Who hasn’t dreamed of visiting Paris, sitting outside in cafés and dining in fancy restaurants that offer the best cuisine in the world? This is, after all, one of the planet’s top culinary capitals, with over 5000 restaurants and 3000 brasseries!
So in between visiting Notre-Dame and the Eiffel Tower, we strongly urge you to shop for groceries in the street markets, go inside the numerous bakeries, cheese merchants, butcher shops and wine cellars, for this is where the genuine French Experience begins!
The Loire Valley with its chateaus and vineyards is one of the gastronomic must-see destinations in France. The Loire is home to over 60 wine “appellations” and 173,000 acres of vineyards, including Pouilly-Fumé, Chinon and Vouvray, not forgetting the sparkling Crémants and Pét Nats. Why not Muscadet with oysters, or pike-fish au beurre blanc with a glass of Sancerre? Bourgueil and Touraine reds go well with juicy grilled meats seasoned with flower of salt from Guérande. The sophisticated goat cheeses, like the pyramid shaped Valençay and the cylinder Crottin de Chevignol, will take your senses to heaven. Taste all that in Michelin-star restaurants like La Maison d'à Côté near the idyllic castle of Chambord, and finish with Tarte Tatin followed by sweet Cointreau liquor.
Did you ever thought about pairing Champagne with food, like you would do a “normal” wine? That’s right! This is not only a beautiful and history rich region producing the beloved bubblies, it’s also where the producing area of the Brie cheese and the Ham of Reims, and the home of some top restaurants like the 3 stars Michelin l’Assiette Champenoise. We will ask a small winegrower to cook you a hearty local pork stew called potée champenoise to marry perfectly with a smoky Blanc des Noirs. The other local cheeses like Chaource and Langres are always asking for a local red wine called Côteau champenois. Pop a bottle of Dom Pérignon with a saber while you enjoy the view of the Valley of the Marne, like Napoleon’s horsemen would do. Otherwise take a seat at the art déco Boulingrin fish market and order oysters with a Blanc des Blancs like Comte des Champagnes by Taittinger, and just feel like you could die a happy person. Take home some chocolate corks filled with local alcoholic Fine de Champagne.
Burgundy is a magic destination for food and wine lovers. Above all it became the symbol of the handcrafted sophisticated wines like Romanée-Conti, Gevrey-Chambertin and Nuits-Saint-Georges. Local culinary is not only about boeuf bourguignon, there’s so much to try here like Dijon mustard and blackcurrant jam. You don’t need to hurry to catch a plate of plump, baked-in-the-oven snails with butter, parsley and finely chopped garlic, served with a mineral Chablis. Have you seen the proud Bresse chickens whose colors reminds us of the French flag? They are succulent (sorry, chickens) and full of flavor when baked in herbs and reduced juice, and the sommelier will crown the service with a fleshy Chassagne-Montrachet red, maybe followed by the pungent Epoisses cheese. Even the snacks are fantastic! Stop at any bakery and ask for the small cheese breads known as Comté gougères. Got a sweet tooth? Fix yourself some aromatic, orange-jam-filled gingerbread-cake nonettes, or an exquisite baked pear in clove, cinnamon and Beaujolais wine.
After leaving your luggage in your comfortable hotel, get out in the fresh salt-marinated air and get installed in a bar overlooking the cliffs, so you can watch the boats and yachts come and go. Order a crispy Provence Rosé and several local tapas, like ratatouille, olives in parsley, squids in tomato sauce, sardines in lemon, grilled bread with black olives tapenade or an anchovies mash called anchoïade. A full-bodied white Cassis wine will go well with a truffles omelet or a bouillabaisse, while the spicy Bandol red will match perfectly with the Daube beef and tomato stew. Now it’s time for those delicacies like the Brigite Bardot favorite, the tropézienne cream-cakes, but also blackcurrant jam and liquor, nougat, lavender sorbet and the crushed almonds & candied melon Calisson cookies. To impress the locals, say “pour la route” and empty a little dose of anis-infused pastis!
