Saturday, March 25, 2006

Les Produits Français/Européen/Non-Wisconsin

Once upon a time, I wrote about the American products I really missed upon arriving in France. Now, looking back at that list, I thank all the wonderful people who have sent or brought nearly every one to me. I talked to my Dad yesterday, and he mentioned that I should prepare a list for them to bring when he and his wife Pam come to visit during Easter. Of course, I immediately mentioned contact solution (what costs 2$ in the US costs 14 euros here), but other than that, I actually struggled a bit. The neat thing is, I have now found many French or European products that I love love love--and I thought I'd share them with you. If you are a frenchie as well, and have something to share with me, please, comment away!

So, here they are, in no particular order:

    Yogurt (There are so many choices, you could try a new one every week for a lifetime, but I do love "brassé nature" or blended unsweetened unflavored--that slightly sour milky flavor is just divine.)

    Those Nestlé mousses. Mmmm... tried vanilla with chocolate sauce last night. Very good--even had the little vanilla bean seed thingies in it (a sign of extra special goodness in my eyes). Fabulous flavors include salty caramel, coffee, dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Also love their Pots de Crème au Chocolat.

    Brioche. It's like a sweet roll dough, without the added cinnamon (which I am allergic to) or frosting. Sweet, rich, tender...I have to restrain myself, otherwise I'd eat the whole loaf in one sitting. Love it with butter and strawberry jam.

    Yves Rocher Makeup Remover and Toner. So gentle, effective, and leaves skin so soft.

    Yves Rocher Kohl eyeliner. Silky smooth application, great color, lasts.

    Yves Rocher shampoos and conditioners. Both Dr. B and I like them.

    Yves Rocher Green Tea shower gel (smells so fresh!), their bubble baths, nail polish, lip gloss, eau de toillette, etc.(In case you're wondering, Yves Rocher recently had a 50% off everything in the store sale. I was thrilled, and stocked up.)

    Reflets de France brand food products. These I can find at our local Champion, and they package traditional french products, using the best ingredients, the best producers, etc. And they are very reasonably priced. I haven't yet found one that wasn't at least good, if not excellent. Ratatouille in a can for 75 cents. Who knew?

    Saveur de l'Année products. This is kind of a "Stamp of Goodness"--went through some sort of tasting panel. All have been good. I watch for these as well.

    Cheese. I never get tired of trying new ones, and we have come up with a classification system for them: Cheese, Foot cheese, and Butt cheese. Dr. B likes Cheese, and can eat some Foot. I love all three. Some of my favorites are Brillat-Savarin, Mimolette (medium old or old, not the young), Cantal, Camembert and Bleu d'Auvergne or Roquefort. Dr. B is a little scared by the blue moldy spots, but we smoosh them into the cheese when spreading it, and then he likes it. I don't mind the moldy bits.

    Nivea Men products (I know, they're German). Dr. B loves their Sensitive Baume After Shave.

    Vania Kotydia Flexi-form feminine products. Not going to discuss this one, but they are great. Work with all types of undergarments.

    European Shower Gels. They have such good ones--I think they sell Fa in the US, and I am currently enjoying the Fa Coconut Yogurt Softening Fresh Shower Gel.

    Soupline Fabric Softener--I prefer "Lavande Des Collines"--Lavendar of the Hills. Since our clothesline is above where we sleep, I consider it aromatherapy! Heh.

    Salted Butter from the street market. Got some last week, because I was out and it was Sunday so the grocery store was closed. It is WAY better. Hard to describe it, but the buttery taste is just more intense, the salt a little crunchy--it's just so good and I don't know how they do it but I'm going to get some more. After tasting this, there's no margarine for me, ever again. Wow.

    Mir Pamplemousse et Fleurs d'Oranger Dishwashing Liquid. Grapefruit and Orange Tree Flower scent. Makes doing dishes not suck so much.

    Savon de Marseille (Soap of Marseille) We had this in the US, but it was expensive and not available everywhere. Here it is literally everywhere and dirt cheap. Cleans well, and leaves your skin feeling good--not too dry, not too greasy.

