Exceptional cuisine is deeply rooted in France’s culture, from hearty dishes to delectable desserts, to pastry staples and exotic classics. Its wine culture is equally extensive, boasting of world-renowned vintages such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.
France is home to various regions, and each district has its specialty. With so many available choices, touted the best in Europe, the question is not what to eat, but where to start exploring. To help narrow down your options, here is a list of the best food and wine that you need to try throughout the most popular regions in France. Bon appétit!
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The reputation of Paris as one of the food capitals of the world precedes itself, tempting food lovers to venture into the city and indulge in its excellent cuisine. Fly into Paris and sample its exotic delicacies, famous crowd-pleasers, and savory main courses.
For breakfast, you can never go wrong with a piece of pain au chocolat paired with a cup of café au lait. Enjoy a serving of Boeuf Bourguignon, a juicy and flavorful dish made of beef, braised with red wine, onions, carrots, and garlic, and simmered until tender.
Delight in the sweetness of macarons, the buttery texture of crêpes, and the pleasantly simple taste of baguettes. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, sample cuisses de grenouilles or fried frog legs, or take a bite of Steak Tartare, chopped beef tenderloin sprinkled with spice and served raw.
Britanny’s menu is a mosaic of flavors, as diverse as its various local and seasonal products, from oysters, lobsters, and scallops, to juicy strawberries grown at the farms of Plougastel. Don’t miss the region’s masterpiece, galette, a buckwheat crêpe with a savory stuffing of eggs, ham, or vegetables. Spoil your sweet tooth with a piece of kouign-amann, a round multi-layered cake filled with layers of butter and sugar.
A visit to Britanny is incomplete without trying a seafood platter of freshly caught shellfish such as spider crab, prawns, oysters, periwinkles, whelks, cockles, and lobsters, usually eaten with rye bread, locally produced mayonnaise, and salted butter.
Champagne may have invented the world’s most famous sparkling wine, but there is more to this region than its bubbly tipple. Champagne is a picturesque region of vast vineyards, quaint villages, Michelin-starred restaurants, grand chateaus, historic landmarks, and impressive wineries.
Here, you can enjoy the best wine tasting experience and explore underground cellars that house some of the most exquisite vintages in the world.
Dine at a bustling bistro in Reims, the region’s unofficial capital city, and sample the famous biscuit rose de Reims, a pink cookie that dates from 1690. Spend an evening sampling a wide selection of Champagnes from different producers at C-Comme in Épernay (pictured above).
After a day of food and wine tasting, rest in one of the region’s elegant vacation chateaus rentals or villas. For nature lovers, you can relax and sip wine in an eco-friendly bar settled halfway up a tree at the Perching Bar in Venzy.
Whether you want a sip of fine wine in a family-run winery or delight in gourmet delicacies at a Michelin-starred restaurant, Aquitaine offers a wide range of exquisite regional cuisine and even more exquisite vintages. The region is a veritable feast of flavors, from the hearty fare of Gascony to the prized black truffles of Perigord.
Savor the pleasantly unctuous dish of duck confit, a leg of fattened duck, salted and seasoned with herbs, then slowly cooked in their fat, and later sautéed with roast potatoes and garlic to crisp the skin. The liver of the fowl becomes the famous delicacy le foie gras. Another beloved dish, particularly in the Pyrenees, is piperade, a spicy concoction of garlic, peppers, onions, and tomatoes sautéed in goose fat, and baked with eggs or ham.
The coastal parts of Aquitaine are a bountiful source of seafood, such as lamprey, sardines, and oysters. While in Bordeaux, enjoy lamprey à la bordelaise, a dish of lamprey stewed with cured ham, red wine, leeks, garlic, and other spices. The lamprey is briefly flambéed in cognac, then served with a savory sauce made from the fish’s blood and chocolate.
You can also go for a plate of fresh oysters du jour, or taste grilled sardines. These sumptuous courses are best paired with a bottle of white wine from Entre-Deux-Mers.
Provence is not only famous for its markets teeming with the aromas of spices and food cooking, sun-riped fruits and fresh produce, fresh goat’s cheese and golden olive oil, and an ocean-worth of fish. It is also known for its wide range of food establishments that offer an authentic taste of Provencal cuisine, from Michelin-starred restaurants, quaint and elegant cafes to bistros and brasseries.
Your visit to Provence is incomplete without savoring the famous dish, ratatouille (pictured above), a vegetable casserole consisting of courgettes, tomatoes, aubergines, onions, garlic, and pepper. Another well-known dish is salade niçoise, made of tomatoes, green peppers, red onion or spring onion, cucumber, hard-boiled eggs, tuna, and olives, then drizzled with olive oil or French vinaigrette.
Be sure to taste bouillabaisse, a hearty dish consisting of a minimum of four types of fresh fish cooked in fish stock with onions, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs, served with croutons and rouille, a spicy, saffron garnish.
Relish in the richness of daube, a kind of beef stew that’s braised in wine, some vegetables, and herbs. Sample tapenade, an olive dip made of black or green olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and olive oil, usually served with croutons.
If you are strolling along the streets, look for socca, a simple but savory pancake consisting of chickpea flour, olive oil, salt, and water, and cooked on a copper dish over a wood-fired oven. A typical Provencal meal is lacking without the region’s trademark drink pastis, an aniseed-flavored liqueur that turns milky-white once you add water.
Don’t leave Provence without trying the deserts! You will surely love the legendary Tarte Tropézienne, not only for its fascinating backstory but also for its sugar-coated brioche filled with rich orange-flower flavored cream. And never forget the nougat.
As you can see, the food and drinks you must try in France are innumerable and this list just scratches the surface. Make sure you take a list with you when you visit, so you don’t miss a thing!
Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.