French classics to order in a bakery or pastry shop:
Most of French people go to a bakery once a day. Whether to buy a baguette before going back home; or a croissant first thing in the morning, and even for an afternoon snack! If you are wondering what to order when you step inside a French bakery, the below will guide you. Beware, if you have a sweet tooth, you will want to buy everything in one go!
Croissant: In a shape of a crescent moon, the croissant must be enjoyed for breakfast. Made of butter and a soft dough, you have to have one while in France!
Pain au chocolat: As famous as its cousin the croissant, the pain au chocolat (or chocolate croissant) is made with the same dough as the croissant. It contains chocolate and is one of the French’s favorite!
Pain aux raisins: in a shape of a snail, the Pain aux Raisins has the same dough as the croissant. It’s beautifully filles with raisins and golden with an egg.
Chausson aux pommes – Apple turnover: Has a semi-circular shape and it is filled with the same filling as what we find in apple pies. One of the favorites of people for breakfast, or for an afternoon snack.
Baguette: Well… Is it worth describing this worldwide-famous item of the French bakery? It is an essential part of the French cuisine, present on all tables, whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
Éclairs: A wonderful choux-pastry that is filled with chocolate or vanilla cream, and an identical icing on top!
Madeleine: A traditional French little cake, in the shape of a shell usually eaten during tea breaks, or in the afternoon!
Canelés: Traditionally from Bordeaux (South-West of France) the Canelé is a vanilla and rum flavored individual cake. Crusty and caramelised on the outside, and soft in the inside, it’s the perfect for a small afternoon treat!
Macarons: Made from crushed-almond, sugar and egg-white the Macaron is quintessential of French pastry! Pick amongst all the flavors (chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, strawberry, rose, etc.) and enjoy a few to find your favorite ones! Macarons are present in the best bakery of Paris. Or head to a Pierre Herme shop to find some of the best of Paris!
Paris Brest: A specialty from Paris that consists of a choux pastry filled with a praline mousseline cream, sprinkled with flaked almonds. I personally love it when well prepared. The one from Chef Sébastien Dégardin (200 rue Saint-Jacques, 75005 Paris) is an absolute delight !
Hérisson: As a chocolate addict, it was my favourite for a while! The hérisson is made of a nice biscuit as a base, and contains a wonderful dark chocolate & hazelnut ganache.
On top of the cake, small spikes sprinkled with cocoa powder are usually shaped, to give his hedgehog shape.
Indeed Hérisson means hedgehog in French!
Mille-feuille: It can be translated as “Thousand of Leaves”. A nice treat made of puff pastry, and with custard cream in between each layers. The top of the pastry is then nicely glazed which brings an additional texture that will melt in your mouth!
From Pierre Hermé to Christophe Michalak, Jessica Préalpato, and many others Chefs present on the worldwide scene; France has always been considered as one of the best nations when it comes to pastries.
Pastry as we know it started to be popular in France in the 17th century, when Anne of Austria, Queen of France brought back some chocolate from Spain. Since then, cooks and chefs of the Royal Court made everything they could to delight the sweet taste buds of the Royals…
Desserts started to be more and more popular, techniques evolved, and the wish to discover sweet delicacies slowly but surely enchanted everyone… including me! If you are one of us, here is a list of desserts to enjoy whilst in France!
Aaaahhh if there was one thing we wish existed everywhere in the world, it would be it!
The Café Gourmand is served in most brasseries, especially for lunch. It consists of enjoying a coffee – or a tea – with 3 or 4 miniatures desserts that complement one another.
The perfect match when you can’t decide what dessert you want the most!
It can be filling, so leave yourself a small space for it! It’s worth it!!
Crêpes: Another favourite of mine! Filled with sugar, caramel, nutella, jam, this French classic satisfies both children and adults! A must-have while in France! By the way, it is also one of the easiest to replicate. If you want our special recipe, do let us know!
Crème brûlée: A dessert famous worldwide! It is made of eggs, sugar, a hint of vanilla and some caramel at the top. The caramel is then caramelised, which gives it its unforgettable taste!
Crème Caramel: It has a similar texture as the crème brulée. But it is served with a caramel topping just on the top!
Profiteroles: These are 2 or 3 choux-pastry filled up with either vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or custard cream. And then served with melted and still warm chocolate on top of them. Yummmm!
Baba au Rhum: Oh they are a wonder when they are well done! They are made of an airy cake, that get slightly soaked in rum. They are only recommended for adults 😉
Île flottante – Floating Island: well famous outside of France too, you may already know this dessert! It is made of sweetened and poached white eggs that are then caramelised. And served either with vanilla ice cream, or more frequently custard sauce.
Tarte au citron meringuée – Lemon Meringue Tart: A wonderful dessert that is made of a lemon pie, and with a layer of soft meringue on the top!
Tarte Tatin: An iconic upside-down apple pie made famous by the Tatin sisters in the 1880’s! The pie is caramelized and usually served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, that makes a perfect match!
