M. P. Samie
Budget-friendly bistro dishes, café cups & bowls, and dinnerware, in Paris
When you come to France, you’re probably not coming to buy dishes. Or are you? A reader once wrote that I posted too much “insider” information about Paris. But my take is that it’s easy to find intel on well-known shops (and I don’t know about you, but I like insider tips when I travel…), but a place hidden away in plain sight, in the 14th arrondissement, might be worth your attention. Especially if you’re anything like me, who loves iconic French bistro and café cups. And boy, does M. P. Samie have ‘em.
A lot of people extoll the virtues of heading “off the beaten path,” and no offense to the 14th, but it’s not an arrondissement that I go to often. Like most people in Paris, I don’t leave my arrondissement unless I have to…although we did make it across the river last week, which was both exciting and scary, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I made it back to the Boulevard Henri IV, the road that leads to the Bastille.
However, I had to go to the 14th to see a medical specialist over there, so I was biking back and forth several times a month. We used to drive past M. P. Samie when heading out of town, and I listed it in places of interest in my book, Drinking French. And I was happy that my doctor’s office was near the store so I could stop in and get some plates. As you can see…it’s the place for plates, in Paris.
For those of us who miss the much-missed La Vaisellerie chain of shops, which had a mad jumble of plates, serving platters, butter dishes, cocktail and wine glasses, café au lait bowls, and lots more, you might want to put M. P. Samie on your radar.
Café au lait bowls in different sizes are around €4 each. Interestingly, someone also once told me—or corrected me—that a French person told them that French people don’t drink coffee from bowls, which I found odd since they’re called café au lait bowls. It’s like telling people that British people don’t use teapots for making tea.
Café au lait bowls are used for drinking coffee at home, in the morning. Although, if you want a coffee with frothy milk in a café in France, you want to ask for a café crème, not a café au lait or even a cappuccino (which is Italian), which may come out served with whipped cream and dusted with cinnamon or chocolate. That’s not a bad thing, but it may not be what you had in mind. And it will generally cost you more than a café crème.
(Contrary to popular belief, it’s no longer odd to drink a café crème at a café in the afternoon. I see a lot of people in Paris doing that. But it’s not normal to order one after a meal. A café noisette, an espresso with a touch of milk and foam, is what to order if you want to ‘live like a local’…but only sort of😉.)
I love these rectangular baking dishes, below. I bought one at a flea market for €10 and thought I got a deal. But it’s nice for everyone else that they are affordable, as well as available in various sizes.
They’re super useful (and beautiful) for everything from a fruit crisp to roast chicken. The square shape also fits more neatly into a compact oven, which is appreciated in France. They are super heavy, and if you dropped one in your sink, you’d probably break the sink before you broke the baking dish.
While I’m not a tea drinker, people in France enjoy a spot of tea every now and then. So yup, there are teapots, although another tip is that herb tea isn’t called tea in France, it’s called tisane or infusion, which is why you might get a confused look* if you order camomile or lemon verbena tea.
It can be quite a learning curve just ordering something to drink here! But whatever you drink—here or there—if you want to bring a touch of French café to your home, you can do so for only €1 or €1,50.
M. P. Samie
45, Avenue Générale Leclerc (14th)
Tél: 01 40 47 59 21
Métro: Mouton-Duvernet or Denfert-Rochereau
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*I am the king of getting confused looks, which is why I’m sharing my experiences with you—so you can avoid them.