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What a Frenchman wants to eat abroad [moved from France]

I don't know where to find a food oriented French audience other than here, so here goes. Because of time restraints, a French friend will be coming for a mid-day meal. I suggested that we could enjoy a "French Sunday lunch" and she countered that I should not do anything complicated.

What would you French readers want to eat in a San Francisco home at this time of year. (Crab is not yet in season.)

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  1. O do something American.
    Do a nice juicy meatloaf. half veal half pork. Gobs of sour cream and egg.
    Or barbecue ribs.
    Those are my French friends' fave American dishes.

    7 Replies
      1. re: jock

        Ribs for sure, but Sand Dabs and Abalone were also a big hit. Tex-Mex fare was not appreciated.

        1. re: Oakglen

          LOL. I buy my meatloaf ready-to-bake at bryan's, a local butcher shop! But I suppose one needn't tell. Ribs are too messy for indoor eating. I thought about Cal-Mex, but I think you're right. I seem to remember some comment like "ooh, ooh, I don't like too spicy" when the subject last came up. I can't/won/t afford abalone but local Petrale is a thought. Grilled calamari? Salmon? Meyer Lemon...

          I'm grasping for something local. I saw a very simple recipe the other day for lightly steamed salmon served in a coconut milk/lemongrass broth. This combines local product with Pacific Rim tastes...

          1. re: mangeur

            One vote for the salmon -- and if she doesn't like it, let me know. Sounds amazing.

            Tex Mex isn't off-limits -- just know that Old El Paso is considered quality Tex-Mex in France (shudder)...so keep it fairly mild and middle of the road. Something like a mild mole sauce might be interesting for her, too.

            Another flavor that a huge number of my European friends adore is Buffalo wings -- go for a mild recipe, but there's something about it that sends people's eyes rolling back in their heads. (Even when I was working in the States, when a European supplier or customer would come to visit, we'd bring in Buffalo chicken sandwiches for lunch, and there wasn't ever one left over for anyone else.)

            1. re: sunshine842

              I've seen hardened and cynical Gauloise smoking Communists/existentialists/situationists moved to tears by American style cheesecake.

              Never fails.

              1. re: vielleanglaise

                Yikes! I haven't made a cheesecake in 30 years! The idea almost brings ME to tears.

                Can you describe what you consider American style?

                Graham cracker crust: http://www.life123.com/food/baking/ch...

                Pastry crust: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1713,...

                Sour cream topped: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,193,1...

                1. re: mangeur

                  My mother's:

                  Mash Graham Crackers up in a food processor. Add and mix in melted butter. Press into springform mould. Cook at 200' c for 5 minutes. Put in the freezer.

                  Mix six eggs with 150 grams of sugar and some vanilla (sugar, or extract, or grains). Add 750 grams of full fat cream cheese. Mix. Pour over graham cracker mix.

                  Cook in 180' oven for about 40 minutes, or unitl cracks form on the surface. Some people like it very firm. I like it so it's like it more wobbly and cook accordingly. When 5 minutes from being done (sorry about the flaky instructions) remove from oven, leaving oven on.

                  Pour about half a cm of sour cream on top. Put back in oven and cook for 5 minutes.

                  Chill. Serve.

    1. Unless they are "veggies," a good steak from a corn fed steer is always a big hit.

      1. I'm loving these ideas. But what I really find fascinating is the realization that we really don't eat "American" in the Bay Area. Or at least "we" don't. I'm going to have to put on my Uncle San hat and fake it.

        1 Reply
        1. I'd like to suggest a side dish of "onion loaf" - easier to make than onion rings, a bit less fattening, and yummy if done right. Our French friends love it... And I second the cheesecake : "NY style." You could honor the request for "nothing complicated" by serving burgers, and then force your friend to eat it like an American: as a sandwich and not with a knife & fork.

          3 Replies
          1. re: boredough

            Another tried&true American side dish: garlic bread !

            1. re: boredough

              What is onion loaf? I googled a few recipes but they were for deep fried onions that were then pressed into a pan and baked.

              1. re: Pia

                Sorry I just saw this ...Basically that's what it is - Tony Roma's Onion Ring Loaf Recipe (probably one of the ones you found) is what I follow.

            2. When we visit an area, I have in mind some concept of the place, style of life, local products and specialties, then we try to seek them out. I am attributing this thinking to our guest. So, I am trying to give her a sense of Northern California, how we live, how we eat, local produce, This is far from her first trip to America and I have the feeling that she eats rather lightly, which works beautifully with our NorCal lifestyle.

              I am fishing for those things that you think of when you think of as typically Northern California or San Francisco. It is difficult to anticipate how others see us since we are really a melting pot. At home and at restaurants, we eat Italian, French, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese, Viet, Japanese, African, Middle Eastern and....

              1 Reply
              1. re: mangeur

                My first thoughts were focused on the grill, something like prime quality hamburgers, grilled onions, cheese or not, great hamburger buns. You could make them sliders or cut in half to serve. Corn on the cob (getting harder to find, but still possible depending on when you are doing this), simple green salad with lovely greens. Anchor steam beer, crystal geyser sparkling water, a California zinfandel (it is possible to find some under 14% alcohol).