    Javel Dose Bleach Tablets Genius! Bleach in a hard tablet--I never spill or splash, and can use it for sheets, towels, etc. Someone tell Clorox!

    Those little tissue packets I know we had them in the US, too, but here they come in huge packs (like 20 packets in a pack) for less than 2 euros, and they reclose really well. I always have one in my purse, and the tissues are big and thick. Excellent.

    Water Evian, Vittel, Volvic--sooooo cheap in France. You can get 6 -1.5 liter bottles for 2 or 3 euros. I also love the new Volvic Zest--it has a little fruit flavor and a tiny bit of sugar, and is very refreshing, but not super sweet.

    Confiture de Lait Milk Jam. I know, sounds weird. But it's not--it's milk with sweetener cooked down until it is kind of like a thick, milky caramel. So good to dip apple slices into.

    Bread Well, duh, I am in Paris. I know, I know--but I am in love with the Baguettes des Prés. (Multi-Grain baguettes) I think they're becoming more popular, because I've had to go earlier and earlier to the bakery to get them before they run out. Yesterday, the people in line in front of me were ordering something, and the next lady helped me (I ordered 2) and then they wanted one, too, but I took the last ones. I said I was sorry, but didn't offer to give them one of mine. You snooze, you lose!

    Pants for Dr. B. He's about my height (short on the Norwegian-American scale, completely average on the French scale) and is quite trim (he'd argue, but he's generally a size M in the US.) Pants we've found here are usually close to the right length (and most stores have free alterations) and fit the waist without being super baggy on the legs, as most American pants are. He won't wear most of his old pants anymore. When you're not tall, baggy pants look really dumpy. Their shirts also fit more closely, which looks much better on him. We've bought most of them at Celio* (the star is part of the name). I think it's not a French store, but whatever. It is french.

    Wine Again with the duh. The nice part about French wine is that you can find decent stuff that is cheap. Like I'm talking 3 euros, not $10 like in the US. There's stuff for 1 euro and some cents, and though it's usually not good, it's not awful either. Unbelievable.

    Bonne Maman Coconut Cookies These just came out, and they are wonderful. I like most of their other products as well--the French do have lots of fancier packaged cookies that are really good and not pricey. An example is LU brand, or others that are similar to Pepperidge Farm (you can't get those here) but about half the price.

    Chocolate French chocolate is just so much better. After it, Hershey's tastes like someone mixed in burnt cornmeal or something. The flavors, the texture, and the quality are much higher than most American chocolate (though I still love Ghirardelli, Dove and Guittard, for baking). We recently discovered the "Noir de Noir" of Côte d'Or (made by Kraft). They are little pieces, individually wrapped, of good dark chocolate. Enough for 2 bites--satisfying, without feeling like you should eat an entire bar of it. Perfect with coffee after dinner.

    Etam Lingerie Their jammies are really, really soft and comfy. I think this may be a British chain. I should have known when they spelled "Woolfie" with two o's. :) It's French, though the first store was in Germany way back in 1916.

    Cornichons My favorite food in the world is pickles (cucumber, to be specific). When I was a kid, my Mom made them from our garden and they were so sour and garlicky and delicious--I could eat the entire jar by myself. I would make them in Wisconsin, but it's a lot of work. Consider yourself loved if I ever gave you a jar--they were a precious commodity. These are the sourest of the sour. (My sister didn't like them because they were too sour for her). You can get the Maille brand in the US--worth a try if you like sour, crunchy pickles. (The french word for sour is aigre.) There's no dill in them, but the tiny onions that they use are also delicious. Plus, they have the little plastic basket thingie that you lift up, so you don't have to dig in the brine with a fork. I love those things! (Peter Piper brand in the US uses them as well.)

    Muesli Croustillant aux Fruits Crunchy grain clusters with dried bananas, raisins, coconut, papaya--great with the unsweetened yogurt, and sticks to your ribs! Ideal breakfast with a cup of strong, black coffee.

