Cherry Tomatoes

Louis Armstrong says tomato. No matter what, so does Ella Fitzgerald. Parisians on the other hand, prefer to say cherry tomato.

Parisians are that cool. 

One of the dimensions of cool in Paris implies being over tomatoes. As for all determinants of cool, being over tomatoes is something the Parisian is completely oblivious to. The Parisian happily eats tomatoes, but no longer buys them. When it comes to tomatoes, it seems that cool was a word simply created for the Parisian.

Meet the thrilling cherry tomato. All the qualities of a tomato, minus the defects. When asked “Why cherry tomatoes?”, all Parisians would agree that “J’sais pas, j’aime bien et puis ça change“. Say no more Parisian – change is your passion, we all know that. We understand. Adieu tomate. Bonjour tomate cerise.

Cherry tomatoes are everywhere in Paris. In restaurants, a quarter of a cherry tomato does wonders to decorate a plate. At a supermarket, placing neglectfully une boite de tomates cerises in your cart shows everyone around that you can afford that extra euro. At home, cherry tomatoes have the good taste of needing no slicing. Minimal effort, maximum effect. There is now no inviting friends over for a casual dinner without serving cherry tomatoes as an addition to your apéritif. “C’est tout simple mais c’est sympa, c’est frais“.

This evolution has tragic consequences on the Paris food scene. First collateral victim: la salade de tomates. Cherry tomatoes now make presenting a plate with actual tomatoes in it cheap and passé. RIP salade de tomates. Thankfully enough, the Parisian leaves Paris at times. When his peregrinations take him en province, he may notice that old school tomates still exist there. Making him resolute to give tomatoes a second chance. Organic tomatoes that time.

Needless to say these resolutions won’t last too long in front of the cherry tomatoes shelf. Seductive little things…

Useful tip: Check out http://www.reseau-amap.org/
Sound like a Parisian: “J’ai invité Nico et Elisa pour l’apéro. Tu peux passer chez Monop s’te plait?! Tu prends une bouteille de rosé, un peu de saucisson et des tomates cerises. Moi, je me grouille, je passe à la boulangerie avant que ça ferme!

35 replies
  1. Style Spy
    Style Spy says:

    I do not discriminate amongst tomatoes — big or small, I love ‘em all. (As long as they’re vine-ripened and not frozen!) Sadly, we’ve had a drought in Texas this summer, so there’s been a terrible shortage of home-grown tomatoes. Sad, sad, sad…

  2. jimmydorsay
    jimmydorsay says:

    In New Jersey USA we have garden fresh beefsteak tomatoes at their absolute prime, a meal in inself with some mozzarella good huile d olive & dont forget the sel. The parisians are fickle in what they like at any given time and as such are prone to fads which zip in and out of favor with great speed. I pity them with their fetishs’ they need to get real.

  3. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Do you differentiate between the types of cherry tomato? What about small plum tomatoes, or grape tomatoes? Do they fall into the same category? And what about the different colors?

    And if you have any recipes for about a hundred small sungold tomaotes it would be appreciated. I have grown way more than we can eat.

  4. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    Oh my God, cherry tomatoes! Too funny. Olivier, your creativity and sense of humor never cease to amaze me. I guess the Parisians give you plenty of material to work with, but really, who else would see things the way you do? And write about it so well (not in your native language, no less), so succinctly, and so humorously? You have a unique perspective.

    Thanks for a wonderful blog; it’s always a bright spot in my day when I come here and find a new entry.

    I love your WineRendezvous videos, too. I hope I’m going to have a chance to come to one of your wine tastings when I’m in Paris in a couple of weeks.

  5. Peter Newman-Legros
    Peter Newman-Legros says:

    Is this but a throwback to la nouvelle cuisine rearing its decorative head! They ARE so very useful AND tasty AND convenient AND they keep well in the fridge unlike their larger siblings. That said I have avoided them all summer preferring tomates en grappe, bizarrely – does it really make any difference to the taste just because they are still attached to the, long dead, vine? Then again perhaps when in Paris… I’ll be influenced no doubt when stocking up at Carrefour Auteuil next week. It’s a worry.

