Mushrooms and truffles
Autumn is the perfect time to head out into the French countryside, where you can forage for mushrooms and - if you're lucky and know where to look - truffles. Many French pharmacies even offer mushroom-checking services so you can make sure your bounty is all safe to eat.
But if that still sounds like too much hard work, you don't need to get on your hands and needs to enjoy the autumnal fungi. Head to the market or look for good local restaurants serving seasonal specials.
A basket of truffles at a French market. Photo: Remy Gabalda/AFP
Venison stew (civet de chevreuil)
Autumn is also hunting season, and the perfect time to try out game. This rural French stew is perfect for cosy autumn evenings and best of all, venison is naturally low in fat making it a healthy choice. Typical recipes will call for a bottle of red wine, root vegetables, and mushrooms.
What this dish from the Auvergne region lacks in Instagram appeal, it makes up for with its hearty taste. The truffade is a kind of thick potato pancake made with goose fat and tome fraiche cheese. Meat-lovers can add bacon while vegetarians can swap out the goose fat for vegetable oil and serve it with a green salad.
Head to the northwest coast of France around November to experience festivals dedicated to the humble herring. You'll discover more ways to prepare the fish than you ever thought possible, as well as have the chance to join in the celebratory spirit in these fishing towns. The largest herring festival is held in late November in Dieppe.
Nothing says autumnal comfort food better than a succulent stew, and fricassee is one of the quintessential recipes. Chicken is the meat most commonly used, but you can make the dish your own, cutting up and braising the meat before making a white sauce to cook it in.
When October comes, the distinctive smell of roasting chestnuts fills the streets in France. It’s been a staple in the French diet for centuries, thanks to the abundance of forests which meant there was a good supply of chestnuts even for the poorest families. If you want to try the best of the best, look out for either Châtaigne, Périgord, Limousin, Midi-Pyrénées or Châtaigne d'Ardèche for assured quality. As well as eating them straight from the bag you can buy from street sellers, you’ll also see them on menus in soups, sauces, desserts, and liqueurs.
American expats in particular might be pleased to learn that pumpkin pie (tarte à la citrouille) is a specialty in France. It’s often served around All Saint’s Day (November 1st) and is particularly common in the centre of the country. If you plan to make your own, be warned that canned pumpkin puree is often excruciatingly expensive in France, so why not do as the French do and buy the real deal fresh from your local market?
A galette in France usually refers to a round, flat pastry cake, and in autumn you can indulge in a range of flavours such as apples, pears, or plums, all of which are in season.
Autumn isn’t all about the wine harvest - it’s also cider season, with apple and cider festivals across the country and particularly in Brittany and Normandy. A great way to travel around the best spots is to follow the 40km circular Cider Route, through villages, meadows, farms, and of course, orchards aplenty. And many other towns and villages have their own apple and cider festivals, where you might be surprised to discover the variety of tastes on offer. As an alternative, try Normandy’s Calvados, a delicious apple-flavoured brandy.