Welcome to the romantic world of French Cuisine!
The French have always been proud of their sophisticated way of cooking. Fertile soil provides fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, grains, and meat, nearly year-round. The soil is also suitable for growing grapes, which are used for making some of the finest wines in the world. Food and alcohol play important roles in French society—the way a person eats often reflects their French heritage, region of birth, social status, and health.
France is justly famous for its food. The country can be divided into three general regions defined by their chosen cooking fat: the domain of butter, the domain of lard and the domain of olive oil. The domain of butter encompasses Paris proper as well as France’s wine regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux, the alpine regions to the east, and the northern coastal areas of Brittany and Burgundy. The domain of lard is confined mostly to Alcase and Lorraine, and the domain of oil in the south of France centers on Provence, yet it also includes Gascony and Basque country as well.
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Paris and the Urban Experience: A fulfilling–and filling–French food adventure could be spent within the city limits of Paris alone. The city is famous for its cafes, bakeries, pastry shops and open-air markets, not to mention its wide array of restaurants both casual and formal. It’s the birthplace of classic haute cuisine, as well as nouvelle cuisine and its successors. It’s certainly the best place in France for an urban culinary experience.
Rough and Rustic Northwestern France: Brittany and Normandy comprise the northwest region of France. Historically, this is poor agricultural land, except for apple orchards. It provides good pasture for dairy cows, and the local food tends to be heavily enriched with plenty of cream and butter. Brittany is famous for its crepes, which are stuffed with foods both savory and sweet. Breton food is also known for its emphasis on white beans, and a preparation a la bretonne most likely refers to their presence. Nearby Normandy is the home of Camembert cheese and Calvados apple brandy. The apple also makes an appearance in the dish known as chicken Normandy. The region’s long coastline provides a wealth of seafood, especially shellfish.
Sun Drenched Provence and the French Riviera: Provence, in the southeast corner of France, is home to the high-end resorts of the French Riviera. The sun is hot and bright here, and the land seems saturated with color. The region has a distinctive rustic regional cuisine that shows marked affinity with neighboring Italy. Provencal cooking uses olive oil instead of butter or lard. Garlic is a key seasoning. The most famous dish of this region may be bouillabase, the hearty fish soup of Marseilles seasoned with saffron. The vegetable stew known as ratatouille also originates here, as does salade Nicoise, the composed salad of Nice consisting of lettuce, various vegetables and anchovies or tuna. Provence also features strong sauces, such as the cod-based brandade, tapenade made with olives and pistou, the French version of Italy’s basil pesto.
The Diverse Tastes of Southern France: The food of southern France is strongly influenced by Basque and Spanish cuisine. The Basques have their own distinctive language and culture, and their food is regarded as some of the best in the world. The region’s most famous dish may be cassoulet, a baked dish of white beans and confit of duck or goose, somewhere between a stew and a casserole in consistency. Piperade, a Basque dish of peppers and eggs, is also well-known. Lamb is eaten in quantity here, as are various small game birds. Bayonne ham comes from this region; another well-known regional specialty is Armangac brandy.