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From crêpes to cassoulet: The ultimate food map of France

From crêpes to cassoulet: The ultimate food map of France
Photo: The Local France/Rose Trigg
France is a country that takes its food - and particularly its local dishes - seriously. So what better way to get to know the real France than taking a gastronomic tour of everything from bouillabaise to petit beurres?

Crêpes and cidre in Brittany

Brittany is home to some iconic cuisine, not least Breton crêpes. Eat them savoury (galettes) or sweet, with a local Breton cider of course. 

Seafood lovers should continue their culinary journey with oysters (les huitres) in Cancale, sardines in Concarneau, Quiberon or Dournanez and scallops (Coquilles Saint Jacques) in the bay of St Brieuc.

For afters, try a slice of Kouign Amann. Not quite pastry, not quite cake, the buttery pudding needs to be sampled. 

 
Moules marinières. Photo: The Local

Moules frites in Normandy

A visit to Normandy wouldn’t be the same without some moules marinières, or moules frites. In the world famous mussels dish, the seafood is steamed in white wine and garlic and served with chips.

You can get your moules with sauces including roquefort cheese, curry or chorizo, but for our money the classic marinières is the best.

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Seafood is a big part of Normandy cuisine, and fish stew from Dieppe, called Marmite Dieppoise as well as oysters and scallops are regional favourites.

Home to the famous Camembert cheese, you can learn about the cheese (and taste it) in the historic town of Camembert itself in southern Normandy.

For sweet, try the salted butter caramels, apple tarts and Tergoule, a local rice pudding. 

Waterzooï in Nord-Pas-de-Calais

Close to the border with Belgium, you’ll see plenty of Flemish dishes on the menu, some classics are Waterzooï, a creamy fish dish and Potjevleesch – jellied meat.  

Chantilly cream in Picardy

Though many cafés claim to serve Chantilly cream on their hot chocolates, it’s rarely the real thing. When in Chantilly or Picardy area, it’s a must to try the whipped cream that’s historically associated with Chantilly castle and taste the difference.

If you stop at Amiens, seek out the popular duck pâté en croute, which means it’s cooked with a pastry crust. 

Flammekueche in Alsace 

Entering the colourful towns of Alsace you’ll start seeing Flammekueche on the menu. This Alsatian pizza (though the locals might say pizza is Italian Flammekeuche) is made of very thin pastry topped with cream, red onions and lardons.

Some say Alsace’s national dish is the Choucroûte garnie, the Alsatian version of the German sauerkraut “dressed” with cured meats and often potatoes. 

Also try: Backeoffe and Munster cheese. 

Pink biscuits in Champagne 

The city of Reims is home to the famous biscuit rose de Reims. These vanilla flavoured pink biscuits were originally meant to be white, but the crushed vanilla pods ruined the colour, so red colouring was added to disguise it, and so the pink biscuit was born. 

If you’ve never been brave enough to try pigeon, here might be the place to do it. Marinated pigeons from the forests of Champagne are a regional speciality.

Cacasse à cul nu in the Ardennes

The simple “poor man’s meal” of potatoes and onions cooked in a pot rubbed with lard goes back generations in Ardenne cuisine. Now you can find it topped with smoked sausage and bacon and like a lot of simple dishes, it’s also truly delicious.  

Also try: Mollet cake – this simple milk cake was traditionally served at weddings with a hidden ring inside, whoever found the ring would be the next to get married.

Madeleine cakes in Lorraine 

The famous little shell-shaped cakes come from the towns Commercy and Liverdun in Lorraine, you can buy supermarket versions anywhere in France, but it’s worth tasting the originals.

There aren’t many cakes that can say they have inspired both a great work of literature and a popular saying.  

And of course the famous quiche Lorraine, which actually comes from German cooking, before what is now Lorraine was part of France.  

Also try: boudin blanc sausages, yellow plum jams and tarts. 

Boeuf Bourgignon in Burgundy

The Boeuf Bourgignon, (beef stew marinated in red wine) is one of the cornerstones of French gastronomy, and where better to taste it than in Burgundy itself?

Other Burgundy classics include include Escargots à la Bourgogne and Coq au Vin (another dish whose main ingredient is wine, well there is a lot of wine about in Burgundy).

Stop at Dijon to pick up some real Dijon mustard if there’s room in your suitcase.

Andouillette in Lyon 

Lyon is said to be the home of gastronomy in France but one of its most famous dishes might not be everyone’s favourite. Andouillette – made of pigs’ intestines and colon – is not for the fainthearted or weak-stomached.

Other well known dishes and delicacies from the city in central France include Rosette de Lyon, a cured sausage and of course quenelle, a creamed fish or meat dumpling.

On the sweet side, the city has a distinctive pink praline, which is often incorporated into brioche.

Fondue in Savoy

Fondue, Savoyard style. Photo: The Local

What meal is more Alpine than a Fondue? Order a Fondue Savoyarde, made with melted Beaufort, Emmental, Comté or other similar cheese, Savoy white wine and garlic. Best eaten in the winter, tradition says that you must drink white wine with this, as drinking water with a fondue is considered fatal by locals (but not by any actual doctors or scientists). 

If you haven’t had quite enough cheese, try Tartiflette – a potato, lardons, onions and of course cheese gratin whose name comes from the old local word for potato “tartifle”. 

Ratatouille in Provence
 
Those yearning for a meat-free dish at this point in the journey will find comfort in the classic Provençal dish of Ratatouille vegetables, which combines onions, peppers, tomatoes, courgettes and aubergines and spices.
 