Mousse au Chocolat – Chocolate Mousse : A chocolate mousse is a wonder when airy and made of great dark chocolate! Some add spices or fruits to add a different twist to the original recipe!
Fondant au Chocolat – Chocolate Lava Cake: Slightly crispy on the outside and deliciously melting on the outside, how to resist! A lava cake is usually served with a vanilla ice-cream to bring an explosion of tastes and texture in your mouth!
Huitres – Oysters: The raw oysters are to be enjoyed with a drop of lemon, or vinegar. They are commonly found during Christmas, but also very much appreciated over the summer!
Œuf-mimosa – Mimosa Egg: A typical appetiser from Paris! The eggs are hard-boiled and served with homemade mayonnaise!
Soupe a l’oignon – Onion Soup: Well you guessed it, it’s a soup made of onions…. And a lot of cheese! Served with bread, a few chefs in Paris master this great French appetiser!
Escargots – Snails: As a French representative, it was almost an obligation to include the snails in this list. Having said that it is not a dish that is commonly found in restaurants, but rather in fancy brasseries. Most people like this appetiser for the delightful sauce made of parsley, butter and garlic. The snails are then almost just an accessory 🙂
Cuisses de grenouille – Frog Legs: Another dish that made the reputation of French people abroad! Frog legs are also not that common, and are a rather fancy appetiser. They are the tiniest thing ever, so you will need to order a few to enjoy them (at least 5!). The sauce served with it, similar to the snail is also made of parsley and garlic.
Foie gras: Not for the vegetarians, Foie Gras is mostly eaten on Christmas day as a fancy appetiser. Made from goose or duck, it is often mistaken for pâté. My opinion? It’s much richer, and tastier!
Traditional French Dishes to try:
When listing all the traditional French dishes I quickly noticed that 90% of them were made of meat. Not that I am a particular fan of meat; but it made me realise that it is actually part of our culture and cuisine to have a meat (or a fish more often by the coast) as a main dish, or when we eat out. It then became more logical to find a lot of meat dishes in the list of traditional french dishes to try!
It is also relevant to note that compared to other countries, we often like our meat undercooked. In fact, is it usual for French people to order a “rare or medium-rare” piece of steak. If you like yours well-done, make sure it is understood by the waiter.
And if you are vegetarian don’t worry, a lot of Chefs provide now vegetarian options for you to enjoy!
Steak Tartare: For the amateurs of raw beef, this dish is a must-try. Present in almost – if not all – French brasseries, it is a classic of the French cuisine. Usually served with french fries and a salad.
Coq au vin: Rooster or chicken marinated for 24 or sometimes 48 hours in red wine, mushrooms, carrots, and garlic! The sauce softens the meat and it will just melt on your mouth! It’s absolutely divine!
Bœuf bourguignon: Similar to the Coq au Vin, this dish is predominantly made of beef. The meat is also marinated in red wine, along with some carrots, mushrooms, bacon bites and small onions.
Flan / Gratin de courgettes – Zucchini Gratin: Zucchinis are pan-fried along with some onions and sometimes bacon bites. The overall is then baked in the oven, with some added grated cheese on top of it!
Cordon Bleu: An essential of the French cuisine that is served regularly at home. A Cordon Bleu is a piece of chicken or turkey wrapped with ham and cheese, and then breaded. It is usually accompanied with some green vegetables.
Blanquette de veau – Veal Stew: The veal is cooked in a broth for hours and hours, along with some carrots, leek, onions and mushroom. A wonderful white sauce made of sour cream and white wine elevates the whole dish!
Cassoulet: A typical dish from the South of France. It is a dish composed of beans, sausages, and either pork or lamb.
Hachis Parmentier: A wonderful dish made of mashed potatoes and minced beef. Make sure the mashed potatoes are handmade if you order this dish!
Poulet Roti: A half chicken cooked in the oven or on a barbecue is the season allows it. And usually served with potatoes!
Confit de canard: Probably one of my favourite! Originally from the South West of France, the duck is pan-fried in his fat for a few minutes. It becomes the most tender piece of meat ever! Served with potatoes and some greens, you won’t regret it!
Pommes dauphine: My personal favourite accompaniment of a meat! Pommes dauphine are made of mashed potatoes and coated with a sour choux-pastry, perfect for it! They are then fried or baked in the oved.
Usually served in spring and summer:
Ratatouille: A summer dish originally from Nice! It is made of various vegetables such as zucchinis, eggplants, red and yellow peppers and onion. And not to forget, the tomatoes!
Moûles Marinières – Mussels: What else than a pan of mussels for lunch or dinner? It’s delicious! They are usually served with french fries and a green salad.
Sole Meunière: A white fish coated with flour and then cooked in salted butter. It’s simple, yet divine!
Winter dishes to fill up your stomach and your heart:
Noix de Saint-Jacques – Scallops: Scallops can be served differently according to the chef: in a gratin, pan-fried, or even in a salad. They are commonly found around Christmas time.
Gratin Dauphinois: Potatoes are cooked together with a bit of butter, garlic and sour cream. Prior to putting the dish in the oven, grated cheese is added on top for it to grill! A delight, that is often served to accompany the meat during Christmas eve!
