Birthdays. Holidays. Anniversaries. Baby showers: all occasions where gifting is not only customary but expected. Living abroad, the already laborious task becomes even more unenviable. Not being able to spend much time with my friends and family means that I've lost some sense of what appeals to them now and, consequently, what they'd most like to receive as gifts. Fortunately, online shopping has largely unburdened gift-giving and has drastically transformed my habits. I almost exclusively order from U.S-based boutiques when I want to send a little something home and one of my favorites is Eat Boutique.
An online magazine and artisanal online shop launched in 2007 by Maggie Battista, Eat Boutique is geared toward food enthusiasts (me) who appreciate and seek out local, handmade comestibles. With the help of a team of contributors, Maggie shares inspired stories, reviews, recipes and brilliant photography that complement an impeccably curated series of themed, seasonal gift boxes available for purchase. I've ordered from EB a handful of times and the enthusiastic response I receive from my recipients is reason enough to keep supporting their small business (now if only someone would offer me one of their gift boxes!).
But that's not all. As Managing Director of Haven in Paris, the short-term apartment rental company, Maggie has succeeded in marrying her two great loves: France and food. Her job frequently brings her to Paris and Provence where she indulges her Francophilia and hunts for French treats to tote back with her to the States. Read on to learn more about Maggie's French favorites....
Describe what you love about France in three words.
Craft. Stories. Wine.
Craft: This country is dotted with artisans who excel at something that others gave up doing by hand ages ago. Always inspired by them, I return home with a notebook full of ideas and aspirations to be half as good.
Stories: When I can manage to utter my few French words with some sort of crooked elegance and the receiving party admits to speaking English, there’s potential for a good heartfelt story. The French are great storytellers.
Wine: Five Euros for a decent bottle of wine cannot be wrong. Ever.
Favorite place (outside of Paris) to explore?
The seaside towns up and down the Côte d'Azur.
I gravitate toward spots that deliver on both food and experience – I want to feel welcomed and comfortable – so my favorites are spots like Le Baron Rouge, Le Petite Pontoise, and Glou. I’m sure I’ll discover new favorites on this trip to add to my Paris Mini-Guide.
Generally, I think the best eats are in your personal Paris kitchen. I encourage everyone to rent an apartment and shop your local market – I love the Marché Raspail and the Maubert Mutualite Market – for your dinner. A slice of sauccison, salty butter, a warm baguette and a glass of Champagne are deeply satisfying.
What you can't leave France without?
Handmade food, of course! My luggage is always packed with various sweet and savory treats from all over the country. I often return with new Bretagne salt, just-discovered jams and preserves, and every day kitchen tools. But I also return with treats I make myself.
On the very first day of a longer trip to France, I buy bunches of French grown herbs from my local market. After a few weeks of drying hung on string in my apartment, the leaves are stripped from the stems and mixed to form my own sort of Herbes de Provence mix, which I give away as homemade food souvenirs. When I combine the dried herbs with some good salt in tiny jars, my gifts for the year are complete.
Most amusing encounter with the French?
I attended a private 12-course dinner in Paris a couple years back. One of the dessert courses was a tiny, homemade treat that we eat consistently as kids in America. The French guests at the table were moaning as if they’d just eaten the best dish of their lives. It was a Rice Krispies treat and when I explained that it was a childhood treat in the States, they felt very deprived by their mothers! It amused me for days.
Thanks, Maggie! As it happens, she's in Paris right now and will be selflessly hauling back a variety of French food and cooking products for a limited edition Paris-themed gift box she is offering on Eat Boutique. To learn more about that, click HERE. Otherwise, join Eat Boutique on Facebook, and follow Maggie on Twitter!