Maybe you’ve met them already, Parisians Amelie and Gregory Monvoisin in their chic, adorable Bishop Arts shop with postcard-size images of Parisian street signs and Brigitte Bardot on the wall. For Bastille on Bishop, the couple that owns the several month-old Marcel Market ordered a photo cut-out backdrop, shipped last-minute from France, and people posed in front of the shop, peeking through the cut-outs and becoming instantly, effortlessly chic. (The cut-outs: a duo of flaneurs holding baguettes and croissants in a cobblestone street, one scarf-wearing, one wearing a beret.)
The Monvoisins, new transplants to Dallas, are creating a similar sense of delightful dislocation through their shelves. They’ve amassed a lovely collection of nibbles from France, mostly from relationships they’ve built with boutique, niche producers (in addition to classics, such as butter caramels, mustards, and so on).
“The goal of the store is to bring exclusive French products to Dallas,” Amelie said in an interview for D. “They’re things that we wear, and eat, and love. Little brands that are carefully handmade.”
As far as the “eats,” they’re things you can’t find anywhere else in Dallas. I should know. As a French girl who grew up eating Carambars, the caramels that I’d snag at the bakery, where they’re as common as Chiclets, I’m often asked where to buy French things. A few months ago, I was asked where to find gift items for a Francophile friend. I drew a blank. She would have to hopscotch around town. No longer.
The shop is the only place you can pick up locally-made We the Birds macarons. (I haven’t found any in Dallas that I like better: they have the execution, but also the innovative flavor combinations, like watermelon basil.) French Dallasites following Marcel Market on Twitter went gaga over a recent post announcing the launch of weekend deliveries of baguettes, croissants, and pains au chocolat to the shop.
And then there are these, which would be part of my wish-list gift basket:
Bars of chocolate by Le Chocolat des Francais (the chocolate of the French). They sold out of dark chocolate immediately. “All we have left is milk!” Amelie said apologetically when I first came in.
Sophie M. brand chocolate-covered marshmallow bears, nougat, truffles, and lollipops. Yes, they are $22 a canister. It’s also a micro production turning iconic sweets new-school.
La Frenchie, a niche caramel producer in Paris, makes caramel spreads infused with lemon zest or pecan milk-chocolate spreads like Nutella … only made in Paris … (as though) for Texans … and therefore infinitely more chic.
Bonne Maman raspberry tartlets—these were a ubiquitous snack in my childhood, taken on the Metro, to the park.
The sweetened chestnut spread–the kind of you put on crepes or over yogurt—that’s been made by Clement Faugier since 1882.
Regionally specific staples, like tapenades made from olives from Provence. Or spreads that are more reminiscent of paté, for example seafood rillettes made by Groix & Nature. They’re based on the island of Groix, off the coast of Brittany, and feature products from that part of the sea (with the added historical background of an ancient canning craft). The lobster rillettes are accented with kari gosse, a French curry blend, so the spread tastes like curried lobster bisque. (The flavor reference comes from the time when France had a trading counter in Pondicherry, India. Like vadouvan, it’s a curry blend that works brilliantly with seafood and crustaceans. Figure the Bretons would figure that out.) There’s also mackerel rillettes accented with Sichuan pepper or salmon with espelette pepper.
Aperitif biscuits infused with fennel would be perfect with a pastis.
And we’re back to Carambars, always my childhood favorite. In the original, but also flavors like nougat and cotton candy. So far, no crottins de Chavignol, the little puck-shaped aged goat cheeses from the place where my grandmother lived in the Loire valley.
C’est la vie.