There is surely no better smell to wake up to than that of freshly made baguettes and pastries drifting up from a nearby bakery as you start your day in one France’s sleepy towns or villages. With its gastronomic customs officially recognised by UNESCO for their intangible cultural heritage, France is a haven for simple combinations of rich, natural flavours that come together to create unforgettable culinary creations. From the classically hearty French onion soup and garlic-laden escargots from the southeast, to traditional salade niçoise and breakfast madeleines from Lorraine, France is overflowing with tasty treats that will tickle all tastebuds. Below are our top picks of traditional foods in France and where to find them. Bon appétit…
Travel through the country’s colourful centre to try some of the best traditional food in France. Tarte tatin from the central town of Lamotte-Beuvron has a buttery, flaky base filled with caramelised amber apples, and is one of the tastiest treats you will find in France. Or for another sweet treat head to Cormery, where you can wander through stunning medieval architecture into the heart of macaron country. These almond based swirls were first created by monks in 781 and have since become a worldwide tasty treat. Venture east to Dijon in the Burgundy region where, you guessed it, you can try some of the finest Dijon mustard. Whether used to garnish a plate of choucroute garnie (traditional sausages with sauerkraut and potatoes), as the base of a fresh vinaigrette or as the finishing touch on a sandwich, authentic French mustard should be at the top of your ‘must try’ list.
Northeastern France is home to the Champagne region, which needs no introduction. Champagne is a must-try when in its country of origin, so embark on a privately guided vineyard tour where you can indulge in copious amounts of bubbles, as well as diving into the famed drink’s history. Soak up the day’s delights with another gastronomic highlight, this time from the Munster Valley (Muenster across the rest of France) in Alsace. Munster cheese is a soft, creamy cheese that pairs perfectly with a glass of the country’s finest Champagne to create one of life’s greatest combinations. Another tasty traditional food can be found in Lorraine. Although quiche Lorraine is thought to be one of France’s quintessential dishes, it actually originated in Germany in the 12th century, but has since become a French staple. The crusty pastry base topped with an egg and bacon lardon mixture is perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner, in true French style.
The region of Île-de-France is home to the French capital, Paris, and brims with traditional French delicacies. Spend the morning wandering round Paris with a croissant in hand, as Parisians have done for hundreds of years, whether it be a traditional buttery pastry, or one filled with chocolate or cheese. A crispy croque monsieur is perfect for a languid lunch, a dish that has featured on menus in Paris since the early 19th century. Or opt to upgrade this buttery, cheesy delight with a perfectly fried egg, transforming it into a croque madame. One of the most traditional foods found in the French capital is steak from an authentic Parisian bistro. This is the perfect indulgence when paired with a side of fresh frites and a green salad, enjoyed with a glass of rich red wine in a traditional bistro in a quaint side street. Our local Concierge will be able to recommend the very best spots to try these treats and many more.
Southeastern France, known as Le Midi, is a hub for beautiful scenery as well as some of the best seafood in France. One of the most traditional dishes found in this region is bouillabaisse, originating in Marseille. It was created by Marseillaise fishermen to use up leftover produce and has since evolved into a delicious southern delicacy. This traditional fish soup is a rich tomato and Provençal herb base which is jam-packed with shellfish, although must contain the bony rockfish rascasse to be called a bouillabaisse. Ratatouille is another celebrated dish in the southeastern region of France, cemented as one of the classics in French cuisine by the namesake Disney Pixar film, featuring the charming rodent chef Remy. The dish consists of seasonal roasted vegetables stewed and simply tossed in salt, olive oil and herbes de provence, making it a true staple. There are some dishes that tourists are not so keen to try, however. Frogs’ legs are not every traveller’s cup of tea, but they are a must when exploring traditional food in France. When sautéed with garlic, butter and parsley, you would never know that you are chowing down on the legs of little green amphibians. Originally eaten by French monks during lent as they weren’t considered as meat, frogs’ legs have now become a French delicacy, especially when paired with a glass of Provence rosé. For our final southeastern French treat, take a trip to Lyon for a taste of the finest coq-au-vin. Gorge on the traditional French braised chicken soaked in red wine sauce and enjoy the ‘Gastronomic Capital of the World’ from a picturesque riverside restaurant.
The final stop on this culinary tour of traditional food in France is the southwest, where meat makes up a considerable part of residents’ diets. A dish that needs no introduction is foie gras, which originated in Gascogne and is famous for being controversial yet still enjoyed across France. Most travellers are not brave enough to try this traditional cuisine, but if you are, its sweet flavour seasoned delicately with salt and pepper, pairs beautifully with crispy toast and a fig or mango chutney. To finish off your culinary jaunt, savour a large glass of the finest red wine while enjoying one last meat-filled meal in brilliant Bordeaux, the wine capital of France.