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Backstreet Marseille Box
By: Culinary Backstreets

Where Provence comes crashing into the sea, Marseille is profoundly shaped by its Mediterranean perch. The vibrant port has welcomed goods, immigrants and ideas since 600 B.C., resulting in a rich culinary heritage of French and multicultural flavors. With 2600 years of history, it’s hard to know how to navigate this cosmopolitan city. So, Culinary Backstreets created the Backstreets Marseille Box. Like our culinary walks, this box is filled with our favorite local treats – now niftily packaged up for you to discover Marseille with your friends and family at home.

First up, you’ll find fixings for apéro, the happy hour revealed like a religion in Marseille. Dive into anchoïade, tapenade’s briny cousin, a delicious dip of olive oil and anchovies, the preferred local pizza topping. Fabricated in nearby Port Saint Louis du Rhone by La Bonne Mer (a nod to the Bonne Mère – the Good Mother – the iconic church that protects the city), this organic spread is ideal for slathering on crostini or dunking fennel, carrots, and endive in.

To get your olive on with a bit of crunch, we picked up Le Bada olive crackers at the farmer’s market. Named for the Marseille slang for “extra bit”, local baker Mélanie crafts her artisanal biscuits by hand at her home. These salty, crispy snacks are the perfect pairing to any drink – we recommend rosé or pastis if you want to stay in the Marseille spirit.

Speaking of beverages, we’ve included a pair of Cristal Limiñana glasses for you to say santé (to your health) like a Marseillais. Born in Algeria by Andalusians in 1884, this family-run distillery moved to Marseille in 1962 to craft their beloved anisette, pastis, and other spirits. Decorated with their vintage logo, these stylish glasses will put some sunshine in your home bar.

Next, there’s some goodies for your spice cabinet. Born in 1880, Épices Rabelais blends African and Asian spices shipped from afar with aromatics sourced from the city’s surrounding hills. If Marseille were a flavor, this is it. The precursor to quatre épices (France’s version of allspice made with cloves, nutmeg, peppercorns, and ginger), Épices Rabelais is fantastic in stews, roasts, pâtés, and desserts. We bought yours at Maison Empereur, France’s oldest hardware store in the heart of the city.

Around the corner from this heritage shop sits another favorite stop on our walks: the fragrant spice emporium Saladin Épices du Monde. Here, we’ve found harissa from Phare du Cap Bon, made since 1945 on the tip of Tunisia. A tribute to Marseille’s Maghrebi community (hence our nickname the “Sahara of the Sea”), this piquant red pepper paste adds pep to just about anything – like couscous, soups, sandwiches, and eggs.

For sweet tooths, there’s a bag of freshly baked canistrelli, a Corsican treat that originated in Genoa (whose people controlled the Île de Beauté before it became a French territory.) These square cookies have become a Marseille tradition thanks to the prominent Corsican community (the city has more Corsicans than the island’s capital!) One of them, José Orsoni at Les Navettes des Accoules, bakes our preferred batch, sticking to the original recipe of olive oil (not butter) and white wine (for this is France after all.) Rumor has it the aniseed helps with digestion. Making even more reason to love these biscuits.

A few blocks from the Vieux-Port, we’ve fetched a Marseille signature at the Chocolatière de Marseille: the barre marseillaise. The truffle-like texture of this decadent chocolate bar miraculously doesn’t come from butter or cream, but a praliné of caramelized hazelnuts and sugar. Adorable couple Zerrin and Alain craft seven flavors of their artisanal bars in their small atelier. Culinary Backstreets chose the dark chocolate feuilletée, with crunchy bits of flaky Breton butter wafers.   

Last, but not least, you’ll find a Marseille tote (not pictured) for your own shopping adventures. And Culinary Backstreets’ way of saying “merci” for supporting small, local businesses.

Available at Culinary Backstreets | $78

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