The Accidental Locavore thinks there’s a big difference between how French and Americans use and approach mustard. Americans put it on hot dogs, sometimes on burgers and maybe on an occasional sandwich (mostly when the doctor has warned you off of mayo). The French use it for all kinds of dishes, sauces, salad dressings, and it’s always on bistro tables as a condiment for meat dishes (pot au feu, steaks, etc.). And their mustard is strong! For whatever reason, even the French mustard that’s brought over here is never quite as pungent as the day-to-day stuff you find there.
Since we were on our fourth jar of Amora (two of which we schlepped back from France), when I heard about the opening of Maille, a classic French mustard company, with a mustard sommelier (apparently not working on a Saturday night), it needed to be checked out.
It’s a very tasteful shop on the Upper West Side, with big urns of mustard waiting to fill the classic white and black mustard jars. I’ve been feeling just a little guilty paying more than $10 for a good-sized jar of our favorite French mustard, Amora from Amazon, but all that guilt disappeared the minute I set foot in Maille!
When I told the vendeuse what I was looking for, she pointed me in the direction of a mustard with white wine. It was good, not great and certainly not anywhere near as strong as our “fine et forte.” The price of filling a small jar? $27 and a large size of the truffle mustard will set you back $99! The even smaller jars with flavored mustards (fig, mushroom, blue cheese, etc.) were $9 and would be good for about five sandwiches. Oddly enough, as one of my friends pointed out, there were no coarse-grain mustards, the closest being a country mustard, smooth, with a few mustard seeds and a pleasant flavor.
There were a couple of select oils and vinegars, and their cornichons, but at $14 for a large jar, I’ll use up the ones we have before investing in more. In France, all these things are basic supermarket items and while the Maille store is much nicer looking than any local Monoprix, I’d be happier with the real deal and less ambiance, and while shopping at the Maille store, might save on air fare; as my pillow says, “I’d rather be in Paris!”