Consider this your French food encyclopedia, because it’s my favorite topic of conversation and you deserve nothing less. Here we go!
Five Golden Rules of Eating in France
- Eat seasonally. For the most part, you won’t have any choice in the matter because by and large, chefs in France wouldn’t be caught dead serving something out of season. In fact, if you see a lot of off-season dishes on a restaurant menu, don’t eat there.
- Eat when the French eat. You’ll have a better dining experience if you eat lunch between 12 and 1 p.m., and between 8 and 9 p.m. I know you’re on vacation, but scheduling at least part of your day is totally worth it.
- Eat from the “menu” (prix-fixe meal) if it’s offered. A menu is a “carte,” while a “menu” is a set price for at least two courses. First of all, it will be easier on your wallet – even pricey restaurants have pretty good menu deals. But moreover, you’ll get the entire culinary experience as the restaurant has meant you to enjoy it.
- Have an apéro before dinner. Everyone else does. It’s just such a French thing to do, and makes your meal more of an experience. You can visit a bar of cafe, or have one at the restaurant. Either way, it starts the evening off right.
- Be brave. Yes, I know you can list at least a dozen French foods you think are gross. But I won’t let you say that until you’ve tried it at a real French restaurant in France.
Six Things You Should Try at Least Once in France
- Les cuisses de grenouilles.
- Foie gras.
- Boeuf tartare.
- Cheval and/or taureau.
- Whatever cheese you think you hate.
That’s frog legs to you and me. And yes, they really do taste like chicken – freshly grilled chicken, with wonderful herbs. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.
I don’t want to hear about it – this stuff is freaking delicious. If you’re feeling bold, order it poêlé, or pan-fried. Otherwise, try it in a pâté on some toast or a fresh baguette.
Snails! Snails cooked in garlic, butter and parsley. If nothing else, you’ll have a great photo op while you learn how to use the special utensils they give you for holding the shell so you can get the meat out without chucking it on the person next to you.
This is basically raw hamburger. But before you start gagging, note that it is the finest grade of beef, fresh and fridge-cold, and it is mixed, either in the kitchen or tableside, with like 1900 delicious things. It’s probably best shared, as it can be a rich taste for first-timers. And it comes with fries, so there’s always that.
Horse and bull, respectively. Again, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it – especially the taureau stew down south, in a rich wine and orange sauce.
Too stinky? Too soft? Too much rind? Try a piece of it on a freshly baked baguette and butter, and you’ll be singing a whole new tune.
Five Tried and True French Favorites You Won’t Want to Miss
- Moules frites.
- Whatever cheese you love.
Get the croissant au beurre, is all I’m saying. Have one and get back to me.
These tiny, flavorful treats give new meaning to “cookies and cream.” The salted butter caramel are to die for, but other flavors are just as good and many artisans make special signature flavors.
Steamed mussels in a pot with a side of fries. Get them the classic way, with onion and white wine, or try more inventive flavors like roquefort or saffron.
Whether magret (in slices) or confit (cooked in its lard), this is the French version of comfort food. Ooh, or try it in a cassoulet, where it’s cooked with sausage and beans!
This is a good one to wait until you’re at a market, where the person you’re buying it from knows the animal personally and has probably milked it themselves. A transporting experience.
And just so you can be super-prepared for your foodie fling in France, here’s everything we’ve got on gastronomy in France. Happy reading! There will be a test later. Followed by dessert.
- French food
- Food shopping in France
- Drinking in France
- Markets in France: Tips to maximize your shopping experience
- Where to find the best markets in France
- How to Eat in a French Restaurant
- Menu Tips for France: The Ultimate French Menu Decoder, No Ring Needed!
- Cooking Classes in France
- Eating in France: Le Repas Francais
Food-related festivals and regional foodie posts:
- Dijon International Gastronomy Fair
- Dieppe Herring Festival
- Beaujolais Nouveau Day
- What to Eat in Brittany
- The Cours Saleya Market in Vieux Nice
- Corbières: Wine, Cheese and Medieval Fortresses
Wine posts – because what’s French food without French wine to wash it all down?
- French Wine Guide
- Understanding the Four French Wine Categories
- Wine Regions of France
- Wine Tasting in France
- French Wine Tasting Vacations
- Self-guided Provence wine tour itinerary
Seasonal food posts:
And specific food and drink posts:
- Pâté: A Delicious Spreadable Treat
- French Pastries
- How to Make Vin Chaud
- French Apéritifs
- Champagne: The Drink of Kings
- Dom Pérignon: Drinking The Stars
- The Perfect French Cappuccino
Top photo: avlxyz