Ten highlights of French Cuisine
The French have a very special relationship with food. The country is home to some of the world’s best wines, cheeses and fresh produce. Its long list of illustrious chefs takes cooking to a heavenly level. And of course, France is the home of the ultimate culinary accolade: the Michelin star.
We present 10 of the best in French cuisine and review the latest Michelin list.
1. The King of Vin
France is home to the world’s most famous wine labels, the must-haves in every discerning wine lover’s cellar. We’ve chosen Bordeaux, perhaps the most famous wine producing region and home to no less than 57 Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC) wines. But those from less famous vineyards are worthy of your attention too. And best of all, there’s a Bordeaux to pair with absolutely everything on the table.
Tell me more about wines from Bordeaux.
2. The best fish stew
The typical Marseille Bouillabaisse needs no introduction. Once a humble fisherman’s staple, this hearty fish stew now forms part of the country’s fine dining menu. Must-include ingredients of small fish (think mullet, John Dory and most of all, scorpion fish), seafood, potatoes and a good dash of pastis. Top this with a rouille, croutons and olive oil, and you’ve created a dish to remember.
Savour the most delicious Bouillabaisse recipes.
3. On ice and with champagne
Oysters count as the nation’s favourite seafood and the French consume tens of thousands of them every year. No Christmas dinner would be complete without a large platter of oysters and in Paris, they’re de rigueur. Served raw on a bed of ice with a twist of lemon, all they need is a chilled glass of brut champagne or dry white Sancerre.
Ideas for your French Christmas dinner table.
4. Love for Lyon
Home to the very best in French cooking and a good number of prize ingredients too, Lyon ranks as Franc’s second city but is the country’s capital of gastronomy. Paul Bocuse, probably the most famous French chef ever, hailed from the city where there are more restaurants per inhabitant than anywhere else in France.
Pop along to Les Halles indoor market to try before you buy the produce or go upstairs to restaurants serving the best of Lyonnaise food. For a cheaper but just as delicious experience visit one of the many bouchon restaurants specialising in local cuisine.
Discover your love for Lyon.
5. A piece of Provence
Along with fields of lavender and sun-baked villages, Provence is also home to one of the famous dishes in France: ratatouille. From the Occitan word ratatolha, it contains a mix of aubergines, courgettes, peppers, tomatoes and garlic and is usually served as a side. Like all famous French dishes, there are as many recipes as there are cooks, but purists advocate frying each vegetable separately before mixing them at the end. Add a local rosé and some sunshine for a truly Provencal plate.
6. Soft and creamy Brie
A list of the highlights of French cuisine just has to include cheese and we’ve gone for Brie. This rich, sweet and creamy delight does everything you could ask of a soft cheese and the AOC Bries go even further. Brie de Meaux ranks as the king of French cheeses since it was crowned the best in Europe at the 1815 Congress of Vienna. Pair it with champagne or a red Bordeaux or Burgundy and you’ve got a match made in heaven.
More delicious soft cheeses here.
7. Best for breakfast
Think petit déjeuner and a croissant immediately springs to mind. Although this breakfast pastry originates from Austria, France has made it its own since the recipe was published in the Nouvelle encyclopédie culinaire in 1906. You can buy two types – the croissant au beurre, the tastiest and less curved in shape and the croissant ordinaire, made with margarine and curved. Add a large bowl of café au lait to dip it in and you have the ultimate French breakfast.
8. Best meat stew
Like its fish cousin bouillabaisse, the meaty boeuf bourguignon also has humble origins. The slow braising of the beef in red wine – two days is the optimum time – was originally to soften cheap cuts of the meat. Nowadays, boeuf bourguignon features in the best restaurants and epitomises fine French cuisine. For the most traditional take, head for Burgundy in August and theFête du Charolais celebrating this hearty stew.
9. Star-studded menus
France is home to the hallmark of fine dining: the Michelin star. It’s the accolade most chefs aspire to hold. The award originated in 1900 when the Michelin brothers, keen to encourage car owners to get out and about (and use up their tyres) published the first Michelin Guide. By 1920, they introduced the star system, awarded by anonymous diners. In 2018, just 28 restaurants in France can boast the coveted 3-star status, although a record 621 establishments have at least one to their name.
10. In Good Spirits
The king of French liqueurs, cognac, not only finishes any menu with a flourish but makes that all-important digestion so much easier. Made from one grape, the Ugni Blanc, cognac comes in many flavours, from floral to fruit cake. The liqueur should be matured for at least two years, but the best label comes with an XO (‘extra old’) – a sign that it has spent at least a decade in the barrel.
Salut and bon appetit!
Self-Drive Canal Boating
Go your own way. Explore the pleasures and treasures of the French waterways.
Luxury Hotel Barging
Lie back and let the skipper and crew take care of everything. Great food. Fine wine. Unique.