A caviar and salmon tasting in Paris

By Elena del Valle and photos by Gary Cox

The Prunier shop in Place de la Madeleine, Paris

The Prunier shop on Place de la Madeleine, Paris


Inside the Prunier shop – click to enlarge

Tasting more than one type of caviar at a time is not ideal, the sales lady at Prunier, a specialty shop on the ritzy Place de la Madeleine in Paris, France, said when I asked about sampling several varieties of the delicate seafood. She went on to explain that most people’s palate has trouble distinguishing the flavors in the same way that after sampling several wines it becomes difficult to taste the nuances of each consecutive one.

The Prunier shop had a selection of caviar on display.

The Prunier shop had a selection of caviar cans on display.

So it was that we settled on only one kind of the four caviar types sold at the shop instead of the two or more varieties we had anticipated when we planned a caviar tasting. We also sampled some Norwegian farm raised Balik salmon which she said tasted “like candy.”

Prunier Tradition caviar

The Prunier Tradition Caviar we sampled. (click to enlarge)

She recommended the Tradition Caviar, explaining that it accounted for as much as 60 percent of the company’s caviar production. Ours was from the most recent production of September 2014 and had been aged one month. We took home a 30 gram tin of Tradition, a farmed caviar from Montpon Menesterol in France, for each of us. We also took a 120 gram vacuum pack of Balik Norwegian farmed salmon smoked in Ebersol, Switzerland. They came in insulated sealed plastic bags with small frozen packs.

Balik salmon for one.

A box of Balik salmon for one.

The products would be at their best if we refrigerated them within five hours so we made our way back to our place with alacrity, arriving within an hour and placing the bags in the refrigerator immediately. They sat in the corner while we fretted with anticipation until the following afternoon when we sampled them with a glass of well chilled brut champagne.

The salmon was offered in a variety of cuts and sizes.

The salmon display case with a variety of cuts and sizes.

Following her advice we had the caviar by itself first. It was buttery with a pleasing texture, a mild flavor and just the right amount of salt to highlight its natural taste without being too salty. There was also a hint of nuttiness and a pleasant aftertaste but no fishiness.

There was a case containing other products, like foie gras and blinis.

There was a case containing other products like foie gras and blinis. 

The salmon too was subtle and had a buttery melt-in-your-mouth texture. We sliced it into bite size chunks and ate it by itself with no garnishes or condiments. Each package was a single serving which was plenty, yet it seemed to disappear as if by magic. I would buy both products again and recommend them to friends, especially if it is their first time tasting caviar and salmon. Boutique Prunier (15 place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris, France, +33 147429898, www.prunier.com, info@prunier.com),  a 50 square meter ground level shop, was established in 2005.

Some of our Paris food favorites

By Elena del Valle and photos by Gary Cox

A view of Paris

A unique view of Paris from atop Notre Dame. (click to enlarge)

Paris, France is an exceptional city when it comes to restaurants and food. In addition to a variety of neighborhood size supermarket stores, specialized food shops small and large, single and chain owned, domestic and foreign can be found across the city. As if that wasn’t enough street market vendors sell fresh seafood, ethnic foods, produce, flowers, dairy products and merchandise several times a week in various city neighborhoods.

A variety of salts at the Galeries Lafayette Maison

A variety of salts at the Galeries Lafayette Maison

Yuzu citrus from Japan

Yuzu citrus from Japan

Prices are high and the shelf life of fresh products short so it pays to shop often and with care, and to pay attention when making purchases lest the produce wilt or spoil in the refrigerator before we consume it. Over the years we have discovered that the best way to shop for us is to pick and choose favorite products from a variety of vendors in our area. For example, we usually find a neighborhood bakery and grocer for regular purchases. In addition, for special occasions and when we just want to treat ourselves to something out of the ordinary there are a number of sellers we find are worth a special trip or detour.

Bellota Bellota in the Latin Quarter

The Bellota Bellota shop and eatery in the Latin Quarter

Slicing Bellota ham requires skill

Slicing bellota ham requires skill (click to enlarge)

For over the top wonderful bellota ham from Spain and related products we like the Bellota Bellota store on rue de Seine in the Latin Quarter (see Paris Latin Quarter gourmet shop new favorite). They offered eat in (though we found it too chilly to eat there on cold days) and take out options as well as freshly sliced and vacuum packed options. Most recently we tried Le Royal sandwich made with slices of master cortador cut bellota, manchego cheese and homemade smashed tomatoes. The single slice of cheese and single slice of bellota tasted best after removing one of the halves of the thick and crunchy bread.

The distinctive logo for Marriage Freres marks the location of fine teas

The distinctive Marriage Freres sign marked the location of fine teas

A turkey club at the Marriage in the carousel

A turkey club at the Carrousel du Louvre location of Mariage Freres

When we are in the mood for tea and a light meal at a teashop we make our way to Mariage Freres on rue Bourg-Tibourg in the Right Bank for their Snob Salad and Louvre sandwich (see Superb gourmet lunch at Paris tea salon). Although on our most recent visit the service was slower and less attentive in the tea salon and shop by far than in past occasions the food was good. We generally stay away from the too touristy Carrousel du Louvre location, especially in cold weather. We have found the underground shopping center next to the Louvre Museum to be overcrowded, and the only bathroom for teashop customers was an equally crowded pay for use mall facility outside the eatery. Although clean and maintained by onsite staff it required exiting the tea shop and walking over public bathroom, payment of 1.50 euros and standing in line.

Snob salad at Grand Augustin

The Snob Salad at the Grand Augustin shop (click to enlarge)

Sencha tea whipped in a special cup

A cup of matcha tea whipped and served in a special cup

On our most recent stay in the City of Lights, we visited the shop and tea salon at Grands Augustins on the Left Bank. While we were disappointed the shop did not carry the match tea flavor we liked from the tea salon or offer any date for its availability (the staff person responded stiffly when we asked) the tea salon experience was pleasant and the service attentive. The Snob Salad was slightly different and less to our liking than the one on rue Bourg-Tibourg.

Table D'Aki changed its name

Table D’Aki changed its name to La Table d’Akihiro

Scallops with white truffles

The scallops with white truffles were outstanding

Delicate fish served with carmelized endive

A delicate fish served with caramelized endive (click to enlarge)

For dependable, fresh, beautifully prepared and presented seafood we beeline our way to Table d’Akihiro in the Left Bank (see Same outstanding seafood Paris restaurant, updated name). While advance reservations have been a must, and menu selection in the past was limited to one or two appetizers, one or two mains and one dessert, the meals have always been exceptional and outstanding value for money.