                Thinking about the salad led to my next thought: a salad as the main course - perhaps a variation of a cobb or a caesar with great local ingredients? Or an SF version of a Nicoise - grilled salmon or some type of tuna, great local eggs, local green beans, baby yukons, some cherry tomatoes are still pretty good (sungold particularly), along with your favorite local bread, a California rose. Voila. Then there would be room for cheesecake. Of course there is also no shame in buying a dessert from a great local bakery, cheesecake, big cookie, cupcakes, brownies...

                Or even the local specialty: It's-It (A San Francisco Experience Since 1928). :).

              2. As a rule of thumb a French person visiting the Bay area will be interested
                in local dishes. A good cioppino would hit the spot, but it's difficult
                to make

                8 Replies
                1. re: bclevy

                  My first thought. Not difficult but very messy to eat properly. I also just heard that crab season will open next week. Cioppino is probably the quintessential San Francisco dish. Sitting at a dining table and digging crab out of its shell is really sloppy work but perhaps worth it. Pass the wet washcloths and forget the white napkins!


                  I could serve the bowl with a large clump of picked crab in the center.

                  1. re: mangeur

                    When I arrived from France in CA more than 35 years ago, cioppino
                    was definitovely the local dish I found most intriguing after being told
                    it was the San Francisco counterpart of bouillabaisse. Souvenir's list
                    above also contains several items that French often find interesting.
                    The first is a zinfandel made with finesse (not too high in alcohol).
                    I remember that when my dad would come to visit, this is always what
                    he would request. And weirdly enough,French people often go for It's It .

                    1. re: bclevy

                      Yes. While I wrote about It's Its a bit in jest, my list really does come from things I have served to French friends and visitors.

                      Reading that Dungeness crab season should start soon, I offer another messy but super simple option: cracked crab, your favorite local sourdough bread, your favored California white to pair with the meal. A bit messy, but less so than cioppino.

                      If you really want to avoid any mess at the table, you could use the crab meat in something like a Louis also.

                      I too am happy this thread continues on this board. I fully expected it to be in another place this morning.

                      1. re: souvenir

                        Not to diss my childhood city, may I point out that the French have excellent seafood and even better baguette. Dunno about the choie of crab and sourdough. In any case it would not strike the French as unique and quite possibly not better. Now throw me to the loups de mer.

                        1. re: Parigi

                          When I am in France, I usually do go for seafood, particularly options not readily available to us in California (monkfish and red mullet come quickly to mind).

                          But I do think that freshly caught, good Dungeness crab is pretty special.

                          I actually don't love the taste of sourdough but it is very much a local specialty. I usually prefer my market's freshly made ciabatta, and I would probably include both.

                          When I googled Dungeness crab season opening, up popped a bunch of references to Herb Caen "Fresh, cracked Dungeness crab with Boudin's round 'dark bake' sourdough and a well chilled bottle of California Chardonnay is still the quintessential San Francisco meal.

                          Of course Herb passed away over 10 years ago, so maybe others would nominate other items for the quintessential meal, but for me, it is a pretty great, very simple local option.

                          1. re: souvenir

                            Sand Dabs at Sam's, or maybe Taditch Grill. Previously I forgot to memtion Americanized Kobe beef; tastes almost as good as the real thing. Farm-raised Abalone is as good as the wild version, IMO, and the price is doable (barely).

                            1. re: Oakglen

                              I don't know why I have never made sand dabs at home, but you are inspiring me. We have a (very generous) friend who dives and brings us crabs, lobster, and very occasionally abalone, but sand dabs at home, hmmm...

                        2. re: souvenir

                          Add artichokes dipped in lemon butter, and you've got the perfect messy Bay Area meal!

                  2. "what I really find fascinating is the realization that we really don't eat "American" in the Bay Area."

                    Mangeur, you are so right. It is really a hoot. When I first saw your post andd tried to remember the top dish in my SF childhood, what came to mind was lobster Cantonese! And canard à l'orange in the old La Bourgogne.

                    But it is true that my French friends ooh and ah over ribs and - LOL - garlic bread.

                    When Souphie wrote his excellent post about where and how to have the best roast chicken in Paris, the board moderators briefly woke up and moved the whole thread out, making all the recommendations of Paris restos and butchers are lost to readers of the France forum.
                    Am so glad this fun thread survives.

                    Meanwhile all of you must, must tattoo the "Announcement: New Board Breakdown for Chowhound" dated January 2010. Obviously it is still there in order to remind you because you. Have. Not. Noticed.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Parigi

                      "Am so glad this fun thread survives."

                      Moi aussi. I thought the above recipe for cheescake might spell the thread's banishment to Chowhound SIberia.

                      1. re: vielleanglaise

                        Perhaps not unique, but growing up in the Bay area (Santa Rosa) a favorite was Calamari. Hard to beat.

                        Our French friends all rave about Cobb Salad whenever we serve one. Ditto cheese cake.

                        Even our most dedicated Americophobe (is that a word?) friends here admit that American beef is best. A standing rib roast, perhaps?

                    2. How about corned beef with cabbage and mustard? I've never come across corned beef anywhere but America. Of course I have no idea how a French person might react to it, but I quite like it.

                      1. Anything delicious will work. Especially if it has "un peu de sauce."

                        1. Arby's followed by Dairy Queen

                          1. As far as the pizza goes, i was disappointed by quality of pizza in france...so yes, good pizza is great. Also, rib sounds great too...either the southern style or the korean bbq ribs...yumm...