Also try: Niçoise salad, tapenade, Soupe au pistou, daube and lavender-flavoured foods, from the region’s famous lavender fields.
 
Bouillabaise in Marseille
 
Bouillabaise started as a humble fisherman’s seafood stew in the port city of Marseille. But beware of tourist traps while you’re there as cheap bouillabaisse versions might leave a bad taste in your mouth. 
 
Instead, check out the restaurants that have signed up to the “Bouillabaisse Charter” to serve it the traditional way.

Aligot in Auvergne

If you are in the Auvergne region of central France then Aligot is a must. It’s basically just cheese – normally a local Tomme de Laguiole or Tomme d’Auvergne – blended into mashed potato, frequently served with a Toulouse sausage. It used to be prepared for hungry pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostella.

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The ever popular French semi-soft Saint-Nectaire cheese is produced in the rural Auvergne region. Try the farmhouse version made with the milk of the Salers cows that feed on the rich volcanic pastures of former Auvergne. 

If you want something a little healthier by this point in the journey, try Puy lentils from the town Le Puy-en-Velay in a salad or soup.

Roquefort cheese

AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protegee – Protected Designation of Origin) Roquefort cheese. Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

Roquefort in Aveyron 

The pungent Roquefort cheese is made in the town of Roquefort in Aveyron, which is worth a visit on your way.

It’s matured in special humid caves and sowed with Penicilium rocquforti fungus to give it its distinctive dark mould and salty flavour. You can take a tour around the caves to watch it being made. 

Cassoulet in Castlenaudary

Moving further south west and the hearty dish Cassoulet is the pride of the area.

The stew is believed to have first been concocted in the town of Castlenaudary (although nearby Toulouse and Carcassonne also stake a claim to the dish’s creation). It typically contains pork sausages and duck, goose or mutton with white beans. 

Also try: fouace and croustade aux pommes. 

Espellette pepper in Basque country 

Straddling France and Spain, the Basque country is full of the kind of flavours you wouldn’t normally see in France. Chilli peppers from Espelette are renowned for their smokey, paprika-like taste. 

You can taste it cured on Bayonne ham, or in a tomatoey pipérade sauce, arrive at the end of October and you can even go to the festival dedicated to the pepper in the town of Espellette. 

A plate of Black Winter Perigord truffles. Photo by RODGER BOSCH / AFP

Truffles in the Dordogne

It’s time for a bit of fine dining in this region.

The Dordogne is home to Perigord black truffles. They’re said to be some of the best in the world and are called the “Diamonds of Périgord”, so make sure you arrive between December and March when it’s truffle season. 

Duck in Périgord

Duck confit and foie gras are some of the most famous culinary offerings from the region.

The confit is made with duck legs slow-cooked in litres of fat with seasoning, before being sautéed to crisp up the skin (not one for the diet conscious). 

In the spirit of zero-waste, try the gésiers (duck gizzards) – a lot nicer than they sound, the duck innards are slow cooked until they are very tender and are often served in a salad.

Also try: wild peaches

Tarte Tatin in Loire-et-Cher

Invented by the Tatin sisters in Lamotte-Beuvron, the apple tarte Tatin is known the world over.

The story goes that while preparing a classic apple tart, one of the sisters poured the apples into the dish first by accident, to cover up her mistake, she put the pastry on top and so the upside down tart was created.

Petit Buerres in Pays de la Loire

The humble Petit Beurre biscuit originates from this region. Though you can buy the original LU branded biscuits, whose factory is in Nantes, all over France, it’s not quite the same as eating them in the region itself. 

An equally renowned regional product is Guérand salt. For centuries, the Guérand salt marshes have produced the coarse, slightly sweet salt. If you go between April and September you can watch the harvest first hand on one of the many tours.

Croque Monsieur in Paris 

Many of the typical foods we associate with France are linked to the Paris and its region Île-de-France: saucisson, the Parisian baguette, brie de Meaux, and the lunchtime staple croque Monsieur – a toasted cheese and ham sandwich. The name first appeared in a Paris café in 1910 according to some sources.

But other less well known delicacies exist in the capital. Paris button mushrooms for example, once cultivated in the catacombs tunnels under Paris. 

Brocciu in Corsica

Heading across the water to Corsica, fresh Mediterranean food won’t be hard to find. Try also Corsican cheeses like Tomme and Brocciu, similar in texture to ricotta, enjoy them with Corsican honey and fruits. 

Also try: wild boar, chestnut flour cakes, sea urchins.

Apologies we just didn’t have enough time on the tour to get everything in, but if you want all the dishes and delicacies on one map, here it is.

 
By Rose Trigg


Member comments

  1. This was a very enjoyable read, more articles like this please. Anything to escape the highly political Covid!

  2. I also would love to download the map. But it’s not designed to be downloaded and saved. Cann you help?

    1. If you put ‘food map of France’ in a search engine and select images it actually comes up under there and many others. I’ve saved it as a photo.

  3. Neither andouillette nor coq au vin are especially characteristic of Lyon (more so of Burgundy), where the specialities to look out for are quenelles de brochet sauce Nantua (outstanding if properly made – should be light as a soufflé, the taste coming from the rich creamy crayfish sauce), saucisson chaud brioché, poulet de Bresse á la creme aux morilles (one of France’s classic dishes), cheeses such as St Marcellin and cervelle de canut, and the staples of the ‘bouchons’ mostly made from every part of the pig.

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