With fabulous Christmas lights now all over Paris, the citywide contest for creative presents gets really serious. This makes it a perfect time for you to visit La Cocotte, founded by Andrea Wainer, Laetitia Bertrand and Nathalie Redard, a temple to the double meaning of bon goût—i.e., both “good taste” and “good to taste.” A lovely local bookstore dedicated to cookery, La Cocotte is just bursting with carefully curated pleasures. Here, you can browse, chat, pause, nibble, learn how to set a festive table or, of course, simply buy some books.
But make sure you set aside more than an hour. Because inside this cozy haunt (all icing white and candy pink) “cuisine” is viewed as central to every moment of life. The shelves of La Cocotte may bulge with cookbooks, foodie favorites and chef biographies—but there are also volumes by food stylists, interior specialists, photographers, culinary historians, illustrators and those obsessed with a single herb or ingredient. Add to this artist’s books, bandes dessinées (graphic novels) and tomes on taste around the world—plus a delightful children’s section that covers topics such as cooking for one’s stuffed animals.
Even if all your Christmas targets happen to be Anglophones, there’s no need to worry. La Cocotte stocks over 50 English-language volumes, including classics such as Geneviève “Ginette” Mathiot’s Je sais cuisiner (I Know How to Cook), a guide that’s been given to French brides for three generations. The English translation has been adapted especially for the Anglophone cooks, thanks to Clothilde Dusoulier of Chocolate and Zucchini fame.
If you require easily packable presents there are plenty, most of them showcasing the shop’s signature poulette. (The word means “hen,” but is also used fondly for little girls.) Choose from among aprons, tea towels, shopping bags, bread bags, T-shirts and a mini chef’s toque just for children. If your intended gift recipients live in or are visiting Paris, there is also a 15 euro Cocadeau gift certificate. Not to mention the shop’s trademark coquetines and choquetines as well as jars of Wainer’s Latin American specialty, dulce de leche.
Like every kitchen, La Cocotte is a meeting place; its cozy wooden table hosts frequent how-to seminars, special events, children’s classes (such as January’s “Build New York Out of Sandwiches”) and author chitchats with the likes of David Lebovitz. If you want a taste of what can be learned at these, watch les Poulettes make the perfect D-I-Y Christmas table. It’s their feminine flair that makes the shop so special.
Besides, since La Cocotte is only steps from the metro, you have no excuse for not stopping by. This shop actually filled my whole family Christmas list* . . . so why not let it do the same for you? If you don’t live in Paris, just use its website!
*Don’t believe I found something there for absolutely everyone? Well, I did, and here’s the list!
1. For that boho sister who runs a record label: Pierre Kolaire’s witty history of the notorious absinthe, illustrated by trendy names like David B.
2. For the mother-of-two sister: White La Cocotte apron for her; chef’s toques for son and daughter.
3. For the youngest sister who is studying Japanese: Face Food Recipes, Christopher Salyers’s English-language guide to the wacky world of charaben (creating faces and comic scenes for your bento box).
4. For the mom: La Cocotte’s elegant pink Toile de Jouy apron.
5. For the stepmom: a set of La Cocotte tea towels in different patterns.
7. For the French godmother who insists “there is no English cooking”: celeb Jamie Oliver’s largest tome, in French and autographed by its author.
8. For the sweetheart: Marie-Laure Tombini’s delightful little Dîners en amoureux, recipes to make life more romantic.
Editor’s note: There are so many fabulous books about Paris and France—too many to count. Here are our faves. And there is still time to buy and send for Christmas!