Better in Paris

For several years of my life, I have had a tag line attached to me that goes “Oh, those are better in Paris.” While I believe that this tag is somewhat unfair, there are definitely a few things routinely available in France that seem to have no counterpart of comparable quality back here at home. Cheese

Every single time we are in Paris we visit the cheese shop. Two particular varieties of cheese stand out here. The first is Camembert, a soft ripened raw cow’s milk cheese. I have not found anything like this cheese anywhere on the North American continent. Even in Canada, where it is legal, the stuff that you can get just isn’t any good. The Camembert from Marie-Anne Cantin has a depth of flavor that is hard to put into words. Where soft cheese in the U.S. always tastes like some kind of white paste, the French Camembert has layers of flavor, saltiness, nuttiness, and sweetness all rolled into one. It’s like comparing fresh ripe tomatoes to the pink California ones at Giant Eagle, or Maine wild blueberries to frozen ones, or a dry aged New York strip steak to Steakums.

The second cheese we always get is St. Marcellin. This is also a soft raw cow’s milk cheese, but is runnier and milder in flavor compared to the Camembert. Like the Camembert, it shows that soft cheese in the U.S. has about as much character as a wet piece of toilet paper. There is nothing better than some of this cheese spread thick over a warm piece of bread.

A note: You may find yourself in Whole Foods or your local yuppy food emporium and spy a piece of cheese labeled “Camembert” or “St. Marcellin”. Do not be fooled. If you try one of these items expecting something like the real thing, you will weep bitter tears of pain and sadness. You have been warned.

A second note: The reason these cheeses cannot be found in the U.S. in any decent form is because they are made from unpasteurized milk, and are not aged all that long before selling. The FDA bans such foods because they are “dangerous” but they allow you to risk sickness and death every day of your life at McDonalds, where you can eat ground-up cow meat taken from cows that were also eating ground-up cow meat.


I don’t know why, but every crappy cafe in Paris has a little crock of this mustard at every table. It’s mostly for the potatoes or salad that you might get with lunch or dinner, but it is better than any mustard I have ever had. It’s strong, with a great wasabi-like kick. But it isn’t overpowering, and tastes like something besides vinegar. In Paris, you can go to the equivalent of a Target and buy this stuff by the gallon. I’ve never found it in the States.

If you can find something like this for me, I’ll be your friend for life.


The baguette here are just not right. I don’t know what’s wrong with them. Not crusty enough, too chewey, tasting too much like sourdough. Something is just not right. I find this confusing, since there are good croissant here.

That’s really all I have. I’m sure my old acquaintances will be surprised.