Paris Latin Quarter gourmet shop new favorite

By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox

Bellota Bellota in the Latin Quarter

Bellota Bellota in the Latin Quarter (click photo to enlarge)

On a recent trip to Paris, France we ventured to Bellota-Bellota, a new gourmet shop with on site dining in the Latin Quarter (Bellota-Bellota Saint Germain, 64 rue de Seine, 75006 Paris, France, +33 1 46 33 49 54,, From the sidewalk we could see through a large display window. The distinctive azulejo tiles and hanging hams in the decor were a sign of the treasure trove of domestic and imported goodies housed inside. When we first arrived in between meal times we had the dining area and shop mostly to ourselves. Despite the touristy location there was a steady trickle of French customers picking up supplies to go. Such was the case with two gorgeous poodles who were as fond of the shop’s famed dry aged distinctive hams imported from Spain as their owner.

Watching the slicing is part of the fun

Watching the Bellota slicing is part of the fun

We relied on the staff’s knowledge and advice in our extended late afternoon tasting. We started with the shop’s seafood products. First, there were three varies of Tarama (a creamy spread made with roe), natural, lobster and truffle. We were lucky to be able to sample them all. The server explained they didn’t always carry the lobster Tarama. The wild Alaska salmon eggs were non pasteurized (though previously frozen). The sliced-by-hand Norwegian salmon, farm raised in an area with many currents, was memorable. Double smoked in Germany with elderwood it had a rich, well rounded flavor without greasiness.

Three varieties of Tarama for tasting

The three varieties of Tarama we tasted

Wild Alaskan salmon eggs

Wild Alaskan salmon eggs

Spanish pork products were next.  Gijuelo, a 58-month chorizo, Fayet from Catalonia (from a Celtic pig), lomito (pork loin from the end of the filet), and lomo, pork loin aged 20 months and vacuum packed, were next. The Fayet, somewhat hard and aged, was flavorful. Although we enjoyed all of them the lomo was our favorite. They were served with a homemade tomato blend of French tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and salt flavored with rosemary, thyme, basil and laurel. 

Two different cuts of the Norwegian Salmon

Two different cuts of the Norwegian Salmon

A selection of Spanish pork products with crackers and homemade tomato dip

A selection of Spanish pork products with crackers and homemade tomato dip

A volcano shaped dish designed by Bernardeau on Limoges porcelain was born from an idea by Phillipe Poulachon, the Bellota-Bellota founder. The plate had space in the middle for a votive candle to gently warm the fragrant bellota ham in order to enhance the flavor.  The warmth of the candle, a staff member explained, should make the fat of the ham translucent at 28 Celsius, the ideal temperature, and display the product to its best advantage. We sampled pata negra Grand Crus from the Guijuelo region of Spain and Bellota-Bellota from Huelva and Jabugo. The small portions disappeared as if by magic from the table. It was served with crystal bread without leavening.

The special volcano shaped serving device

The special volcano shaped serving plate (click photo to enlarge)

A different cut of meat on the volcano

A different cut of meat on the volcano (click photo to enlarge)

The bellota hams were selected from among the best produced in Spain, the shop specialist explained. The company trained its staff to identify ideal hams by using a horse bone, known as a cala, to pierce the seven veins in a pork leg. He demonstrated the process on one of the ham legs in the shop, inviting us to note the variations in the different hearty vein smells. Thirty percent of the original weight of the pork meat is lost to the dry aging process, he went on to explain. Some studies in Spain, he mentioned, suggest the oleic acid in the pork may be good for heart health.

The staff demonstrated piercing the ham to check the curing

The staff demonstrated piercing the ham to check the curing process

The scents of the ham from different parts were intoxicating

The scents of the ham from different testing points were intense

We also sampled delicious Pluma de Pata Negra rare grilled steaks with a heavenly scent prepared at the shop. They were made from frozen as only 600 grams of pluma were produced from each Iberico de Bellota ham, the staff person told us. They were tender and oh so flavor filled. They were served with Pimientos de Padron green peppers (also from frozen), and mashed potatoes with olive oil.

Pluma de Pata Negra rare grilled steaks

Pluma de Pata Negra rare grilled steaks

Sharp cheeses from Spain, that matched the powerful deli meats, closed the savory portion of our tasting menu. There were two types of manchego and a torta d’Extremadura from Salamanca. The strong Extremadura cheese, made with raw ewe’s milk, was aged 60 days and turned by hand daily. The cheeses were served with quince jam.

Manchego cheese with quince jam

Manchego cheese with quince jam

The staff selected Spanish wines to match our tasting: Pago Vallegarcia made from 100 percent vignior from Toledo, and a red Bassus Premium, a spicy blend of bobal, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and petit verdot grapes from Utiel Requera from Valencia; a red 2007 Coma Vella (priorato) made with grenach, cabernet sauvignon, carinera, syrach from south of Barcelona. To complete our tasting, we had Spanish turrones (nougat) from Alicante and Girona followed by French Madeleine pastries made with honey harvested by handicapped artisanal makers from Les Cevennes, France.

A selection of Spanish wines and champagne were available

A selection of Spanish wines and champagne was available

From beginning to end the tasting was a delight. The cheeses, salmon, Tarama, and salmon eggs were free of preservatives. Our favorites were in no particular order the double smoked salmon back, the 20-month aged lomo and the aged Bellota-Bellota Grand Cru hams.

New Serengeti, Ngorongoro bird book published

Birds of the Serengeti

Birds of the Serengeti

A good bird field guide is a superb addition to a safari. Many game viewing destinations offer optimum bird viewing. While the feathered creatures are often overlooked by first time visitors to Africa who are preoccupied with the ever popular search for the Big Five, bird viewing presents its own worthy challenges and rewards worth exploring. 

Travelers to Tanzania interested in bird viewing may want to have a copy of Birds of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Princeton University Press, $20.93) by Adam Scott Kennedy. The 224-page softcover book published last month features 480 color photos, many of them by the author, of 264 species of birds. Images include breeding and non breeding plumage.

The book is divided into: Birds of the Plains; Birds of the Marsh and Water; Birds of Woodland, Scrub and Garden; Birds of Acacia Scrub; Village Birds; Forest and Crater Highlands Birds; Birds of the Air; Night Birds; and Lake Victoria Specials. Some of the sections, such as Village Birds, feature only two types of birds.

Kennedy and his wife, Vicki Kennedy, are private wildlife and photography safari guides. Prior to that they were managers of remote luxury safari camps in Tanzania and Kenya. They are coauthors of Animals of the Masai Mara (see New Masai Mara bird book available).

Birds of the Serengeti

Click to buy Birds of the Serengeti