With its incredible ingredients, talented chefs and liberal use of butter and garlic, France is the dream destination for any self-proclaimed foodie. As well as being home to some of the best restaurants in the world, it’s also the city that gave us the Michelin star, the celebrated chefs Guy Savoy and Paul Bocuse, and plenty of scenic spots to sit down and enjoy a quality meal. Here are eight French dishes that you need to try on your next trip to the City of Love…
1. CROQUE MONSIEUR (OR MADAME)
So much more than just a ham and cheese toasted sandwich, the croque monsieur (literally translated to “to bite, sir”) has been a staple in Paris’ bars and bistros since 1910. You can even stop off at McDonald’s for a ‘Croque McDo’ (but, please try one from a more authentic source as well)! The iconic dish consists of white bread, ham, and finished off with plenty of Emmental or Gruyere for an irresistibly cheesy topping. If you opt for the Croque Madame, you can also expect a fried egg topping off your sandwich. Try Le Petit Cler (29 rue Cler, Paris 75007) or Cafe Trama (83 rue du Cherche-Midi, Paris 75006) for some of the best croque monsieurs in the city.
You can’t come to Paris without trying snails. Although the idea might send a shiver down your spine, a plateful of escargot with plenty of butter and garlic is a very pleasant experience indeed. Although it’s pricey, it’s worth checking out the selection at L’Escargot Montorgueil (38 rue Montorgueil, Paris 75001) – you can get traditional snails with butter and garlic, or a selection of escargot with blue cheese or foie gras if you want to make your experience just that little bit more French. And speaking of foie gras…
3. FOIE GRAS
Controversial though its preparation may be – force-feeding geese or duck until their liver is at the point of bursting – this dish is quintessentially French. Foie gras and the production process are even protected by law as part of France’s cultural and gastronomical heritage. Foie gras can be found in plenty of bistros and cafes; if it’s authenticity you’re after, head to Allard (41 rue Saint-Andre des Arts), now owned by Alain Ducasse. For a less expensive option, swing past La Grande Épicière (38 rue de Sèvres, Paris 75007, or 80 rue de Passy, Paris 75016) which has an impressive selection of foie gras at a range of prices. And do remember – if you’re after the really traditional, authentic version of foie gras, you’ll be looking for oie (goose). Foie gras de canard (duck) is just as delicious, but a lot more affordable and the much more prevalent option in most cafes and restaurants.
4. SOUPE À L’OIGNON
What’s more authentically French than French onion soup? Even if you’re not usually a fan of onions, while you’re in the France capital, try a hearty, steaming bowl of melt-in-your-mouth caramelised onion soup, accompanied by a perfectly crusty baguette. Try the offering at Au Pied de Cochon (6 rue Coquillière, Paris 75001), a classic French bistro where you can also find dishes such as foie gras, escargot and creme brûlée. Bonus – it’s open 24/7.
5. FROMAGE, FROMAGE, FROMAGE (AND BAGUETTE)
You can’t visit Paris without trying some of the delicious cheeses on offer. Even the local supermarkets will have a pretty stellar selection, but if you’re of the mind that the stinkier the cheese, the better it is, you might want to sniff out a local fromagerie. Here, the experienced and cheese-loving’ fromagers will assist you in finding something to suit your palate, whether it’s the gorgeously mild chèvre (goat’s cheese) or the very strong-smelling maroilles. You can find quality fromagers anywhere in the city, but for an experience that’s a little more unusual, head to Fromages et ramage in the picturesque arrondissement of Montmartre (22 rue Ramey, Paris 75018) – you’ll find rock music playing and pages of Charlie Hedbo on the walls, alongside a fantastic selection of cheeses. Grab a selection and a baguette that’s pas trop cuite – not too crunchy – and enjoy an impromptu picnic on the steps of the Sacre Cœur.
Although the concept of ‘brunch’ isn’t super popular in Paris (sorry, avocado toast loving millennials), the French have perfected the petit dejeuner (little breakfast), usually consisting of a coffee, orange juice, and of course, a croissant. But you don’t even need to venture out to a cafe to get your croissant fix – any boulangerie will have croissants au beurre or croissants nature for sale (but trust me, you’ll want the beurre). Des Gateaux et du pain (63 Boulevard Pasteur, Paris 75015) is widely regarded to have some of the best croissants in the city, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bad croissant anywhere. If you need a little extra sweetness in the morning, get yourself a pain au chocolat instead. Similar buttery-soft pastry, but with chocolate inside.
After becoming something of a foodie phenomenon a few years ago, nearly everyone has sampled, or at least heard of, the macaron – the pastel-coloured meringue discs that sandwich a flavoured ganache (not to be confused with the macaroon, a small coconut-flavoured cake, or indeed the Macron, defeater of Marine La Pen and current President of France). The pastel perfection of Ladurée (various locations) is well worth the hype – as one of the oldest patisseries in France, created in 1862, they’ve certainly had quite a few years to perfect the art of the macaron! For equally pretty but slightly more unusually flavoured macarons – think white truffle, caviar, or Earl Grey tea – try Pierre Hermé (various locations). There’s a fierce debate as to whose macarons are better, so why not try them both and decide for yourself?
Like the croque monsieur, this is not your average ham sandwich. A jambon-beurre is a staple in many French diets – a combination of delicious ham and lashings of butter, all on a perfectly baked baguette. While it’s simple enough to make your own, and can be a very cheap and Parisian meal to make if you’re visiting on a budget, trust the professionals and head down to the épicière Juhles (58 rue Faubourg, Paris 75010) for a freshly made, customisable jambon-beurre, or for an extra-special sandwich head down to Lazare, (Rue Intérieure, Paris, 75008) where their version of the humble sandwich is reportedly one of the best in Paris.
Eight staples of French cuisine perfected over hundreds of years – do yourself a favour next time you’re in Paris and acquaint yourself with one (or all!) of these dishes. Bonne chance et bon appetit!