    Duck is delicious. Very rich and a bit pricey, so can't eat it often, but oh, sooo good. I haven't had the guts to try rabbit yet, but I'll get there. (They have a little cartoon rabbit on the package, and I just can't get past the idea of eating a Pink Bugs Bunny.) I like Foie Gras (which the French seem to be obsessed with) but it's not something I can't live without. I'll eat it at a party, but usually wouldn't buy it for myself. It's too rich for Dr. B.

    Crème Fraîche It's a staple here, and used for both savory and sweet things. It's kind of like sour cream, but not as sour. Sort of like plain yogurt, but thicker and richer. It's just good. We love it to dress up canned fruit with it and some Sucre Roux (whole cane sugar--not refined, has a bit of an anise flavor to it--Yum!) in the winter for an easy dessert.

    Picard This is a french frozen-foods store, and the food is of excellent quality. Some of our favorites are the Hachis Parmentier (Shepherd's Pie), Raspberry Tarte, little teeny ice cream cones and the Blueberry Tarte. We have a freezer smaller than a shoe box, so I have to buy what we will eat that day (except the teeny ice cream cones, they fit), but if we had a bigger one, I'd probably buy more there. I make their Lasagne Bolognaise for lunch every Wednesday for my girls and their Music teacher.

    Nutella no explanation necessary. (Italian)

    Knorr and Maggi brand soups and sauces. Good and really easy. (Like add water and stir easy for the sauces. Heat the soups--no need to add water.)

    Terrine de Campagne Like meatloaf spread in a jar. Delicious with the cornichons.

    Maille Moutarde Fins Gourmets This specific type of Maille mustard makes the best vinaigrette--great flavor and it blends so smoothly. The girls' music teacher actually asked me to show her all the ingredients of my vinaigrette because she loved it so much! And she's French!!! (I was so flattered.)

So, got anything to add? Put your centimes in the Bank! I can't wait to try something new. (Who me? Gourmet? Mais, non! Gourmand!!!)



At 7:43 AM, March 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good chevre cheese! I guess that it fits in the cheese category, but it deserves one of its own...

At 11:28 AM, March 25, 2006, Anonymous Lauren said...

A fun post to read! I spent some time living in Salzburg in college and this makes me long for some of my European favorites, too! And I love pickles, too! I am definitely going to look for your brands!

At 12:27 PM, March 25, 2006, Blogger Chelee said...


I think I gained five pounds just reading your list.

At 1:01 PM, March 25, 2006, Blogger Kat said...

Petit Ecolier dark chocolate cookies. Can find them in US but they're typically pretty expensive. Not so in France. Also, Bonne Maman jam. Again, can find it in US, but it's sometimes a bit 'cher.' 1664 beer (I think it's from Alsace?), as well as Abbaye de Leffe (Belgian beer...YUM!). DIM tights and knee socks. Cheap and last forever. I'll keep thinking :)

At 1:02 PM, March 25, 2006, Blogger Samantha said...

Holy cow, that's a long list! Have you tried the Yves Rocher Green Tea deodorant? Smells great, and is one of the only French deodorants that actually works for me (just one less thing to bring back from the US).

At 5:27 PM, March 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please, excuse my poor english.I'm one of your french faithful reader and I finally decided to put a centime on your blog. I must specify that I live in the same area as you.

So, I wanted to add some precisions :
_Nestlé is swiss
_Reflets de France is a high quality brand of Carrefour (and Champion is a chain of supermarkets of Carrefour)
_Mimolette is not french but dutch. Try "camembert affiné au Calvados" and "Munster affiné au Gewurztraminer".
_Celio is french.
_Côte d'Or is a Nestlé's brand so... but Lindt is swiss too. You should try belgian pralines like Jeff de Bruges or Leonidas.
_Etam is french.
_If you try rabbit, be careful of small bones.
_You should try soups in box (Liebig for example). They are usually better than the ones in powder.
_What about fish and seafood?

