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Trip to French market offers a world of things to consume

A variety of mushrooms, some from France, were among the fungal offerings at Simply Market, a grocery store in Spicheren, France, near the German border. Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes

JENNIFER H. SVAN/STARS AND STRIP

By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 21, 2017

They were frog legs. The light-brown things in the freezer next to the escargot were not giant shrimp after all.

During a recent visit to Simply Market, a French grocery store a stone’s throw from the German border near Saarbruecken, I would have disappointed my high school French teacher. Five years of French and many hours spent reading and dissecting “Le Petit Prince,” and I didn’t know what “cuisses de grenouilles” were.

If you want to speak like the French and eat like the French, you can do that at Simply Market. Unlike Cora, France’s big box version of Walmart, Simply Market carries mostly groceries, including wine and beer. The selection isn’t as vast as Cora’s, but the store is less than an hour from Kaiserslautern and quicker to get in and out of, with fewer aisles and on this day, at least, fewer shoppers.

The prices are hit and miss: Some things were cheaper than in a typical German grocery store; others weren’t. A package of Tassimo Espresso capsules, for instance, was 4.95 euros ($5.82), as much as a euro more than the price at German discount grocers such as Netto.

I didn’t mind paying extra because this espresso had an intensity of “5,” something I haven’t found in German stores. I’m not sure whether this meant stronger flavor, more caffeine or both, but I was happy either way.

The espresso find was a bonus. What I make a beeline for in French grocery stores is the bakery section. Simply Market didn’t dazzle me like Cora in this department, but it was good enough. The baguettes towered along one wall, and the quintessential French delights — eclairs and meringue cookies, rare finds in Germany — were there as expected.

I went for the chocolate cream-filled mini beignets, eight tiny donut balls dusted with powdered sugar, for 2.90 euros.

The only sour note was the smell. The bakery is located right inside the front entrance. The scent was more stink than sweet, like sticking your nose in a bio can that’s been sitting curbside too long. Maybe it was the yeast from bread baking.

Beyond the bakery, the mysterious odor disappeared, and the store opened up into a spacious produce section flanked on one side by a generous selection of meat and fish. Some of the better deals included 200 grams (just under a half pound) of large shrimp for 3.99 euros.

Meat lovers would not be disappointed, either. After much consultation with Google Translate, I can tell you about the many fleshy items I saw, such as stuffed veal breast, Alsatian beef roll, black pudding and stuffed chicken leg.

For those really wanting to feel French, there were plenty of escargot (snails) — frozen, fresh and in cans — and foie gras (goose liver).

The large cheese section was a bit overwhelming. I flubbed again linguistically when I failed to be able to ask the cheese lady if she gave samples. I was interested in the goat cheese made with raw milk, shaped like a heart.

The French wine selection was worthy, with most bottles under 10 euros and not many topping 20 euros.

There was even a bit of Americana to be found: Brooklyn American Ale among the craft beers, and a 4 Bacon Cheese burger in the frozen section, with bun and all.

Other enticing items: jam-filled crepes in a box; Ben and Jerry’s cookie-dough ice cream sandwiches; fresh thyme from Provence for 1 euro; and, of course, the macrons.

The gas money and time to drive to Simply Market are worth it if you’re purchasing enough items you can’t get locally. Just remember to bring bags for groceries and, if your French is like mine, a French-English dictionary.

svan.jennifer@stripes.com

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Simply Market

DIRECTIONS

Simply Market is about a 50-minute drive southwest of Kaiserslautern, Germany, in the direction of Saarbruecken. The address is 3 Rue Nationale, Spicheren, France, 57350. Note: Some navigators don’t recognize the house number 3 on Rue Nationale; entering Rue Nationale without the house number will also work. Don’t forget to bring your passport since you’re crossing a border.

TIMES

8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturdays. Closed Sundays.

INFORMATION

Learn about special deals from store fliers. Other information can be found at the store’s website (in French) simplymarket.fr/spicheren, or call (+33) (0) 3-8787-6898.

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