Everyone knows that the best thing about living in Paris is getting to gloat about how you live in Paris. But a close second-best thing is getting to eat, drink, and cook in a culture completely infatuated with everything and anything culinary. It didn’t take a long time living here (oh, did I tell you I live in Paris?) to realize that my kitchen—roughly the size of a LEGO garage—wouldn’t fit all of the wonderful ingredients I wanted to buy. But storage restrictions have only made me more strategic and selective about my culinary needs, so when it comes to stuffing a suitcase full of gifts from Paris, I have a few thoughts.
Whether you’re visiting Paris for the first or 40th time, it is your sworn duty to buy French treats for your friends, family, and, of course, yourself. Though you can order pretty much anything online these days, many of the suggested food curios below are worth buying in Paris if only because they’ll get you inside local shops, culinary institutions, and cultural landmarks that are worth visiting, no matter if you end up buying something. Plus, anyone can order mustard from Amazon, but it’s more fun to bring back (or sneak back) gifts that you can say came straight from the source.
A 10 Façons de Préparer book from Librairie Gourmande
One of my favorite shops in Paris is the Librairie Gourmande, a bookstore in the 2nd that specializes exclusively in all things culinary, from cookbooks to history books to posters explaining the many cheese of France, with a selection of English language books, too. My favorite gift for a food-interested friend is one of the dozens of slim 10 Façons de Préparer books that are arranged in a rainbow display at the front of the store. Each beautifully designed paper book focuses on one ingredient or cooking technique—from arugula to oysters to wild boar to the more esoteric subjects like air, smoke, and mold—and ten different methods of preparation. Each edition, created by indie publisher Les Éditions de L’Épure, is written by a well-known chef or food writer, which makes them doubly cool.
Miche of sourdough bread from Poilâne, Levain Le Vin, Ten Belles, or Mamiche
I wouldn’t recommend bringing a classic French baguette onto a plane, as it’ll dry out and get as tough as a biscotti in only a few hours. But if you’re eager to bring back an edible bread-y gift for your family, try schlepping a sourdough miche on board. Sourdough keeps for days longer than a baguette, and with the growing trend of new sourdough bakeries popping up in Paris, there are tons of options to choose from in every arrondissement. Go for Poilâne if you’re looking to honor tradition, or Ten Belles, Levain Le Vin, or Mamiche if you’re interested in exploring more modern Parisian tastes.
Kouign-amann from Stohrer
The kouign-amann is a typical Breton viennoiserie that’s something like a croissant encased in caramelized sugar. It is such a delicious pastry that once you bite into one at the legendary pastry shop Stohrer, you’ll no doubt be calling the airline to cancel your return flight home. Instead, you can choose one of the extra crispy and extra dark kouign-ammans on display and it will—I have on good authority—stay tasty for much longer than your average viennoiserie would. Consume with friends within two or three days, though I doubt that will be a problem.
A bag of Lay’s chips
This may sound nuts, but I’m telling you, the chips in France (and Europe as a whole) are just better. They’re so good, in fact, that you don’t have to go any further than a bag of plain Lay’s Olive Oil Mediterranean “Nature” chips, found at most Franprix or Carrefours in Paris, to get the rich, crispy, salty texture that every chip wishes it had—I’ll take olive oil chips over vegetable oil any day. Skip the weird, kitschy flavors unless that’s your thing, and just go for the plain. Bring a big bag back home and do a blind taste test between American and French Lay’s, and if your friends know what’s what, they’ll immediately see what they’ve been missing.
Peugeot salt and pepper shakers
Whether or not you’re in the market for some extremely fancy salt and pepper shakers made by a car company, buying Peugeot salt and pepper shakers in Paris is more for the experience than the end goal. That’s because buying any kind of kitchenware in Paris is an excuse to go to one of a handful of famous cookware stores in the city, specifically A. Simon, La Bovida, Mora, E. Dellherin, and G. Detou, all a few blocks from each other and full of French kitchen wonders you’ll find hard to resist. But if you do end up with shakers in your cart, it’d be worth it. Peugeot, originally a family-owned flour mill, began fabricating coffee and pepper mills long before they made cars, and their mills are considered to be the best and most indestructible in the world.
A bottle of Suze
It may be an acquired taste for some, but for me, Suze has become the ideal aperitif. Made in a nuclear yellow color, it’s bitter and citrus-y and goes great with a splash of seltzer water and lemon. And while French people might find it to be a slightly outdated drink with a weird fanbase, your friends and family don’t won’t be any the wiser. That’s because it’s packaged in a chic bottle with an art nouveau label, meaning it looks great on the shelf, and it was once featured in a Picasso painting, lending it extra retro credibility. Plus, you can be the trendsetter who convinces everyone that Suze is the new Aperol.
Eco-friendly products at La Maison du Zéro Déchet
Lately, there have been a dozen different varieties of “en vrac” stores that have popped up all over Paris, where everything is sold in bulk to customers with reusable glass containers and where people can flex their eco-cred. And while you could go to one of those shops and fill up a bag of French lentils to bring those home with you, check out La Maison du Zéro Déchet for a range of cool eco-friendly containers and trinkets, like waxed fabric packaging, futuristic thermoses, and innovative toothpaste alternatives, to encourage some eco-consciousness of your own when you return.
Le Beurre Bordier smoked salt butter
My local cheese shop sells butter by weight from a veritable mountain of butter, which is perfect for someone like me, who cannot go one day without slathering layers of butter on bread. It’s a great party trick to show up to a friend’s place with an enormous craggy brick of delicious salted French butter, but not the most practical when you’re traveling. Instead, swing by a cheese shop and ask for Le Beurre Bordier butter, which comes in a variety of fun compound flavors. My favorite is smoked salt, but the demi-sel (somewhere between salted and unsalted) is king because it’s something we can’t really find in the States. Plus, the higher fat content makes baked goods taste 500% better.
Local beer from Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or
There are a bunch of exciting craft breweries to visit all over Paris but Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or, by dint of it being in my neighborhood (did you know I live in Paris?), is my favorite. It’s mostly open on the weekends, but don’t stress if you can’t make it to buy beer from the brewery itself. Many craft beer shops sell the entire range of Goutte d’Or beers, which change often. If you’re planning to bring back a six-pack, just, uh, wrap the bottles carefully!
Chocolate from Mon Jardin Chocolaté at Les Grands Voisins
Les Grands Voisins is one of my absolute favorite places in Paris. I’d honestly recommend skipping the Louvre for an afternoon in order to hang there instead. A 17th century hospital that was taken over by artists and activists in 2015, Les Grands Voisins is home to some of the coolest installations, events, and workshops in the city, as well as 100 inhabitants, many of whom are artisans with shops lining the corridors of the hospitals. Stroll through the various ateliers and you’ll find artisanal chocolate from Mon Jardin Chocolaté in a far-back hallway, where you can buy amazing organic chocolate that helps support an incredible community.