At 5:43 PM, March 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The strange flavors of potato chips we had one that was good - olives - and one not so - chicken!

At 7:12 PM, March 25, 2006, Blogger La Rêveuse said...


Thanks for the notes. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear--I know that not all these products are french, but they are things I couldn't find in the US.

Mimolette can be french, though--Boule d'Or is known as Mimolette Française, and is produced in France.

I do buy the box soups--I tried the dried ones once, but found them to be rather bland. (Too bad--they're much lighter!) I prefer the Knorr or Maggi--the Liebig ones are owned by Campbell's. Maybe it's just an American prejudice, but I'm not a fan. I guess too much of it when I was a kid.

I know about Nestlé all too well--my husband used to work for one of their subsidiaries in the US (Purina). They own many product brands, including Garnier, San Pellegrino, Vittel, Carnation, Purina, Friskies and many others. They are huge.

I haven't ventured much into seafood here--growing up in the middle of the continent doesn't expose you to very much fresh fish. What I've eaten has been good, but I guess I'm just not used to cooking much of it, so don't buy it as often. We love smoked salmon and trout, and buy those now and then. I'm not an oyster fan. I do miss a good steak, though--french beef hasn't impressed me. But then again, I'm from ranching country! That's probably the first thing I'll order the next time we visit.

What is up with the camembert au calvados? Do they soak it? Or is that to drink with it? And the Gerwurtztraminer Munster--that is so hard to type, and I'm not even going to try to say it out loud until I've practiced.

By the way, did you know that the band the Gipsy Kings is actually French? I've surprised more than one french person with that fact--and they googled it and found I was right! They were quite shocked that it's not more well-known.

Etam started in Germany in 1916. Celio*--what's up with the Italian name? Strange.

Anyway, it's 3 AM, and we've been watching Desperate Housewives for hours, so it's time for bed. More eating to be done tomorrow.

At 8:35 PM, March 25, 2006, Anonymous ami f. said...

Oh my oh my... bringing back such fond memories. There are so many delicious things to try in Paris. Being a gourmand is such fun there! Be sure to stop in to Paul for a delicious sandwich or croissant; to Mariage Freres for a sip of Marco Polo Tea; to Fauchon for a butter pastry and to Maison de Miel to sample honeys of all sorts -- honey of Gattinas is especially sweet and unique! If your budget allows -- be sure to get a sweet chocolate treasure from Rich Art. Oh... and once you're back state side -- if you continue to long for French products as I often do, check out for all sorts of incredible, decadent French treats! They're my source when France is too far away!

At 5:41 AM, March 26, 2006, Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Mrs B !

Excellent post – bravo !

Sometimes it's pretty depressing to read these sorts of lists, simply because so many of the products mentioned, once "typically French" and relatively small, now belong to multinationals such as Kraft, Unilever, Danone, and Nestle. Maggi soup, for example, is a Nestle brand, while "Le Petit Marseillais", aka "Savon de Marseille", was taken over only last week by the French subsidiary of the New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson. With mergers and acquisitions, it looks as though soon there will be One Big Food Company, One Big Bank, and so forth. How so very, very depressing …

Anyway … Amerloque will, as is his wont, add a centime or two … (smile)

"Reflets de France", as your French reader states, is the house brand for Carrefour, the hypermarket chain. The "Champion" stores have belonged to Carrefour since the messy takeover a few years back. (Note that Picard used to belong to Carrefour before passing through the hands of two hedge/private equity funds. It is now owned by an entity called "BC Partners".) In Amerloque's (and Mrs A's) view, the Champion stores were far better before Carrefour became involved. The quality has dropped substantiantially (sigh), but Champion is still a better bet that "Inno" or "Super U". Since October 2005, financial market have been swept by rumors the Wal-Mart will be taking over Carrefour, which for over a year now has been retrenching in the Far East, closing a lot of outlets. If Wal-Mart comes to France … (sigh) …

