Culinary notes from France

There’s no place like France.

Earlier this summer, my partner Harrison and I returned home after a 2 week road trip that took us to Paris, Reims, Épernay, the Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Nice, Monaco and a number of charming French villages in the French Riviera. I was super excited about our trip, given France’s rich history, beautiful architecture and its renowned cuisine. We definitely weren’t disappointed! In addition to capturing a number of photos that now cascade the walls of our home, I learned a lot about the French and their way of life. One of the things that stood out to me most was their approach to food.

“La bonne cuisine est la base du véritable bonheur”  
Good cooking is the foundation of true happiness.
Auguste Escoffier, French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer

I admire the French love and appreciation for food. Simple, everyday staples such as croissants and baguettes are celebrated and awarded, from the streets of Paris to the smallest towns & villages. The French have also mastered quality cuisine, with a staggering 600+ Michelin-starred restaurants in France. With these accolades, you would likely think the French dine out quite frequently. In contrast, more often than not they are a la maison, cooking up locally-inspired menus carefully paired with French wines. 

But there’s truly more to it than just the food. Dining in France goes beyond the ingredients & cooking techniques; it’s a way of life that includes a series of carefully-planned dishes that unfold throughout an afternoon or evening. The experience commences with an apéritif (apéro for short) – a pre-meal drink & snack. In France, apéritifs are often times un coup de champagne (a glass of champagne) and are typically accompanied by an amuse bouche, such as pâté or cheese & crackers. A parade of courses follows: un entrée (starter), un plat principal (main course), fromage (cheese), desert (dessert). Dishes are always carefully matched with wines, to ensure the wine helps to enhance the overall flavours of the meal.

The full experience can easily last for 3 hours, as Harrison and I experienced first hand in Bordeaux and in Nice. While this may sound long to some, often times the carefully choreographed evening includes delightful surprises that could include personally meeting the Chef or learning the stories behind the farmers, artisans and winemakers who contributed to food & wine in front of you. Ahhh, do I ever miss those lovely meals from France. Time to dream up some locally-inspired dishes from Ontario 🙂 

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