Maille La Moutarde

Maille, purveyor of savory fine foodstuffs, is one of France's most storied gourmet brands. That's right, Grey-Poupon, I said it!

While in Paris, I stopped by Maille's flagship store on the Place de la Madeleine (right next door to Ralph Lauren, if you're wondering), and made a video tour of the dizzying assortment of flavored mustards, vinegars, pickles and tapenades...all while trying to duck the enormous line of tourists loading up their baskets.

The current releases are only part of the story at Maille, though. The brand's history goes back to 1720, when Antoine Maille founded the Maison de Maille in Marseilles, and distilled a special antiseptic vinegar with which the inhabitants of the city sprayed themselves in order to avoid contracting a deadly plague that was ravaging the south of France at the time. I can't imagine what that city must have smelled like, but the plan worked and Marseilles was spared!

In 1747, Maille created the mustard side of his business, and opened a shop in Paris. During the 1760's Maille's renown grew, and he became the Vinegar Maker and Distiller to the emperors of Austria and to the King of France. Yes, apparently that official position existed.

In 1846, the Maille family opened their first store in the capital of the world of mustard, Dijon, where they continued to sell their famous specialty for almost one hundred years before their last descendent died at the ripe old age of 102 in 1930, and the company was bought out by Philippe de Rothschild.

In 1952, Maille did in fact merge with its great competitor, Grey-Poupon (founded merely in 1777. Sniff!), but maintained its original family recipes and coat of arms.

Now, the store on the Place de la Madeleine sells the famousbrand's newest offerings, with a few old-fashioned mustard pots and spigots on hand to provide some ambiance.

So take a close look next time you squirt some dijon on that hotdog, because you might just be eating the mustard of kings!