  6. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Style Spy… Isn’t drought what Texas is about?
    Billy… Anything’s possible. But anything’s not Parisian ;-) Funnily enough, this plate looked like a round and deconstructed Italian flag!
    JimmyDorsay… Maybe New Jersey could ship some to Texas?!
    Amanda… Parisians are still ‘rats des villes’ – not ‘rats des champs’. Most don’t know the first thing about any other vegetable or fruit than the one they find at their supermarket.
    Ellen… I literally woke up to your comment. Lovely way to start off the day! Merci bcp – ça me touche. Do email me if you sign up for a tasting – I’ll do my best to present it myself! Meanwhile, I’ll try not to disappoint. Merci encore.
    Peter… I find too that tomates en grappes taste better than regular ones. But then again, in Paris, tomatoes are just not as tasty and authentic as a funny looking and fantastic tasting tomatoes you could buy at a marché en province. Shopping at Carrefour sounds painful enough an experience. I’m just unsure right now whether the prospect of worsening it for you makes me feel guilty or secretly proud!

  7. Leesa
    Leesa says:

    Salut Olivier!

    What?! It hasn’t ALWAYS been les tomates cerises in Paris or just in France, en general??? I’ve been living here 3 years already and that’s all I seem to have my eye on, comme tomates! In fact, when my vendeur at the marché sells out of these precious gems for the day, I turn and boude! Eh bien… Thanks for bringing les tomates cerises to our attention!

  8. Barbra
    Barbra says:

    It’s true, les tomates cerises are everywhere, but les tomates anciennes deviennent de plus en plus populaires, n’est-ce pas? Sadly, though, I haven’t found any really good ones yet, and for the prices being charged I could fly to Italy for my insalata caprese.

  9. ron pruett
    ron pruett says:

    Does one make a mini salade caprese avec cherry tomatoes? Difficult to stack?! Parisiens might have to consult the Leonaise chefs on that one?? Or does one not dare to mention that gastronomique ville sud?

  10. m
    m says:

    Ooh, I love cherry tomatoes! But any tomato is fine with me. We even grow our own in our vegetable garden (a nice thing to have being 12 miles from New York City). Still though, you can cut the cherry tomatoes to toss them in the salad.

  11. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Leesa… That’s a funny comment. Yeah, no, not at all. When I grew up, there were no cherry tomatoes around really!
    Barbra… Well, sort of really. Foodies are not much of a community in France.
    Ron… Funny thought! As per Lyon (is it?), Parisians all recognize it as a city with great food – bigger on meat than on tomatoes though!!
    M… Les joies du potager!

  12. Peter Newman-Legros
    Peter Newman-Legros says:

    Hmmm. Yes the Carrefour shopping trip when we arrrive in Paris is something of a mixed blessing. A few treats but a lot of attitude to wade through too. Sadly it’s all our budget will allow and is close to where we stay. BTW did you know that we may be seeing a lot more mishapened fruit and vegetables now that the EU have done away with the ban on selling it widely. Hurrah! I have memories of existing on different versions of ratatouille cooked on a calor gas camping stove in France, Italy and Greece many years ago and always made with the cheapest most interestingly shaped produce. No tomates cerises then!

  13. Ash
    Ash says:

    Hello Olivier, thanks again for this pintpoint aggression on one of my radical Parisian tendancy.
    Two more remarks about cherry tomatoes :
    1/ While cherry tomatoes are an absolute must for any Parisian apéritif, other miniature groceries are an total no-no : for example, small carrots recall the peas & carrots tins -> immediate “beauf” qualification.
    2/ I am sorry to contradict you, but cherry tomatoes do get sliced in a particular circumstance : plate decoration. Sound like a Parisian : “Une tomate cerise coupée en quatre, un trait de balsamique, et tu as une déco d’assiette sympa et sobre”.

  14. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Peter… I didn’t know that – sounds liek an exciting prospect (the EU thing – not the Carrefour shopping spree!).
    Ash… I guess if I’ve never seen small carrots at an apéro, that makes my friends not complete beaufs then?! (who knew?!). Great quote BTW. I can’t wait for this silly Balsamic viegar trend to be over. I went to a salad bar the other day… all the dressings they had was Caesar’s or Olive Oil. I almost left. Someone please revive la Vinaigrette. La belle et grande vinaigrette!
    Mumu… Merci beaucoup!! Ironic part is… on my part, summer break was due to too much work!!

  15. ron pruett
    ron pruett says:

    Pardon! LYon, pas LEon! As a
    Welch derivitive, I tend to anglosize even proper names!? A great eat down there. Nice to know it’s appreciated in Paris; unfortunately many Americans pass by Lyon. I’m still trying to imagine a capresse with cherries……?

