The first thing that guests want when they arrive in Paris is cheese. And then wine. Followed by more cheese and, if the fates are smiling, a steaming baguette from the boulangerie around the corner. The thought of going to a supermarket never enters one’s mind – too much time is spent following one’s nose from the fruit and veg stand to the poissonaires, and then back again to the fromagerie. Understandably so, as these things can all be exceptional here.
However, much can be said for one-stop-shopping and, mostly, what kinds of items I have discovered when wandering the aisles in a foreign country with an all-too-familiar rumble in my belly. Despite the multitudes of cheese taking center stage, what I have been astounded by in my dairy case has been the yogurt. The choices stretch, in well-stocked cases, as far as the eye can see. The flavors range from the achingly sweet chocolates to the piquant, unsweetened (or nature) varieties. Not to mention the goat and sheep’s milk options. Luckily I do not need to constantly choose. One of my favorite brands, La Laitiere (let’s ignore the giant Nestle on the box for now), sells four of their basic saveurs (citron, vanille, noix de coco and fraise) as a variety pack, containing two of each. Keeps my taste buds on their toes each morning.
My consistent favorite has been the coconut – not the cultured version of a virgin piña colada found in the US – but a slightly sweetened, dense and silky creamy confection flecked with shards of coconut. It is, for me, the perfect way to start my day. When quizzed, my recent houseguests were immediately able to put their fingers on the difference between the yogurts here and back home. It is the texture. There are no grainy lumps that I optimistically think I can ‘stir away’, or watery layer that has floated to the top, waiting to ruin my appetite upon opening. Perhaps this is related to fat content – I cannot recall seeing many (if any) fat-free dairy mishaps in the French markets. Rather each yogurt is thick and smooth, rich but not too heavy. Even better, many are sold in small glass jars, which are not only adorable, but work well as measuring cups for traditional recipes (I have made this and it is delicious) and make handy picnic wine glasses come summertime!