The Sentier is a favourite neighbourhood of Paris for us – we know it well and visit often because it’s studded with fabric shops, haberdasheries and pretty much everything related to sewing. There’s always something to see here. Even in the streets that don’t sing out with street appeal at first glance you’ll find interesting people and entrepreneurial ideas coming and going as new boutiques, businesses, delis, cafés and the like open up in old spaces.
Out on a sewing-gift buying expedition in the week before Easter we wandered off rue d’Aboukir and into rue de Nil which has become a bit of a magnet for artisan food connoisseurs. This is where you’ll find the butcher, the baker the candlestick maker the greengrocer, the fishmonger and the French chef too. Terroirs d’Avenir is a group of food purveyors located together in rue de Nil whose mission is to provide home cooks and professional chefs with direct access to fresh, seasonal produce of regional terroirs. The concept of food and terroir – food produced according to local traditions in a certain geographic region with its unique climatic conditions cannot be reproduced elsewhere – is a dearly held French belief.
The vegetables in the épicerie show they really have been grown as nature provided, there’s real dirt on the endive and there isn’t an out of season winter strawberry in sight. Instead you’ll find heirloom vegetables like parsley root (looks like parsnip, but tastes different) and Jerusalem artichoke alongside glorious deep red radicchio de Trevise from Sicily, purple Italian broccoli, Sicilian artichokes with prickles – note the warning sign “je pique vraiment”, salad flowers, and Corsican grapefruits. The origin of the vegetables is marked on the box so you know exactly where your greens come from.
Across the street Lily the butcher is flat out trimming and preparing succulent cuts of lamb ready for customers coming to pick up their orders ready for the Easter weekend. The cuts of meat on offer tempt me to buy up and rush home to get out my French recipe book.
This is real food for cooks who like cooking, and well, anyone who loves eating and tasting. You can try your hand at traditional French recipes like gratin d’endives rolled in ham, and veal or lamb kidneys with Armagnac.
The bakery is the most recent addition to the street. They sell bread and pastries made using flour grown organically and processed using traditional stone milling, and we can certainly recommend the nut and raisin bread. They also sell the specialty flour in household sized packets in the shop.
So, if cooking is as much a pleasure as knitting and sewing, or haberdashery hunting works up your appetite, rue de Nil is well worth a diversion. You might like to grab a sandwich at the bakery, stroll along to the small seating area by the Aboukir Oasis – the vertical garden on rue d’Aboukir – and savour a taste of the Sentier.