So much talk of Parisian fashion and style I suppose it’s time to tuck into the food (pardon the pun). With so many wonderful foodie experiences in Paris and the south of France – specifically Carcassonne and Narbonne – it would be near impossible to pay adequate homage to them all. So to ensure you don’t feel like your sitting down to read a novel, I have categorised my top foodie moments into “Le snack“, “Divine dejeuner” and “Dîner traditionnel” (of course sweet treats require their own post). Bon appétit!
Market fresh fruit
No matter where you are in the world, Farmers markets are a guaranteed source of delicious snacking goods. Our first full day in Paris was a sunny Sunday and was therefore spent trawling the Bastille markets under blue skies and in ballet flats. As we explored, we munched on fresh framboise, or raspberries, that were like little ruby gems of flavour and juicy peaches that simply burst in the mouth. The Les Halles markets in Narbonne are also a must for fresh produce and it was there we picked up more incredible peaches and apricots that were the perfect balance of tang and sweetness. To die for.
The French toastie
This one will shock you – but the best Croque-monsieur we ate was served on the train from Paris to Lourdes! Yep you read correctly…train food a la the TGV has rated on the Mimi scale. The creaminess and tang of the oozing béchamel and cheese layer was seriously addictive!
Served with every Vin or aperitif you order they arrive salted and in an adorably French petite dish…somehow they just taste better in France!
The only baguette worth buying (according to our gorgeous Montmartre walking tour guide and self confessed “bobo” – or bourgeois bohemian – William) is the “tradi” or traditionnel where the baking method (including the grinding of the grain to make the flour) has been unchanged for centuries.
Going off this little insight I ordered the “very French” combination of Jamon and Gruyere from the Marais boulangerie patisserie Au petit Versailles du Marais whose creator Christian Vabret won the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France – a top craftsmanship award held every four years. The thick Jamon slices where deliciously salty and juicy and complemented both the texture (soft and buttery but still firm) and the flavour (just the right hit of sharpness) of the Gruyere cheese.
The French definitely know how to do crepes and their savoury versions can be classified as a galette when made with buckwheat flour. The result is a much thinner and crispier version of a crepe that comes off the hotplate holding its filling almost like a toasted flatbread. My galette experience was enjoyed at an adorable, cosy nook and authentic crêperie Au Lys D’Argent on the Île Saint-Louis with aubergine, tomato, Jamon, gruyere and olives stuffed within. It crunched audibly upon slicing with a knife and oozed hot, stringy cheese. Délicieux!
A glance at every menu and it was clear that chèvre chaud salade (or warm goats cheese salad) is to France as Caesar or Greek is to us. However, because it is such a staple in terms of the salad selections, restaurants start to get creative…one of the best “takes” on chèvre chaud salade I enjoyed was just across the road from our Marais apartment at Les Fous d’en Face. A fresh assortment of salad leaves was served with two petite pastry parcels placed on top. As my knife crunched its way through the parcel, crumbly hot goats cheese layered on top flavoursome Jamon cascaded out of the casing. This experience must be followed closely by the chèvre chaud and cured duck salade experience Mama and I shared in Carcassonne. A whole mini round of warm oozing goats cheese was placed atop crunchy baguette, sprinkled with almond slivers placed atop a mountain of fresh leaves. Divine!
A French classic
After a wonderful walking tour of Montmartre we were overdue for lunch, so taking a cue from our guide William (get as far away from the Sacre Coeur as possible to avoid the overly touristy dining spots) we began to make our way down the hill toward Rue des Abbesses and happened upon an adorable bakery, Coquelicot (located at number 24) that served up freshly baked goods and breakfast all day. A quick glance at the menu and it was an easy choice. A Brie, Cumin, Oignon and Piment de Cayenne Quiche served with fresh salad. The quiche was incredible with perfectly light and flakey pastry and a firm, but springy filling with flavours that tantalised the tastebuds. A definite Mimi must!
This category was an easy one to filter as there were a select number of standout traditional French dinners that Mama and I delighted in during our adventures (not including the “perfect Paris evening” of course).
Ok, confession time. I have become a foie gras addict! My first experience was at Les Philosophes in the Marais on our second night in Paris.
From then on it was my “safe option” for meal ordering. The French clearly like it too (funny that) because not only can you order it as a entrée on its own, however, it is also available as a salade which comes in slices already placed on small toasts piled onto greenery. The best version I had was actually in Lourdes as the foie gras was creamy and seriously tasty, served on perfectly toasted baguette rounds and fanned around a wonderfully fresh assortment of salad leaves with a drizzle of vinaigrette. When we ordered this we also had an accompanying melon salade – the rockmelon was so fresh and juicy and worked surprisingly well with the foie gras (it was the hint of sweetness that set off the flavours).
However, if we’re talking foie gras on its own then the hands down winner would most definitely have to be the foie gras maison et sa confiture olive from L’escargot in Carcassonne. The homemade foie gras was so luxuriously buttery and rich and was intensified by the olive jam – possibly one of the best taste sensations I’ve experienced!
From Cafe Louis Philippe – an iconic institution running for over two centuries serving up wonderful traditional fare. The melt in your mouth consistency of the beef and the decadent vin laced sauce was warming, comforting and very filling.
My Cassoulet experience was enjoyed at cafe Le Trouvère in Carcassonne, where it is a regional specialty. Served piping hot straight out of the oven there was a whole leg of confit duck, pork saucisson and seriously tasty white beans in a light tomato-based sauce bursting with aroma and flavour.
Escargot and Cuisses de grenouilles
Last, but most definitely not least, as it was possibly my favourite French food experience, was the dishes of Escargot au beurre persillade and Cuisses de grenouilles a la Provençale served up on fabulous eclectic crockery at L’escargot. After our foie gras experience we simply had to return the next evening (because yes it’s that good) to try their snails in parsley butter and Provençal style frogs legs. And both were sheer foodie perfection. The mixture of flavours and textures was unbelievable! You did have to ignore the appearance of the escargot (as you would expect they looked exactly like a garden snail) and just plop it in your mouth, but once you did they were like little bursts of buttery goodness with a hint of garlic and parsley…and the oils they sat in just had to be mopped up with fresh baguette. However, the frogs legs were an absolute knockout. The juicy, succulent white meat just melted off the bone (yes they came out looking exactly like flattened frogs) and the seasoning had a wonderful zingy sweetness to it, which was enhanced by sweet and sour vinaigrette-like dipping sauce. Hands down one of the best delicacies I have eaten in my life.
Are you drooling as much as I am after this recount? I’d love for you to share your top foodie travel experiences!