While in Perpignan, a few days ago, we happened upon the shops of Hélène Colls. Situated on either side of a small street, at a corner of La Place de la République, these two little boutiques display and sell the stuff that gourmets’ dreams are made of.
Closest to the place is the original shop (on the right in the photo, above), selling charcuteries (cured and prepared meats), fresh poultry, fine foods and prepared dishes. Considered a Perpignan institution, Hélène’s boutique has been open for over 35 years, although there has been a charcuterie at this location since 1919, so they will soon be celebrating 100 years of offering great French food to locals.
The newer boutique – a few meters away, across the street – (on the left in the photo, above) specializes in cheeses, and also sells pain Poilâne, divine loaves of bread brought in fresh every Thursday, from the famous boulangerie (bakery) of the same name in Paris.
The owner, Hélène Colls, travels throughout all the regions of France, tasting thousands of products, to bring the best gastronomic treasures the country has to offer, to her adorable shops in Perpignan. Gourmets (those who appreciate good food) and gourmands (those who like to eat a lot of food) cannot go wrong at this address. It’s an epicurean dream come true!
Elegant and charming ~
Elegant signage lures you into the shops, and once inside, the aromas and visual feasts will keep you there. You will almost certainly walk away with several goodies in your bag, since the specialties, so gorgeously displayed, are nearly impossible to resist.
So many fabulous pâtés from Lyon, from various animals and birds – some en croute (wrapped in a pastry crust) and others without, some with gelatine on top, others with fat on top…and each with its own special combination of herbs and spices.
Prized, farm-raised poultry from various different regions of France – quail, guinea fowl, poulets de Bresse (chickens from the town of Bresse, which are considered the tastiest in France – some say in the world), pigeons/doves – as well as rabbit and other small game animals. Throughout France, butchers and charcutiers display various birds and animals with some of their feathers of fur still attached, to verify that they are the real thing. Seen below are poulets de Bresse, with white feathers, and pintades (guinea fowl) with speckled feathers.
There are many prepared foods, ready to take home and heat for dinner, as well. Since Autumn is the season for fresh mushrooms, we noticed two items stuffed with cèpes (porcini mushrooms) that we couldn’t resist bringing home for dinner that evening – dodines (little packets) of guinea fowl, stuffed with a mushroom mixture, and wrapped in local, smoked bacon…and a quail, also stuffed with porcini and herbs. (See both, below.)
There is also a section of various tourtes (large savory tarts) and other pastries, filled with cheeses, vegetables, poultry, eggs, anchovies, etc. These are available whole, or in part, depending on how many people you plan to serve.
Fresh tortellinis were too tempting to resist, and we came home with a handful of them, stuffed with a mixture of chestnuts and figs. The picture, below, shows them stuffed with duck, potiron (a prized variety of pumpkin) and ricotta/spinach.
Across the street, in the cheese boutique, long glass cases display a gorgeous variety of fromages (cheeses), sorted by type. Here is just a small selection of their goat and sheep cheeses, along with some homemade pâte de coing (quince paste) which is a lovely complement to the tangy cheeses.
Various artisanal gourmet items are also available in tins and beautiful jars, including olive oils and condiments for the most discerning palettes.
I love this wall collage of photos and news items about Hélène Colls and her fine products. And there is her motto – “tradition & excellence”. That’s what her shops are all about.