If you aren’t familiar with French cuisine, sit back and let First Bites will show you the way. We’ve compiled a quick guide to some common French dishes, and suggested a suitable drink to complement the meal (a key component of dining in France!)
It is no surprise to the average American that wine and cheese go together in France, like peanut butter and jelly and bacon and eggs do in the United States. There are several ways to go about pairing wine and cheese, but the most basic strategy, offered by many sommeliers, is to consider how a cheese might complement or contrast a wine and vice versa. White wines and light reds go well with creamier and fresher cheeses, while a more acidic wine could lessen a cheese’s sweetness for a smoother flavor. We suggest coupling some brie with chardonnay, cheddar with Cabernet or maybe some ricotta cheese with Pinot Grigio. If cheese isn’t your thing, try finding a bistro or café that serves French onion soup or escargot (snails in garlic butter.) If you’re not interested in alcohol or you are bringing the kids along, order up a nice refreshing Perrier or Orangina. Both are imported beverage staples from France.
If you’re trying for a lighter meal, chances are the waiter or sommelier at your French restaurant will recommend a white or sparkling wine to enjoy for the night. Let’s say you want a savory fish (cod and salmon are the most commonly prepared in France) or lightly grilled chicken for your entrée; we recommend a nice Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay to go with it. Maybe grab a Chateaux Margaux or Latour, champagne favorites of Thomas Jefferson, our third president and a man who is largely responsible for popularizing French food in early America. Mussels and frog legs are some additional seafood options common in French dining.
A somewhat heavier “light” option ratatouille, a French stew consisting of vegetables, spices and herbs. Eggs are also a common ingredient in French cooking, often in the form of soufflés (cake with egg yolk and egg whites), omelets or quiches (egg pies).
If you’re hungry for a heavy and decadent option, you’re in luck. Veal and duck are common French dinner delicacies frequently featured on traditional menus. Like ratatouille, French veal is often sautéed in olive oil and butter and cooked over a skillet or pan. Duck is braised, roasted, sautéed or grilled. We recommend pairing a dark, dry wine with any duck, beef or veal. Shiraz, Cabernet and Pinot Noir wines are an excellent choice for heavier meals.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, try the French delicacy foie gras, which is made from duck or goose liver. Fois gras is a fattier and consequentially richer poultry option that has faced its share of controversy in the United States. Due to concerns about the cruelty involved in the feeding process that fattens the geese and ducks for prime liver flavor, fois gras was banned in Chicago from 2006 to 2008 and currently is banned in the state of California.
If that’s too exotic or un-American for your taste, you can find yourself some hot French fries just about anywhere, but make sure to try them with mayonnaise instead of ketchup for a European spin.
If you have room for something sweet after dinner, or maybe want to skip to the good stuff altogether, French cuisine has an array of dangerously delicious options. Try crème brûlée, macaroons, a crepe, or a a rich, creamy chocolate éclair. Wash dessert down with some Pastis, an anise-flavored French liqueur and aperitif that can be taken with different flavored syrups and colas.
What is your favorite French dish? Tell us in the comments section below!
Post by Robert R., Restaurant.com Content Intern