I have often read that France is a place where the quality of life is measured in food. This is no more evident than on the streets of the capital city, Paris. Goodness, “cuisine” was invented there, was it not? You find it in the outdoor restaurants and tux-sporting waiters. You see it in the intellectuals discussing the world’s problems in cafés and on wicker chairs and at tables holding steaming espresso cups. Food is an important part of French culture and people take it very seriously.
The secrets to French cuisine are the rich sauces made from butter, cream, fresh ingredients and wine. We couldn’t possibly forget the wine. Some of the best wine and cheese varieties in the world come from this land of rich soil and even climate. Techniques such as flambé, sauté and braising have been perfected here resulting in delicious culinary classics like the Au Jus, Béarnaise and Hollandaise sauces and Coq au vin and Beef bourguignon dishes.
In Paris, you’ll be able to sample the best of these incredible techniques and culinary traditions. There are too many glorious dishes to list here but there are a few staple French foods that you just can’t miss out on. For savoury lovers, the choice is never-ending. There is fresh bread to die for; golden baguettes with crisp crusts and light, airy insides and loaves studded with nuts, raisins or cereal. Don’t be surprised to see queuing outside Paris’ boulangeries*. If you are not eating on the run, do yourself a favour and buy some good French butter to complement your fresh bread. Supermarkets will stock several kinds of butter that will be better than you’ll taste anywhere else. Cheese in this city is a revelation as fromageries** across the city stock a variety of soft, ripe, hard or aged cheeses – something for every cheese lover.
For those with a sweet tooth or two, Paris is heaven. Visit a patisserie, a shop specialising in pastries and sweets, and revel in wonder. Macarons have come to symbolise the Parisian pastry scene. Simple in concept, genius in invention, two single biscuits sandwiched together with a ganache filling of chocolate or rose, foie gras or litchi, coffee or raspberry. Then, there is the legendary croissant, a favourite breakfast amongst the locals. Look out for a flaky, golden exterior and the smell of good butter – then, you’ll know it’s a good one. If a plain croissant doesn’t do it for you, never mind, you can easily look on the next shelf for croissants filled with chocolate. If your sweet tooth is still not satisfied, wash your feast down with a hot chocolate to die for. Rich, intense and served in a big bowl, this is truly hot chocolate.
So, besides trying the escargots (or snails, as we call them) and champagne (which is the real deal), stroll along the streets of Paris and soak up the food culture of the French. Stop along the way at a café or a street-side eatery and try whatever takes your fancy. You won’t be disappointed. The French are proud of their food for good reason.
*boulangerie – a bakery that specialises in baking and selling bread
**fromagerie – cheese shop