Amerloque will now go down the list and offer several more centimes …

/*/Yves Rocher/*/
The King of Natural Products. A sort of French "Body Shop". One can purchase by mail and on line, and once one is on the snailmailing list, says Mrs A, there are all kinds of discounts and freebees to be had …. Although its products are not the same, YR is suffering somewhat, say the financial markets, due to the commercial rivalry between "Sephora" and "Marionnaud" (the latter now owned by Li Ka Sheng, the Chinese multigaziliionaire)

/*/Saveur de l'Année/*/
Is, as you say, a kind of a "Stamp of Goodness". A consumer organization awards the label. How they do it is apparently a mystery … (smile)

There are two kinds of cheeses: "real" cheeses and "processed" cheeses. There are many, many of the latter due to the Common Market "milk mountain". (smile) Insofar as "real" cheeses are concerned, there are "pasteurized" and "unpasteurized" cheeses (aka "non industrial" and "industrial" cheeses, in some circles). (smile)

Millions of tons of "house" Camemberts and Roqueforts are produced by a company called "Lactalis", which was once called the "Besnier" group. Its big consumer brand is "President" – all industrial schlock, in Amerloque's opinion – even the butter (sigh) Go to a hypermarket, buy the house Camembert, and it's probably Lactalis. (Its competitor is Compagnie de Fromages, with its Cœur de Lion brand).

Best "real" Camemberts widely available are "Réo" and "Gillot": both very, very good. Amerloque's preference is "Réo". Roquefort ? "Société" belongs to Lactalis, so you really want to try "Papillon" or "Gabriel Coulet". Papillon is a bit more pungent. Note that these are not "cheese shop cheeses" but cheeses available in supermarkets and hypermarkets. Try the "bleu de Causses" if you like "bleu d'Auvergne" … the moldy bits are what gives the cheese its taste; they are good for you !!!

/*/Salted Butter/*/
Salt is best from "Guérande", much better than usual salt. (smile) A bit extra, but worth it.

/*/After tasting this, there's no margarine for me, ever again. Wow./*/
One cannot live in France and eat "margarine", can one ? (smile)

/*/Javel Dose/*/
It belongs to Axa Private Equity. (smile)

/*/Water Evian, Vittel, Volvic/*/
The brand "Quezac" was invented a few years ago. The advertising is, er, um, misleading: there is no "legende de Quezac" and so forth: it's advertising bee ess, totally invented to shaft the consumer.

/*/Confiture de Lait Milk Jam/*/
One can make one's own – there are recipes galore …

/*/Bonne Maman/*/
A huge French success story. LU brand = belongs to Danone

/*/Chocolate French chocolate is just so much better./*/
The definition of chocolate is not the same as in the USA. It's mainly a question of how much cocoa butter is allowed. There is a "Salon du Chocolat" in Paris every year, during the Autumn.

/*/Cornichons My favorite food in the world is pickles (cucumber, to be specific)./*/
You want to try "cornichons malossol à la russe" – it's on the label. Then you want to go over behind the Faubourg Saint-Denis and find the very top pickles in Paris, along with very, very good basturma and soujouk …

/*/Maille brand
Belongs to Unilever

It's Italian

/*/1664 beer (I think it's from Alsace?)/*/
Yes, belongs to Kronenbourg

/*/Abbaye de Leffe (Belgian beer...YUM):/*/
Try the Academie de la Biere, on the Boulevard Port-Royal. It's the original and still the best. (smile) Amerloque spent many an afternoon there in the 1960s and 1970s … before the guidebooks found it (sigh);

/*/DIM tights and knee socks/*/
Belongs to Sara Lee, who has been desperately trying to flog it for over a year now. It's a "mythique" French brand: its ads in the 1970s broke new ground for years. "Da-da-da-duh-da-dahhhhh" …

/*/Lindt is swiss too/*/
Yes, there is "Lindt" and "Lindt & Sprungli". The latter is the Rolls Royce. (smile)

/*/San Pellegrino/*/
If you ever run across the San Pellegrino alcohol-free red aperitif in the small bottles, Amerloque would be interested in knowing where. They disappeared here some years back …

/*/I do miss a good steak, though--french beef hasn't impressed me./*/
Try one of the Argentine steak houses. (wide grin)

/*/By the way, did you know that the band the Gipsy Kings is actually French?/*/
The current one is the second or third iteration. The founder added members of his extended family at the very beginning. More and more "family" came out of the woodwork and the founder, allegedly, was forced out by the "family" he had helped… (sigh) … accoding to the media, it was very messy indeed !


