleys Pharmacy, 35-37 Old Brompton Road.

 

Clothes, Shoes & Accessories

Children’s summer shoes (the snooty but desirable Six Pieds Trois Pouces has six boutiques in Paris)

Monoprix’s excellent and well-priced children’s clothes (see previous blog entry)

Repetto ballet shoes – these cost the earth but little girls (and adults) love them

Lingerie (Parisians love Printemps, especially in the sales)

Women’s shoes with walkable heels – London is awash with flat shoes or porn star heels but French shoe shops are probably better at everything in between

Swimsuits from the very affordable chain Kiwi (sale currently on) or the totally unaffordable but beautifully cut Eres

Costume jewellery from Galeries Lafayette (sale runs until end of July)

 

 

 

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