France is certainly known for its cuisine, but the truth is that there are very few “national” dishes. The beloved foods that make us swoon and reach for seconds are actually steeped in the geography, history, and culture of the diverse regions of the country. This means if you’re traveling around France, you’re likely to see wildly different menus and food products. That’s one of the great things about France; your taste buds will never be bored! Let’s take a look at what to eat, where, around France.
Butter and apples in Normandy
Normandy is close enough to visit on a day trip from Paris, but it’s worth a longer look. The stunning coastline, rolling hills and half-timbered homes make for a bucolic setting, while the region’s crucial role in WWII is honored with dozens of monuments, memorials and cemeteries.
It’s also one of the dairy centers of France, which means you’re going to find farm-fresh milk, butter and cheese galore. But of these dairy products, the one you cannot miss is the butter! Pick some up at a market, grab a fresh baguette, and you’ve got the breakfast (or lunch, or dinner!) of champions.
Normandy is also known for its apples – and to enjoy them best, set out on the Route du Cidre. It wends through ten Norman villages and allows you to stop off to taste jams, honey, tarts, and of course, to drink the region’s famed hard cider and calvados.
Oysters in Brittany
Gillardeau No.0 #oceanthree #oceanthreeoyster #gillardeauoyster #frenchoysters #iheartoysters #foodiehk #hongkong #hongkongfood #foodie #foodstagram #fooddiary #foodphotography #foodphoto #instafood #photoftheday #picoftheday #yummy #aokyuen_hongkong #hongkongvacation #summerholidays2016 #sonya7ii #sonyfullframe #zeiss35mm
Whether you choose huîtres creuses (small rock oysters) or huîtres plates (larger, flat-shelled oysters), when you’re in Brittany, have your fill of oysters. It’s one of the top oyster regions on the planet. If you need a starting point, anywhere on the Bay of Cancale, close to the Normandy border is a great spot, and then work your way up the coast of the peninsula.
And the good news is that you don’t have to seek out fancy places; almost every bar, restaurant, and bistro serves oysters. And if you keep an eye out on the coastal roads, you’ll see bayside vendors’ stands where you can pull off and chow down on these treats from the sea.
Canelés in Bordeaux
Oh my goodness, canelés are so good. But sadly, outside of Bordeaux, they can also be so, so very bad. Please, try them in Bordeaux and become a canelés snob for life. (And, as a snob, you should know that it is also spelled cannelés, especially in Paris; this is actually the original spelling.)
A canelé looks like a tiny Bundt cake, but without the hole in the middle. The outside is caramelized brown and sticky; inside, you’ll find a super-moist dough with a custard center. Canelés date back to the 1700s, and come in several sizes, from pop-it-in-your-mouth to here-have-a-slice. And, as you can guess, it pairs delightfully with red wine.
Bouillabaisse in Marseille
The Greeks founded Marseille about 2,600 years ago, and bouillabaisse, in one form or another, has been on the Marseillaise menu ever since. But the one we slurp down today has largely unchanged since the 1600s, when local fishermen added tomatoes to their fish stews made from the cheaper fish they brought back to port; modern fancy additions of saffron, fish stock, and more expensive fish are to thank for its now-high price.
You will find bouillabaisse all over the French Riviera, but make sure to find a place that serves it the traditional way – first the soup, with crusty bread and a garlicky mayonnaise on the side; then a platter of fish and boiled potatoes. There are usually at least eight different kinds of fish, and no, there are no substitutions.
Mustard in Dijon
When in Dijon you’ll want to make a joke about passing the Grey Poupon – except the French won’t get the joke, because that’s been an American brand for longer than any French person has been alive. Dijon mustard is the “normal” mustard here, with the big (and arguably fanciest) brand here being Maille. It’s served with everything from charcuterie to burgers, and watch out, because it can be quite spicy.
So why go to Dijon itself? Well, it’s still considered the mustard capital of France, and it’s where you’ll find all kinds of mustards. There are many local makers of mustard, but you can power through your gift list with Maille’s range, which includes mustard flavored with lime, cognac, Thai spices, honey and balsamic, blackcurrant, mushroom, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
Strudel in Alsace
What do you get when you combine German influence and French pastry skills? The Alsatian strudel. Much of the cuisine from this region of France is entwined with German history and culture, with the strudel arguably the yummiest. It’s traditionally filled with apples, dried raisins, almonds and spices, and topped with powdered sugar.
The strudel is great for a breakfast treat, or simply an afternoon snack with coffee. And it’s not something you’ll find in the rest of France. So enjoy!
Cassoulet in Toulouse and Carcassonne
The name of this dish comes from the earthenware pot it’s served in, called a cassole. It’s a white bean stew with duck and sausages; depending on the restaurant’s tradition, mutton, partridge, and pork can be added as well.
