After 9 Amazing Experiences For Food Lovers In Northern France and From Bordeaux To Marseilles: 9 Fabulous Food Experiences In Southern France, the latest installment in this little series on what to eat in France soaks up the best it has to offer at ballast.
The eastern regions include three of the best gastronomic places in all of France: Lyon, Burgundy and Alsace. All three are famous for their hearty and hearty cuisine, cooked with traditional ingredients.
Here you’ll find more favorite food items to try in eastern France.
My first encounter with aligot was not in Auvergne, but in a restaurant in Paris with a chef from the region, so the food was at least authentic, and so good. Aligot is basically mashed potatoes with cheese, a little sour cream and a hint of garlic. When served, the waiter makes a grand game of pulling the aligot into long strings of cheese – much like when you eat melted mozzarella on pizza. Potato still tastes like potato, not too cheesy, but utterly comforting and delicious. Usually served as an accompaniment to a hearty main meal, such as sausages or game, it can also be eaten on its own. But, it must be accompanied by a good red wine, like a fondue, so as not to have a stomach ache once the cheese has cooled. The Recipe is reasonably easy to make at home and is definitely a crowd pleaser.
Pro Tip: If you find yourself in Paris during the colder months, head to the Embassy of Auvergne for a historic setting and traditional comfort food.
2. Beef Bourguignon
This is another hearty and warming dish, perfect for colder days. But when done right, you’ll be more than happy to skip the season as this is traditional French cooking at its finest. Tender pieces of beef are simmered in red wine (of course a Burgundy), with mushrooms, pearl onions, bacon, carrots and garlic. Favorite of Julia Childs, who defended traditional French dishes, the Recipe is definitely a good one to try and perfect at home. Otherwise, if you visit Burgundy, you will come across it in all the restaurants, and after a day of cycling in the vineyards, nothing better than a plate of beef bourguignon.
Pro tip: In Dijon, stay close to the pretty covered market as the restaurants surrounding it serve good, fresh food at low prices. Or, if in Paris, head to the tiny The Bad Boys in the Marais, which usually has it on the menu.
You may have heard of the recent mustard shortage in France. What a disaster for French mustard lovers, and obviously a huge economic crisis for places like Dijon, famous for its mustard. There is now a cap on the number of jars of mustard locals are allowed to purchase. I guess even in Beaune and Dijon there is a shortage. Normally stores like the Fabulously Old Fashioned Mesh and boutique style Fallotright in front of Dijon’s famous little owl on the cathedral, have shelves full of varieties of mustard.
So if you’re a mustard lover and find a good jar of mustard in or around Dijon, treasure it even more now. It is a hot product!
It’s a very French dish that has most people running for the hills but found on most brasserie menus. Getting little, curled-up snails out of their shells, not to mention knowing how to use those weird tools, can be an experience people would love to leave to someone else. But when in France… you really should try them. Snails don’t taste great. It’s the garlic butter, mopped up with fresh, crispy baguette, that’s the main thing to love about this dish. Although originating from Burgundy, they are found almost everywhere.
Pro Tip: To save you not only from looking too closely at the snails and from handling the curious snail-eating gadgets, try the Museum Cafe in the Marais in Paris. Here, snails are served in hollowed-out mushrooms swimming in garlic butter. You can eat them easily and they are some of the best I have tasted in all of France.
Not really a dish, but it’s a type of restaurant steeped in tradition and famous in France for serving the best cuisine – making Lyon the gastronomy capital of France. (True, even if Parisians don’t like it.) The city of Lyon is famous for its traboulesthe hidden alleys crossing the many steep hills of the city, with its Festival of Lights which takes place every December, as well as the cuisine of chef Paul Bocuse.
But Lyon is just as famous for its corks, tiny restaurants, serving traditional and meat dishes – including the dreaded andouillette – and good wine. As authentic as they are, once in Lyon, you will need to go around the corks. Try to sample as many as you can because not only are they usually very pretty, but the food is really good. After all, they have a reputation to uphold. And don’t worry; many are getting a bit more traditional with their menus now to appeal to a wider audience.
Pro Tip: To find out more and taste plenty, try a Food Tour of Lyonwhere you walk, eat, drink and get lots of insider information about the cuisine of the region.
You may have already tasted tartiflette at a Christmas market in France, as it is a staple of these markets. Small cardboard bowls filled with steaming hot potatoes with melted cheese, bacon bits and onions, it’s similar to aligot, but really not. Tartiflette is best eaten where you are in the market. You can get it at ski resorts, but otherwise it’s rarely found in restaurants. I guess it’s a version of French street food, and so much the better.
Pro Tip: As with fondue and aligot, cheese food is best washed down with alcohol, or even better with hot mulled wine, making it a perfect Christmas combination.
Made from raw cow’s milk, Comté has the single largest production in France, with more than 40,000 metric tons (nearly 107 million pounds) produced annually. It is the favorite cheese of the French and the one found all over the world. Hard cheese, it is eaten alone after dinner, but before dessert! It can also be melted on dishes like Croque Monsieur. Originally from the foothills of the Alps, it is found on all the cheese platters in the country.
Pro tip: Rather than going to a cheesemonger, the funniest way to taste it is to sit on the terrace of a restaurant with a glass of wine and a plate of cheeses and/or charcuterie in front of you.
Sauerkraut, pickled cabbage – or sauerkraut as the Germans just across the border would say – is a staple Alsatian dish often served with pork or sausages. In France, you can taste it everywhere in the beautiful region of Alsace, in places like Strasbourg. But if you can’t get there, with Alsatian cuisine popular in France, you’ll also find good examples across the country. Try the brasseries Bofinger or Chez Jenny in Paris, for example, where you can order huge platters of meat dishes laid on tasty sauerkraut that is not at all sour.
Pro tip: Alsace is also a famous wine region, best known for its whites, such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer – a perfect accompaniment.
9. Quiche Lorraine
Go to any picnic, anywhere in the world, and a quiche can usually be found on the blanket. Quiche Lorraine is a specific quiche made with ham or bacon and, of course, this being France, cheese. He is from, as his name suggests, the Lorraine region, now part of the Grand Est, bordering Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. In fact, history strongly suggests that quiche originated in Germany, named after kuchen or cake. Mentioned for the first time in the Middle Ages in the region of Lothringen, it was then adopted by the French and baptized Lorraine. But it is now a very French dish, and very popular.
Pro tip: Once in the Lorraine capital of Metz, head towards the old town center to Granny told me (“Grandma told me”). In Paris, apparently, Café Angelina has a great Quiche Lorraine, but be sure to leave room for dessert…
Be on the lookout for these foods in French restaurants across the country: