Even Parisians need to eat five-minute meals sometimes. And when they do, they head to Picard Surgelés, the French chain store specializing in gourmet frozen foods.
The History of Picard
Founded in 1906 as a refrigerating company called Les Glacières de Fontainebleau, Picard opened its first food store in Paris in 1974 and now owns 730 frosty supermarkets all over France. It even operates a home delivery service for customers in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Barcelona. In fact, the brand is so ubiquitous that I didn't have to go further than a five-minute walk from my apartment to find my local branch—perhaps a strange choice for my last lunch in Paris, but after a friend repeatedly insisted that their microwaveable paella was the best food he'd ever eaten, I figured I had to check it out.
Frozen Food Surprises
Browsing the large freezer bins, I found all the items one might expect from the frozen food aisle. Vegetables? Sure. Microwavable pizzas? Absolutely. Ice cream? Of course! But the sleek, ultramodern supermarket also carried a number of surprises like frozen cooking herbs, figs, rabbit, pork confit, cheese, and sushi. I even found deep-frozen macarons, though it was hard to imagine how they could possibly reheat well.
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But after sampling one of their frozen pastas, I was willing to trust even their microwavable crème brulée. Four minutes of nuking had turned a box of icy spinach and ricotta fagottini with tomato cream sauce into a hot lunch that, if I didn't know better, I could have sworn it was fresh off the stove. I suddenly understood why my friend had made me research the logistics of dry ice and overseas frozen shipping in the hopes that I might mail him some of his treasured paella. Preservative-free and costing a mere €2.75, Picard's fagottini occupied a plane of deliciousness far above the best of Trader Joe's microwavable pastas. Though perhaps not Paris's gustatory best, this reheated meal got surprisingly high marks on tastiness and a perfect score on awesomeness.