Gratin de Poireaux – Leek Gratin: The leek are cooked together with sour cream, onions, and sometimes ham. It is then grilled with cheese to give this subtle and wonderful taste!
Fondue Bourguignonne: Served for a minimum of 2 people, this dish is for meat lovers. It consists of dipping small cubes of beef in a common pan placed in the middle of the table. The meat will almost instantly cook in the pan that is filled with oil. You can then enjoy it with the sauce of your choice – traditionally a mustard or a burgundy sauce!
Pot-au-feu: It is a very old and traditional French dish! The beef will be cooked for hours at a low temperature and accompanied with a mixture of boiled vegetables to enjoy altogether!
Choucroute: Choucroute comes from Alsace, in the East of France. It is a hearty dish composed of sausages, potatoes, smoked pork, and tasteful cabbage! It can be enjoyed with a glass of wine, or a beer!
The Cheesy ones:
Tartiflette: traditionally from the Alps, this main dish is made of potatoes, onions and bacon bites. It is then altogether topped and grilled with Reblochon cheese. It’s not light, but wow it’s a delight!
Fondue Savoyarde – Cheese Fondue: usually served for a minimum of 2 people, this dish consists of dipping French bread in a pan filled with melted cheese. And to repeat the movement as many times as you want! I personally go for a lot of rounds!!!
Raclette: Eaten during dinner, when the weather is cold, and our bodies need to be warmed up. It consists of enjoying melted cheese along with some cold cuts, potatoes and gherkins.
Soufflé au fromage – Cheese soufflé: much lighter in terms of calories than the above dishes, the soufflé on the other hand may not be as much present on the restaurant menus as the others. It is an airy dish mainly made of eggs, flour, and cheese; and often served with a green salad.
The best French food for a picnic or a quick lunch:
Croque monsieur: A warm sandwich baked in the oven, that contains ham, melted cheese and a special sauce. It’s happiness for your taste buds! And go for the Madame if you fancy an egg on top of it!
Galettes: Don’t leave France without tasting the savory version of the Crêpes! It’s a flat and thin pancake that you fill up with various ingredients: ham, cheese, mushrooms, eggs, etc. The possibilities are endless!
Quiche Lorraine: A salted pie made of eggs, sour cream and ham. A delight! Some variants exist to the quiche with broccoli, goat cheese, tomatoes, etc.
Sandwiches: Most bakeries will sell sandwiches. For a typical French one, go for the Ham & Cheese, or Ham & Butter one! Served with a crunchy baguette, the best option for a pic-nic or on the go lunch!
Salade Niçoise: A traditional dish from Nice. It is a salad made of lettuce, hard-boiled egg, tuna, tomatoes, green peppers and basil!
Salade de Chèvre Chaud – Goat Cheese Salad: One of my favorite ! It consists of having small portions of melted goat cheese on crusty bread. It’s usually served with lettuce, tomatoes, pine nuts and bacon bites.
Omelette: A simple yet wonderful dish made of battered and pan-fried eggs, a bit of cheese, or sometimes mushroom. Usually served with lettuce on the side, it delights both kids and adults!
French Cheeses to try :
France, the land of cheese! Some say there are between 1,200 and 1,500 identified in France. While this seems a lot, it is true that you need a lifetime to enjoy all the cheeses France has to offer! Here is a good shortlist to start with, that will make you discover different types: from cow, to goat, and sheep milk! And don’t be afraid or trying!
Comté: By far my personal favorite cheese of all! It’s a hard cheese made of cow’s milk, unctuous with a slight salty and flowery aftertaste. The older the ripening, the better it gets! Remove the rind prior enjoying it.
Brie de Meaux : An iconic cheese from Paris made of cow’s milk. A soft and creamy cheese with a bloomy rind. You should find it in most of restaurants that serve cheese boards!
Camembert : A classic! Originally from Normandy, this soft cheese with its bloomy rind is present on all cheese boards! Made of cow’s milk it has a wonderful salty taste!
Reblochon : A lot of people solely know this cheese for its use in the Tartiflette, but it is also wonderful served and eaten just with a piece of bread! It’s a soft cheese made of cow’s milk. His nutty, light and creamy taste is one of my favorite!
Époisses : Most probably one of the smelliest cheese of France! Don’t worry, it tastes much better than it smells! Originally from Burgundy, this cow’s milk cheese has a natural, orange-coloured rind and a strong taste.
Saint Félicien / Saint Marcellin: Either dry if they are young or very creamy when they get older both Saint Félicien and Saint Marcellin are a delight! Made of cow’s milk, their fruity rind will bring a touch a salt in your mouth.
Roquefort : A famous blue cheese made from sheep’s milk! It is well-known for having a fine and strong taste that lasts long in the mouth.
Crottin de Chavignol: Enjoyed as it is, or melted on a grilled piece of bread as part of a Goat Cheese Salad; this small cheese is well known amongst French people. It has a dry goat’s cheese taste that get stronger with time.