It’s not a secret why the English fought so long for Bordeaux… it’s the food! And wine, bien sûr. Bordeaux is since ever a historical port buying and selling all kinds of food and drink stuff, to and from England and beyond, so it’s easy to understand why it attracted so many chefs and foodies. You can sit in a bar, looking over the Garonne river, and have a plate of Cap Ferret oysters capped with a glass of white Côtes de Bourg, or a Bordeaux Clairet with cured meat charcuteries. In a restaurant start with white asparagus and Bordeaux caviar, yes you heard it all right, washed with white Pessac-Léognan, followed by foie-gras from neighbor Dordogne paired to a sweet Sauternes. Take a breath, and order the duck breast with Porcini mushroom in parsley to go along that bottle of Saint Julien, or just take out the big guns and ask instead for the grilled rib cut of Bazas beef seasoned in thyme, shallots and bone marrow, to justify the Saint-Émilion Grand Cru you wanted all along. After that you can relax and taste the typical vanilla and rum caramelized with soft custard-center Canelé cake, or a yummy triangle shaved-almonds-topped pastry stuffed with frangipane cream called Jésuite.
Hey, want to know a secret? Dordogne is a hidden gem of foodie’s paradise! Let me start with the foie gras, which will delight you whole, in pâté, fully or half-cooked, natural or with truffles… Yes, and the truffles! The black diamond mushroom and their musky and slightly sweet flavor are sold in street markets in Sarlat and Périgueux. Cheeses are also surprisingly plentiful, from the Cabécou goat cheese, to the smoky Trappe d'Echourgnac, the spicy Margotin in pepper and the Chaume full of nutty flavor. By the way, walnuts are serious business here, in 4 main varieties that can be tasted as they are, in candies, covered in chocolate, cracked on salads or pressed into walnut oil or walnut wine. Famous dishes are the white beans and pork stew Sobronade, legs of Périgord lamb and duck breasts. We can’t forget the local wines like the renowned sweet noble rot Monbazillac, the full-bodied reds from Pécharmant, soft reds from Côtes de Bergerac and the Montravel dry whites. Last but not least we need to mention other desserts like the chestnut cake, the caramel flan, and the local strawberries that are controlled for its shape and taste: so be sure to grab a basket or taste it in a pie!
This is one of those regions where you think everything has just been set up for your amazement, like a fairy tale themed park that happens to have the most delicious comfort food and drinks. But you are going to quickly feel that it’s definitely not fake, of course, it all comes from deep tradition. Alsatians will be under those flowery balconies, having a pint of delicious Alsatian beer with crunchy and freshly baked Pretzels at a winstub, their local inns. You can then sit and order an onion and pancetta cream-covered Flammekueche while sipping an incredible Pinot blanc, or go for an onion pie with soft caramelized onions accompanied by a glass of Sylvaner. After strolling through the canals of the Ill river in Strasbourg or Colmar, sit in a restaurant to finally that Sauerkraut sided with a Riesling, and as dessert nothing better than a Streusel, a buttery pastry flavored with cinnamon, and then melt by the fire tasting a delicious and sweet noble rot Gewurztraminer. Doesn’t it sound like a fairy tale?
The “nordman” Rollo and his Vikings must have been happy to receive this duchy from the French king, a bountiful land of culinary promises and landscapes. It’s true that Camembert is an innovation that arrived with the train rails, but here the cow is queen and its dairy is gold, at least in taste value, because you can’t really know French cheese without trying Pont l'Evêque, Boursin and Brillat-Savarin. Another must-try is the apple, giving delicious juices, sparkling ciders, sticky and sweet mistelle called Pommeau and strong Calvados. Seafood is marvelous, be it oysters from the Manche, fish soup, shellfish, lobster, clams, whelks, scallops, and mussels à la crème. A rare specialty is the salt-marsh lamb from the Saint-Michel bay, naturally salty because they feed from the sea washed pastures. If you need help going through the courses at a local restaurant, order a “trou normand” or “hole” which is just sorbet in calvados, famed for carving more space between dishes. Sweets are plentiful too, with delicacies from apple tart, to baked pear, rice pudding, cinnamon teurgoule, apple candies from Rouen and creamy Isigny toffees.