  16. Monsieur Jambon
    Monsieur Jambon says:

    The foodies here in San Francisco turn up their noses at cherry tomatoes. Tres passé! So very année dernière! We prefer organic heirloom tomatoes, those grown from old seeds with stripes and imperfections … and grown in the purest merde. Avec un goût de tomates très fort.

  17. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Ron… Good lyonnais restaurant in Paris: L’Auberge Pyrénées Cévennes. You can go de ma part!! Caprese with cherries… je vote contre!
    Monsieur Jambon… Ahhh… the Bay area foodies!! Your comment made me laugh! Cherry tomatoes are tastewise most likely the best you’re gonna get in Paris. But I’m always suspicious of them for some reason.

  18. craigkite
    craigkite says:

    Cherry tomatoes do not work on a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Possibly some cute diminutive cocktail version, but not a three napkin version.

  19. Ruth Yunker
    Ruth Yunker says:

    Loved this! Particularly the fact that cherry tomatoes have the good grace to not require slicing. Oh I so agree.
    Right now, here in SO CAL, heritage tomatoes are the only way to go. Especially if one has grown them themselves in their own mini backyard garden.
    It is very difficult to eat with those who grow their own food.

  20. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    I was just sitting here eating a box of cherry tomatoes when it occurred to me to have a look at your blog to see if there was anything new and voila! New Yorkers love cherry tomatoes too I guess. Although I lived a year in France so maybe it doesn’t count.

  21. The Chukker
    The Chukker says:

    My big big question:
    The cherry tomato: is it a cherry or a tomato? I like my tomatoes to be tomatoes, and my cherries to be cherries…Is the same in french, tomate cerise…one thing or another monsieur…hehehe
    Seriously, I absolutely hate those mini tomatoes, I prefer the big heirloom ones we get at Whole Foods here in NYC. Chunky and great paired with buffala mozzarella…summer’s best!
    Olivier, your blog rocks! I was laughing so hard it hurts… Your description of parisians habits is so accurate! And a bit sarcastic, just enough…
    I am forwarding your website to all my french amies.
    Best
    Chukker

  22. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Craigkite… Ah BLTs! We dont have these in Paris! BTW, i Can warmly recommend BLT restaurant(s) in NY. Many great memories there!
    Ruth… “heritage tomatoes”: you just made my day!!
    Jessica… C’est fou!! Oh and please don’t tell Parisians New yorkers love them… That would really be the end of tomatoes in Paris!
    The chukker… Merci beaucoup et bienvenue! Ah… Whole foods in NY! Have good memories at the one on Union Square (seems to be NY memories time!). French AmiEs?! Good lord, you like to live dangerously!!
    Leesa… Thank you very much for this – appreciate the early support!! You rock!

  23. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    I know Parisians are not so fond of tourists, but New Yorkers too? :( I lived in La Rochelle and my students there (the “Sex and the City” fans) would always say, “New York it’s my dream!” But les rochelais are not Parisians, I realize… (thank God) Oh well. Can’t win ‘em all.
    p.s. revise spelling of “immediately” in new entry.

  24. Eric - Paris
    Eric - Paris says:

    It’s true that cherry tomatoes are very practical for an aperitif, or to decorate a dish.
    However, we must not exaggerate. The “true” salad of tomatoes has not disappeared from the Parisian plates.

  25. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Jessica… See ‘New York’ post for more!
    Anonymous… Well – merci bcp – Hope you’re having a swell time!
    Eric… Close enough!!

  26. lagatta à montréal
    lagatta à montréal says:

    I hate cherry tomatoes.

    There is actually something similar in Italy, but I still prefer more common Italian types, whether the San Marzano plum or the big salad tomatoes that are piebald – red and green – when fully ripe.

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  1. [...] to find good tomatoes in Paris, even in the summer. Parisians have taken with amazing fervor to cherry tomatoes, of which many varieties are sold in the supermarkets and are available year ’round. But if you [...]

  2. [...] to find good tomatoes in Paris, even in the summer. Parisians have taken with amazing fervor to cherry tomatoes, of which many varieties are sold in the supermarkets and are available year ’round. But if [...]

  3. [...] to find good tomatoes in Paris, even in the summer. Parisians have taken with amazing fervor to cherry tomatoes, of which many varieties are sold in the supermarkets and are available year ’round. But if [...]

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