By now, you will all know just how much I love France and part of that love is the French food. The French pride themselves on food, how they prepare it, the quality of ingredients and of course la technique! And if you have ever read a Julia Child or Peter Mayle book, you know just that enjoying french food is a national pastime. That isn’t to say you can’t have a bad meal in France, you can (ahem I am looking at you Cafe Le Dome near the Eiffel Tower) but they can be easy to avoid given the prevalence of quality ingredients, talented chefs and pride in the enjoyment of food. While you can have a great meal anywhere in France, it is important to understand that French food has dominant regional roots and to best enjoy and try the regional specialties in the actual region Here is my handy top 10 list/ guide to enjoying French Food.
1. Tapenade in Provence. This Provencal olive paste is best spread on bread but is also enjoyed in Provencal dishes. In a word it is my favouite French dish. Made from either green or black olives, it is savoury and surprisingly mild. Which is not to say it isn’t full of flavour because it is is. Best enjoyed overlooking lavender fields, the Luberon, or the Mediterranean, you can’t go wrong. It goes best with a Provencal rose (if you are @benton8tor in which case you will never ever ever eat the green again) or Bandol red if you are me, in which case you will happily eat both. * I have had great tapenades in both Bourgogne and Bordeaux but nothing compares to Provence.
2. Choucroute Garnie- a Alsatian dish with sauerkraut, ham hock/pork knuckle/salt pork and, 3 types of sausages (usually Strasbourg, Montbeliard and Morteau) flavored with Alsatian Riesling, it is usually a winter dish. And despite my love of tomatoes, vegetables and usually eschewing meat, I love this dish. A definite must try and a dish both Benton8tor ( a dedicated carnivore) and I agree wholeheartedly on. Pairs with you guessed it an Alsatian Riesling.
3. Cassoulet a Langedoc speciality complete with debate on which city is home to the original Cassoulet. A high and I do mean high protein dish with white beans, pork sausage, duck or goose or partridge comfit and lamb or pork. slow cooked, it is a truly truly delicious dish but plan to eat light the next day! Drink with a Langedoc red, preferably from Cahors or Minervios.
4. Gazpacho-though traditionally Spanish, French tomatoes are among the most succulent, flavorful and amazing tomatoes you will ever try so it stands to reason with their warm/ hot summers gazpacho in France is amazing. I have tried green tomato gazpacho in Provence and Red gazpacho in Beaune. Both times I have been clamoring for more. In fact after trying gazpacho in Spain and please don’t hate me but the French gazpacho is the very clear winner for its more defined and flavorful versions. A MUST MUST try. Also pairs extremely well with the light but flavorful Provencal reds or the complex pinots from Bourgogne.
5. Bouef Bourginon- A Burgundian specialty, this beef stew simmered in the famous Burgundian wine, you really can’t go wrong. La Grilladine in Beaune does a superb Bouef Bourginon. http://lagrilladine.fr/ You absolutely must drink this with a wine from Bourgogne. This might be @benton8tor’s all time favourite french dish. So much so he would eat it on a 30 degree summer day. Bourgogne/Burgundy is infamous for its plethora of amazing food so to stand out in this region, the food has to be amazing!
6. Charcuterie- a charcuterie is widely available across France. Usually smoked meats, sausages and pates complete with mustards, breads, cornichons and other picked vegetables, you will no doubt be overjoyed. I have had an amazing charcuterie at Cafe Absinthe in Paris, https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g187147-d4341374-Reviews-L_absinthe_Cafe-Paris_Ile_de_France.html but for a truly amazing charcuterie go to Lyon, a city famous for its sausages and the more famous Bouchons (small bistro style restaurant) would be the place to try it. That said Restaurant L’Instant in Le Lavandou on the Cote d’Azur serves the often underrated Corsican meats on their charcuterie which still stand as the best I have ever had. http://www.restaurantlinstant.sitew.com/#ACCUEIL.
Pairs best with a regional wine.
7. Gougeres- Burgundy/Bourgogne lays claim to these tasty, mouthwatering choux pastry delights. That said they are widely available throughout France. Made with choux pastry and cheese (often gruyere or comte) they are a great start to your meal or a fabulous snack. The best ones I ever ate where at Olivier Leflaive https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/ in Puligny Montrachet in Bourgogne. They were light, fluffy. and full of amazing flavour. Pairs exceptionally well with the whites of Puligny Montrachet. Coincidentally, Olivier LeFlaive is also where I had the best souffle ever.
8. Croque monsieur- the french version of a grilled cheese is usually made with bechemel sauce and gruyere or comte cheese and is a true delight. try the croque madame with an egg on top. pairs well with wines from Bourgogne, Jura, Savoie and Loire as well as Northern Rhone
9. Pastry- French pasties can not be understated. Go to a patisserie with an empty stomach and try!!! From croissants and pain au chocolat to the more ornate pastries you can’t help but have your mind blown. and possible gain a few pounds but oh my will it be worth it!
10. The French are famous for their markets so go for a picnic. Go the the market in the morning, get a baguette, some cheese ( I recommend the goats cheese from Provence) and some ham and veggies of your choice. I obviously pick the most delicious cherry tomatoes. Get some wine and find a beautiful spot (not hard you are in France) and enjoy!!Don’t forget your wine opener as using your shoe and banging the bottle on the sidewalk is more challenging, just ask Benton8tor. The bread in France is beyond amazing. In fact so much so that my dad buys flour, butter and yeast in Provence when he travels to make bread at home. Apparently this isn’t an unusual thing.
@benton8tor says I need to add these honorable mentions (i.e. his favorites)
- Foie gras- widely available, controversial and native to Gascony this delicacy of goose liver tastes like the best butter you will ever eat.
- Charolais Beef- Burgundian of course, Benton8tor swears it is the most flavorful beef.
- Coq au vin- Another Burgundian specialty, it is chicken/rooster slow cooked in Burgundian wine. Drink with a Red Bourgogne.
- Jambon au Buerre- A ham sandwich, simple but amazing due to the quality of ingredients. Even better with a hard boiled egg and a Loire rose.
- Flamkuche- an onion tart which is a delicious Alsatian specialty. A must must have.
- Salads in France- never to be underestimated and always filling.
So grab a patio, order your wine, find your favourite specialty to order and enjoy! After all you are in France!