At 7:01 AM, March 26, 2006, Blogger La Rêveuse said...

BTW--the margarine comment is there for a reason--Dr. B is lactose-intolerant, and just can't eat butter (well, if he does, he has to leave the house. I believe the french word for this is peter--P.U., if you know what I mean, and I am the one to suffer.) So, I have to buy him margarine, but I really prefer the butter, so have been buying both.

He can eat some cheese each day, if he eats French natural yogurt--the bacteria in it will digest a small amount of lactose, but not enough for butter (butter has lots of lactose. Cheeses, depending on how old/hard they are, have varying amounts._ This didn't work in the US because the cultures that were re-added to the yogurt after they had been killed are not strong enough to do this. When we'd buy greek yogurt from the greek markets in Chicago (a local Greek restaurant sold it), he could eat that, and it would work, but regular US supermarket yogurt just didn't cut it.

At 8:19 AM, March 26, 2006, Blogger Oz said...

Our guests from Canada love bringing back with them the Saint Louis sugar pieces (ti' plaisir)that come in shapes of hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs.

I just asked my 6 year old son what he likes here and he said, "Pom'Pot, Actimel, fromage blanc with Bonne Maman jam, Petit LU butter cookies, and Chupa Chups!"

I don't know if they're French products, but I was surprised that he actually had an answer to share!

Time for "le goûter"!

At 9:32 AM, March 26, 2006, Blogger Katie said...

Oooh, I love this post. The French are the champions of les produits.

At 1:46 PM, March 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading the post, but it seems that some readers took it WAY too seriously and perhaps saw it as a challenge to show themselves as the biggest francophile - lighten up, people!

At 1:25 PM, March 27, 2006, Blogger buzzgirl said...

I'm copying your list and bringing it with me next week. Thanks.

My eleven year old daughter loooooves Volvic Magique Fraise (unavailable in the US.) We ended up bringing several litres back with us (heavy!) I can't wait to try the Zest. Yum!

At 1:31 PM, March 27, 2006, Blogger buzzgirl said...

Oh, regarding Dr. B.'s lactose intolerance: has he tried Lactaid? It works amazingly well.

At 2:46 PM, March 27, 2006, Blogger La Rêveuse said...

Yes, he uses it when he needs it, but can't eat much lactose with it--it's just not powerful enough. He says it takes away the pain, but he still bloats (which means I still suffer!) He uses it if he has a cream sauce or something, but it's not strong enough for, say, a gratin or pudding or pots de crème. Better to just listen to the body and not put in too much of what he can't have. (Him with the dairy, me with the cinnamon, pineapple, kiwi and smoked meats.)

At 6:48 PM, March 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You will be able to find yves roche, nivea, muesli with dried fruit, grapefruit, orange tea dish soap, knorr soups/sauces when/if you return to US. I have found them. I am with you on the foie gras. Not a fan. But I did really enjoy rabbit and love the fish, cheese, bread and strong coffee.

At 6:27 AM, March 31, 2006, Blogger Me said...

just love this post!!!!

Something else you might want to try: Creme de Marrons. It's a sweet spread made from chestnuts.

At 12:48 PM, April 12, 2006, Blogger rickemmanuel said...

I love your list...makes me want to go to Casino and shop.

At 6:45 PM, June 17, 2006, Blogger Starman said...

There is a Maille store just across the street from the Madeleine.

At 6:48 PM, June 17, 2006, Blogger Starman said...

There is a Maille store just across the street from the Madeleine.


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