Parlez vous français? Roughly translated, do you speak French? I do not. While speaking French in France would be very useful, one does not need to speak French to know that France does many things well, especially food and wine. Everything from delicious macarons, to steak tartare and fabulous Bordeaux's and Champagne's. France is like a roller coaster for your mouth, some of it is a build up to a peak, some will take your stomach as you indulge, and some will lead you calmly back to where you started, with the anticipation of enjoying the ride again. Not only are the food and drink in France something of a tastebud amusement park, but they are also works of art. The amount of detail to presentation, is something to be admired. Simply the way they are even put in the display cases is enough to make you want one of everything, and hang the picture on your wall!
There are many cultures that bring exquisite food and drink to the table, both in taste and presentation, but many model after the French, and for very good reason. They do savory as well as sweet. It was such a treat to try foods I don't eat often. For example:
Paté (image 1), which for those that do not know, is a mixture of meat, usually always including liver, that in this case, was ground incredibly creamy and pressed together in a log form, and then served as a slice, cool and solid, with a berry compote on the side and of course some bread. I've had paté before, and it was a bit of a different texture. Much to my surprise though, this does not have the typical iron, metallic flavor that I often associate with liver. The texture was not quite as tender as I anticipated, but the flavor was delightful, milder than expected, and smooth. Thank you Pasco's in Paris, for such a treat! (www.restaurantpasco.com)
Steak tartare (image 2) is another popular dish on many menus in France, but not something I have eaten often. Yes, steak tartare is raw beef (or sometimes horsemeat, though not in this case) that is finely minced up and seasoned up with capers, onions, spices and Worcestershire sauce, and many times served with a raw egg yolk. In this case, there was no egg yolk, but the meat was shockingly well seasoned and absolutely delicious!!! Now, if you're like me, textures with food can be an issue (for example I struggle with bananas, because they are too soft and mushy), and steak tartare can fall in this category. I have had tartare before and the mince wasn't quite as fine as this one. The chef who chopped this, kuddos to those knife skills! This meat was very similar in consistency to hamburger meat, though it wasn't ground. I'm not kidding when I say the flavor was outstanding! It was bright, the right amount of acid, but still savory and rich. It was served with frites (French fries for you Americans) and a lightly dressed salad, and was nothing short of a delicious meal. Would I eat it again? Absolutely. Would I eat it regularly? Probably not. Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things though is always an adventure. Job well done Café le Piquet in Paris!
Pigeon (image 3). Yes, the bird that lives all over the world, and is often so despised by many, is also an outstandingly delectable dish when prepared well. I have to admit, I've never eaten pigeon before. I've never even considered it. I have been missing out. I went to a fabulous little restaurant in Bordeaux, France, and not only was the service spectacular, the food, it was as life changing as it was good. I could write an entire blog on the food and drink I had @symbiosebordeaux but that is another day. The pigeon they prepared, was served on a tart shell, and magical. The meat is dark, like that similar to a dove. However, it was not greasy like some dark meats can be, but more delicate like quail, which I found surprising. It was tender and full of flavor. Most definitely something I would be willing to eat again. I'd even like to try to cook some myself. Thank you Symbiose in Bordeaux, it was a dream!
Prior to this venture through France, when I thought of French food, I most often thought of sweets, and for good reason. The macaron, is so well known. What I wasn't so familiar with, the profiterole. This is a pastry ball, often served as a cream puff, made of choux pastry dough (think a round éclair) with some sweet treat in the middle. My introduction was again at Pasco's, (@restaurantpasco) and it did not disappoint.
The creamy filling inside this crunchy, but soft, choux was a vanilla ice cream, dusted with powered sugar and a glass of warm, rich, velvety chocolate on the side. I was told to pour the chocolate on top, and give my tastebuds the ride of the night. It was fantastic!
All of this food, but let us not forget, France serves some pretty outstanding drinks as well. Wines that warm your heart, cocktails and mocktails that tickle your tastebuds. What better way to wash down all of these delicious dishes than with a good drink. Espresso and lattes, to sparkling wonders that enhance your smile, if you're looking to accompany your food with a special drink, France has you covered.
Broaden your horizons, challenge your palate, and take a chance on some of the titillating cuisine France has to offer. It may not all be something you want for every meal, but you may find a new favorite delicacy you never knew you'll always love! Bon appétit!