23 food experiences in France all foodies will love
French cuisine is the envy of many and their produce is famed the world over. We pick our favourite 23 food experiences, from buying oysters fresh from the ocean to trying one of their traditional dishes, every foodie needs to try
1. The Marché de Rungis in the southern suburbs of Paris is the largest fresh produce market in the world, but if you want to go on a tour, you’ll need to be up at the crack of dawn because stalls open at 5.30am
3. Pastis, the aniseed-flavoured aperitif, is a national icon and a favourite in the south of France. If you’re in Marseille, the home of leading brand Ricard, order one in a side-street café in Le Panier, the old quarter
4. Truffle markets are a meeting of earthy traditions and haute cuisine as farmers lay out the ‘black diamonds’ for chefs and gourmands to probe and procure by the gram. Most take place from December to February in south-west France and Provence.
5. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but ordering steak tartare in a bistro and having your waiter season the raw beef, adding an egg yolk, capers and shallots before your eyes, is a true French culinary experience.
6. A bracing trip to the Alps is the perfect excuse to eat robust mountain food. Tasting farm-produced cheeses and charcuterie in the form of creamy fondues and hearty tartiflette should be on your to-do list.
7. For the catch of the day, head to the early morning Marché aux Poissons in the old port of Marseille and mingle with chefs selecting ingredients for bouillabaisse, the city’s famous fish stew.
8. When in Lyon, dine at a traditional bouchon. These simple bistros are the descendants of the town’s taverns.
9. Visit a salon de thé as an elegant alternative to the café experience. Paris is renowned for its tea rooms; try Mariage Frères with Its shelves of ordered caddies or Angelina, famed for its luxurious hot chocolate
10. The little seafront market in Cancale, Brittany, sells some of the best-value oysters in France; buy half a dozen, fresh from the ocean, and eat them sitting on the wall, throwing your shells on to the beach below
11. Eat an ice cream while strolling on the harbour front at Collioure
12. Be transported back to the era when train travel was synonymous with luxury and prestige by dining at Le Train Bleu at the Gare de Lyon in Paris. Drink in the atmosphere under gilded ceilings and glittering chandeliers as waiters brandish huge trays high above their heads and steer brass trolleys loaded with liqueurs.
13. A classic kir, made by adding a dash of crème de cassis from Burgundy to a glass of Aligoté white wine, is the perfect start to a meal. Around France, many regions have their own take on the elegant aperitif: In northern France swap wine for cider for a kir breton or kir normand. In the Berry, a kir berrichon is made with red wine and crème de mûre (blackberry); or add champagne for the classic kir royale.
14. The saliers (salt workers) of the Guérande Peninsula at the mouth of the River Loire harvest the area’s marshes to produce the famous Sel de Guérande. Take a walking tour to discover this traditional industry and see why the prized fleur de sel is truly worth its salt
15. For a true taste of regional cuisine and hospitality, book into a chambre d’hôtes or hotel that offers a table d’hôte evening meal. Here, you pay to be the dinner guest of the B&B owner, who prepares you a delicous meal using local produce and talks you through the various courses and flavours.
16. Street food comes into its own in Nice on the Côte d’Azur, where you can feast on socca – a savoury chickpea pancake – and the caramelised onion tart known as pissaladière.
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17. Wherever you go in France you’ll find a festival dedicated to food. Some of our favourites include the Fête du Citron in Menton, sauerkraut festivals in Alsace, and herring festivals along the Normandy coast.
18. For a citrus-fuelled experience, take a tour of the Carré Cointreau, in Saint-Barthélémyd’Anjou, where the famous orange liqueur is distilled. Although the recipe is an old family secret, the tour will shed light on how this drink is made, followed by the all-important tasting, of course
19. The soil around Lautrec in the Tarn département creates the perfect conditions for growing pink garlic. The allium is celebrated every August at the Fête de l’Ail Rose when sculptures are created out of the bulbs
20. On the Cap Ferret peninsula in the Bassin d’Arcachon, the villages are packed with dozens of tiny cabins belonging to the oyster farmers. Wander through l’Herbe before tasting oysters at a café
21. Confit de canard is one of France’s most famous rustic dishes but in the south-west you’ll find many ways to taste duck, from foie gras and smoked magret to stuffed duck’s neck, gésiers (gizzards) and manchon, the top of the wing.
22. You can find a wonderful chocolatier in even the most modestly sized French town. Buy an assortment of bonbons and take the pick-and-mix experience to a new level.
23. President Charles de Gaulle famously questioned the ability to govern a nation with 246 varieties of cheese. While the actual number of cheeses that France produces is hotly debated, it’s guaranteed that, from pungent cow’s milk Maroilles in the north to soft ewe’s milk brocciu from Corsica, hunting down your favourites is part of the fun.
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