French Cuisine

Whether you are visiting or settling in France, food and drink will form a major part of your French experience. Below is a general account of the delights you can expect.

Food and drink are synonymous with France and its exquisite cuisine will stay firmly lodged in the memories of all who visit. The French can spend hours over a meal and lunchtimes are often lengthy affairs with several courses of freshly cooked meat and vegetables, often laced in delicious sauces and washed down with fine French wine. This, together with plenty of loud banter, makes for a pivotal part of the French day.

Some of the world’s most famous chefs are from France and international experts flock here to sample and learn from French cuisine, while also contributing their expertise to some of the top restaurants of major chic cities such as Paris and Nice. Most French restaurants will offer a range of set menus at various prices, where there is a choice of two or three dishes per course. These menus normally include wine and coffee and are generally cheaper than ordering a la carte.

Dishes vary from region to region, depending on the local produce available. Butter, cream and apples characterise the cuisine in northwest France, while in southwest France, duck, fois gras, mushrooms and gizzards are widely used for cooking. In southeast France, Mediterranean style olive oil, herbs and tomatoes are eaten. Along the border with Belgium, beer, endives, pork and potatoes are commonly found while on the German border you will eat plenty of sausages, beer and sauerkraut.

Some of the most popular dishes in France include:

  • Tournedos (steak wrapped in bacon),
  • Entrecôte (rib eye steak)
  • Gigot de présalé (leg of lamb)
  • Bouillabaisse (thick Provencal fish stew)
  • Boeuf Bourguignon (beef stew with red wine, onions and mushrooms)
  • Escargots (snails normally cooked in wine and garlic)
  • Foie gras (duck pate)
  • Oysters, mussels, shrimps, often served with garlic, herbs and olive oil.
  • Flageolets (thin green beans)
  • Chalottes (small French onions)
  • Gratin dauphinois (baked sliced potato in cheesy white sauce)

France is famous for its “Boulangeries” selling freshly baked breakfast pastries, including French toast, croissants and brioches, often served with chocolate or strong coffee in large, shallow cups. Another integral part of the French diet is cheese and many varieties can be enjoyed from all over the country, the most famous cheeses being Camembert, Brie, Roquefort and chevre. Cheese is not only used as an ingredient but also to accompany France’s fine wines after a meal.

France has been producing wine since the Roman Empire and traditionally vineyards were later maintained by monks who used it to generate income. Over the years, French nobility acquired extensive vineyards and today France produces the most wine by value in the world, the most important of which being Bordeaux, Bourgogne and Champagne. The French population drinks wine for any occasion as a staple part of their daily diet and even children are often served wine mixed with water from a young age. Beer is also a popular drink produced in France, with light lagers commonly drunk from small bottles. Alsace is the most famous brewing region of France.

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