Parisian Gourmet: Frozen Food?

If you’re in my age group, you may remember growing up consuming lousy frozen TV dinners and tasteless frozen vegetables. Fresh vegetables were not a “thing” back then. For example, because I was raised on mushrooms from a jar, I had no idea how delightful fresh ones could be until I was in college. Later, of course, the healthy-eating tidal wave conditioned us to embrace fresh vegetables as the only sane choice.

So, it was with some surprise that I discovered the passion here for frozen foods. Yes, in France, with its fresh markets and reputation for fine cuisine, frozen foods are extremely popular. However, these are not my mother’s tasteless, freezer-burnt, Birds Eye offerings; rather, they’re flash-frozen, high-quality products processed in such a way that they retain all of their nutrients and, in some cases, have more of them than “fresh” produce does.

In France, large grocery stores do offer baked goods and fresh meats, but the neighborhood boulangeries (bakeries) and boucheries (butcher shops) have the best products, and they’re where most Parisians buy them. But I was surprised to find stand-alone stores that offer nothing but frozen products.

Welcome to Picard (no, no relation to Jean-Luc of the Enterprise), which started off in the early 1900s as a supplier of ice. Now, with over 1,000 stores, it can be called one of France’s favorite grocery stores, and it’s also established in several other European countries. Picard’s 1,200 flash-frozen products include veges and fruits (regular and organic), spices, meats, soups, pastries, desserts, and much more. Picard chefs make all sorts of prepared meals that are very popular.

Their freezer-filled stores are clean and modern, with good signage. You can order online for pickup or delivery, and they also sell insulated bags for your use taking food home.

In researching this post, I found quite a few articles extolling Picard. Here’s a good one by Ann Mah that does a great job of introducing Picard.

I’ve eaten quite a few Picard products in the last three months and they’ve all been really good. Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy) over Aligot de l’Aubrac (cheesey mashed potatoes) is one favorite and their Yellow Lentil Curry soup is another.

You can visit the Picard website to see their many tempting offerings: https://www.picard.fr/

When I was staying in Dublin last year, I found a similar chain called, of all things, Iceland. I didn’t try their products so I don’t know if their quality is as good as Picard’s but they seemed quite popular.

Sadly, Picard is not in the U.S. and is not likely to be, for the reasons set forth by Ann Mah. Too bad!

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