Cassoulet is a hearty dish best eaten in the fall and winter, although it’s served all year round. You’ll see a wide variety of prices, depending on the types and cuts of meat involved. The cheapest is in the canned food aisle in supermarkets all over France, which amounts to little more than franks and beans, so be sure to go for the real cassoulet!
Tartiflette in the French Alps
Tartiflette is another hearty dish that’s perfect for the mountains, originating in the Alpine region of Savoy. Seriously, you’re going to need to go to bed after you eat this. It’s a casserole of potatoes (often soaked in wine), roblechon cheese, lardons, and onion. And as if that is not of a belly bomb, hilariously, it’s typically served with sausages or a big slab of country ham. Because meat garnish is the best garnish.
Unlike most French dishes, tartiflette is not historical; it was invented in the 1980s by roblechon cheese producers. Let it warm (and clog) your heart, wash it down with great wine, and live to hit the slopes another day.
Coq au vin in Burgundy
Wow, are there a lot of hearty and satisfying dishes in France. Rounding out the list is coq au vin, Julia Child’s favorite and a dish that makes even the French swoon to this day. This chicken stew is made with Burgundy wine, lardons (a French favorite), onion, garlic and herbs, and mushrooms. When served in restaurants it’s often in individual portions, with at least one portion of chicken in each bowl and tons of baguette bread for soaking up the rich sauce.
Although the traditional (and most famous) dish is coq au vin, many regions have their own versions using local wine, like coq au Rielsing or coq au Champagne.
Brandade de morue in Nîmes
Brandade de morue is a salted cod purée. It may sound basic or even kind of gross, but it is a delightful and highly versatile dish that is served all over the Languedoc region (soon to be called Occitanie). The cod is pureéd with cream, garlic, olive oil, boiled mashed potatoes, garlic, salt, and pepper. So it’s kind of like fishy mashed potatoes, and it is glorious.
As for its versatility, brandade de morue can be found on menus as an appetizer, served with bread or toast points; as a meal on its own, in an individual crock; or as a side dish to a main course. It can also be served au gratin, with cheese and breadcrumbs on top. Sometimes large pieces of other fish, such as lobster, can be mixed in. Try a few and find your favorite!
Pissaladière and niçoise salad in Nice
La pissaladière #pissaladière #ongion #anchoix #pate #ail #zaatar #recettefrançaise @oneplusfood #instafood #foodphotography #foodie #homemade #gourmand #foods #foodstagram #yummy #foodporn @thefeedfeed #feedfeed #foodpic #foody #bloggerfood #tasty #beautifullfood #recette #lovecooking #kitchen #maim #lovefood #fooding #yummy
Nice is an absolutely delicious city, which is why there are two dishes to try here. First up is pissaladière, a type of pizza that instead of tomatoes and cheese, mixes the sweetness of caramelized onions with salty anchovies (or anchovy paste) and black olives. It’s often served by the slice on the go, or as a snack at bars.
And secondly, there is the famous niçoise salad. First of all, it’s important to note that French salads aren’t the typical diet food that you may be used to; they’re enormous, and the lettuce is basically a bed on which a mountain of other foods are placed. You can easily order a salad and be stuffed after the meal. And in many places, a salad doesn’t even include lettuce.
Grilled Nicoise Salad #hamiltonontario #hamont #niçoise #nicoise #nicoisesalad #grilledsalad #salad #tunasalad #grilledtuna #tuna #eggs #olives #kalamata #filetbeans #beans #potatoes #grilledpotatoes #tomatoes #homecooking #urbangardening #mesclun #vinaigrette #balsamic #hamiltonfarmersmarket #basil
A niçoise salad typically includes potatoes, green beans, black niçoise olives, red onion, tomatoes, anchovies, and tuna. It’s the perfect dish for balmy Nice, as it’s filling but not heavy.
Eat cheese everywhere!
No matter where you go in France, make sure to enquire of everyone you meet what their favorite local cheese is. Not only is it a great ice-breaker, but you’re sure to find some real gems hidden among the farmer’s stands, markets and shops you’ll come across.
If you go into a cheese shop, be ready and don’t be shy! The employees are there to pick the perfect cheese for you, so they’ll pepper you with questions – do you like hard or soft cheese? Cow, goat? Aged or new? What will you be eating with or before the cheese (as its typically eaten alone or after meals)? Do you have a specific wine you’ll be drinking?
Eat everything else in Paris
Whatever else you want to eat while you’re in France, you’ll find in Paris – and you’ll most likely find the best of it. Baguettes, macarons, croque monsieur/madame, foie gras, and wine from all over the country are abundant on the streets of the City of Light.