Friday, July 8, 2011

Food, Food, Food, France

I've been saying I'd write this post forever. But honestly, there was just so much great food on our France trip that I've been dreading writing about all of it. The food was so good that I basically went on a minor hunger strike on our return. I know how this sounds. Go ahead, roll your eyes. But nothing tasted worth eating when we got back to Ireland. I really enjoyed the French food. This isn't news, everyone loves French food. But you forget, especially living in a place like Ireland. Don't get me wrong, Ireland has it's foodie highlights. But there is no comparison. When you travel in France, there is some fantastic dish to be discovered around every corner. From the markets to Michelin-starred amazingness, below are some of our highlights.

I've posted about our French markets visits. In fact, if you visit regularly you probably have noticed we check out a ton of markets everywhere we go. While, the Borough Market in London is still my favorite and the ones in Rome were hard to beat, there wasn't a single subpar market we visited in France, even in the tiny town of Villefranche-Sur-Mer. We got to cook from the market a couple of times. It was the first time I cooked white asparagus and I thought it turned out well. But beyond the food, what I really enjoyed is the experience. The culture of daily market shopping is so wonderful for many reasons. You get to know your vendors who very often grow or produce their product themselves. You get the freshest available food. And for a great bonus you are usually cutting down on your carbon footprint by cutting out all the transportation and packaging. This bit of European culture is definitely something I wish would catch on in the States. It is slowly taking hold in many urban areas.  Farmers markets are plentiful now in the States, but I think many Americans would balk at the idea of heading to a market every day for the dinner's produce, much less standing in line every evening your for dinner baguette. Such a shame!

Ahh, bread. I'm not someone who needs bread with every meal, and I really could live without it all together...unless I lived in France. My dad would make sure he had a baguette (an entire one most days!) to snack on throughout the day. Even though I wasn't that bad, I think I consumed more bread in France than I typically do in a year. I don't know what it is about it, but I'm a bread fiend when in France.

There are things that I love and will eat even poor quality version of - anything chocolate. And there are things that I love and will only eat the best of - pastries. I love pastries. But the calories just aren't worth it to me if it's not pretty fantastic. It's a good thing Paris is a divine walking city because I ate pastries and patisserie every darn day. Almond croissants, chocolate croissants, pain au chocolate, vanilla, coffee and chocolate eclairs, choux, fruit tarts and plenty more that I can not name. I usually had more than one pastry each morning for breakfast and a small tart or other delight in the afternoon. I feel the need to mention though that I did lose over 5 pounds on the trip - so at least it proves all that walking was doing something! You can read about my favorite pastry here.

And not to leave chocolate out, Paris had some amazing chocolate. We had Angelina's hot chocolate which I thought was the best. Their pastries seemed just okay to me. Genin's had to-die-for chocolate. I mean that. It would be worth considerable risk to your life to eat there. In fact, the patisserie was delicious there as well. I had an amazing triple min-eclair on top of a delicate cake that was perfection. I tried a few other places, but ran out of time getting to all the chocolate places. Oh, my stomach is growling and I just remembered the macaroons at Ladurée. This is not some great secret, but they were amazing and definitely my favorite of all the macaroons we sampled. Vanilla was by far my favorite. The simplicity of flavor and the perfect texture couldn't be beat.

Whew. That is a lot already and I haven't even gotten to the restaurants. Having the little guy with us now presented challenges in dining out, of course. Luckily my parents joined us for the trip so we were able to get a couple of date nights in. And we went to L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon for lunch and took Harris with us. My favorite was definitely Robuchon. The dishes were inventive and fun, tasted fantastic and gorgeous to look at. I loved my main of quail stuffed with foie gras - no words. And the rest was equally delish. I also really enjoyed Les Bouquinistes by Guy Savoy. We chose this restaurant over a few others on our list largely because it had pomme anna which I have made at home, but never had at a restaurant. Needless to say my rustic version was put to shame by the dish at Guy Savoy. The only thing that tried to spoil our evening was that the restaurant was nearly full of Americans - it didn't feel quite like a Paris date night surrounded by English speakers! But we remedied that by heading to a great cafe recommended to us by one of Richard's coworkers in the Paris office, Le Palette. It was a perfect end to the evening exploring St Germain. One of the better meals we had was at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Beaune, Le Bénaton. Again, we took Harris, so we reserved a table for as soon as the doors opened, 7pm I believe. It was a typical slow French meal and Harris made it nearly through dessert. We had excellent service and a great meal. The rest of our restaurant dining was definitely more pedestrian. My favorites were L'Aparté in Villefranche-Sur-Mer even with our dinner being cut short due to an rainstorm. The highlight there was the three-vegetable mousse. It is now on my list of something to attempt to replicate. Auberge Provencale in Cannes was a repeat for us. We went the first time in 2007 completely by chance. It claims to be the oldest restaurant in Cannes and I would not argue with anyone who said it was the best. It really might be my favorite restaurant overall in all our European travels. Other honorable mentions are Au Rocher de Cancale in Paris and Le Petit Paradis and Bistro Bourguignon, both in Beaune. The last had this wonderful seared scallops and grilled prawns dish. Ohh la la! Overall the best food was probably in Beaune.

Ooh, speaking of Beaune. Beaune is the Burgundy region of France and among other things (wine) it's known for mustard as well. I fell in love with tarragon mustard. It is so yummy and I can think of so many sandwiches that it would go well on! Can you believe I forgot to buy some to bring home?! Ah, oh well. I must search for it in an import store soon.

So there it is. Our food in France. I know I'm leaving out some amazing finds. And I wish I had been better about taking pictures of all the food. I guess we were too busy eating it most of the time!

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