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May 5, 2014 10:36 PM

Regional cuisine and other european foods in Paris


I am visiting Paris (from San Francisco) in September along with a couple nights in Burgundy. So obviously we're going to be visiting Paris for French food (woohoo!) and we're very excited, but I was wondering if there are any 'regional' French food that is totally different and unique that we should consider trying? Are there particular regions in France that has a very special and unique style of cooking? From my understanding cuisine from Normandy is very seafood oriented and Burgundy has a lot of rich stews, etc. Anything worth trying? And any specific recommendations would be helpful too!

My second question is would it be worth trying some Italian or Spanish or German restaurants? It'd be good to try to change things up from the heavy and rich French food and try something a little different, especially we'll probably not be visiting those countries during this particular visit

Thanks again! (By the way, any recommendation is welcome, whether is non-Michelin or 3 Michelin)

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  1. " It'd be good to try to change things up from the heavy and rich French food and try something a little different"

    I suggest you do a bit more research about French food in general if this is how you perceive it. its a diverse cuisine thats ranges from light and delicate seafood to hearty and warming stews. Read up a little on the the basics and think about what you like and want to try....and yes there is a lot that is "...worth trying"

    Certainly there are restaurants with a regional focus in Paris but if you haven't got a understanding of the basics I am not certain how much you will appreciate the variety i.e. Normandy certainly has seafood but is famed for cream and dairy and for apples and apple products like calvados.

    There iare Italian and Spanish and maybe German (or at least Alsatian) but if you are there for a short time best to focus on French.

    1. "Are there particular regions in France that has a very special and unique style of cooking?"
      I don't even know where to start. In short yes.

      Normandy is just as famous for its beef and lamb as , if not more so than, its seafood. Normandy butter is up there.

      For example, Dans Les Landes serves excellent southwest food with border (Spanish) influences. It is very different in terms of taste from mainstream French.

      If you are spending just a week or 10 days in Paris, I would not suggest that you try other European cuisine, simply because there is already not enough time for you to try all the good French restaurants in Paris in such a short time.

      21 Replies
      1. re: Parigi

        On the other hand you may want to try the non-French food Paris does best, i.e. North African (and Subsaharan African if you're daring) and Southeast Asian (mostly Cambodian and Laotian), because you won't find better versions anywhere except in their respective motherlands.

        Dans les Landes serves Southwestern but mostly Basque food in the form of pintxos. One third of the pays Basque is North of the French border. So that is regional food too, and it's mighty good.

        No particular Norman restaurants in Paris, Breton = yes, crêpes and galettes. Alsace in the brasseries (some are good). A little Savoie and Auvergne (I don't recommend l'Ambassade d'Auvergne). More to follow.

        1. re: Ptipois

          Any particular recommendations? I tried looking, but couldn't find anything in particular (mostly due to Google looking for English definitions).

          Those sound like interesting suggestions

          1. re: justlaz


            You can also use the search function to find much more info.

            1. re: justlaz

              L'Atlas for Moroccan food would be a good start.

              Chez Hamadi = fantastic rustic Tunisian couscous but warning, this is a hole in the wall in the most literal sense of the term.

              Lao Viet or Lao Thai for Laotian (avoid Lao Lane Xang 2)

              Bofinger for choucroute is a no-brainer

              Le Pot O'Lait for Breton galettes and crêpes.

              Not a complete list by any means, but excellent starting points.

              I realize the blog has never been mentioned here. Guillaume spends a lot of time visiting and reviewing the good neighborhood addresses and his list of non-French restaurants in Paris is unequaled. Click on "Etranger" and just take a look. His judgements are always clear and honest; he evaluates the food according to 3 criteria: food, service and value. Clearly the best restaurant blog in Paris IMO.

              1. re: Ptipois

                "I realize the blog has never been mentioned here. "

                Woohoo! Thanks, Pti. Talk about opening a new window!!!!

                1. re: mangeur

                  The irony is that I've known Guillaume Le Roux for years and I appreciate his work. I can't figure out why I never brought 716 up here.

                2. re: justlaz

                  I enjoyed the creole restaurant in the marché des enfants rouge. I recommend the crabe farci and the crabe beignets to start. The plats looked copious. Outdoor seating, as is the entire market, which is a great place to visit to feel very Parisian and within walking distance of Jacques Genin, in case you want to try his millefeuille (made to order) or his pastry of the day.

                  1. re: Steve

                    Yes, the creole stall at Les Enfants Rouges is really good. One of the last places to enjoy good Carribean cooking in Paris — most of the other restaurants have disappeared, but there are still caterers on markets.
                    The Japanese caterer (Taeko) just a few steps away in the market is also excellent.

              2. re: Parigi

                Only observing this from afar inasmuch as my Paris is long ago but the inquiry made me think of the following which I looked up to quote exactly:

                "La cuisine francaise is not one cuisine but a score, regional in origin, shading off into one another at their borders and all pulled together at Paris. Since certain of these cuisines are almost antithetical to certain others, the self-styled lover of 'la cuisine Francaise" without qualification is simply admitting that he has no taste at all. He is like the French majors at American colleges; in order to get all A's, in one year they express a profound admiration for Racine and in another for Stendhal, who found Racine an inexpressible bore. (The worst offenders in this branch of conformity though are the "lyceens" in France,who, in order to obtain the grades on which their future careers largely depend, swallow whole the glories of every writer celebrated in a rigid curriculum. The savagery with which French scholars turn upon their predecessors in their own specialty is a direct result of the exaggerated subservience demanded on the way up.)....It is possible, of course, to like something in the cuisine of any province---or,rather, nearly impossible not to. Any sensitive eater, though, must prefer the essential line of some regional cuisines to that of others....."

                1. re: hazelhurst

                  Interesting points. Personally, I need to introduce the element of time to this position. Over the decades, I have watched my tastes and appreciations ebb and flow, grow and mature. What I could not get enough of at one point may hold little interest today, nor can I expect my current tastes to serve me forever.

                  And travel itself is a powerful influence on one's tastes. Like bringing home the colorful, traditional but unwearable-at-home shirt or pottery that will fit in nowhere, falling in love with local specialties is easy to do at the time.

                    1. re: hazelhurst

                      "in one year they express a profound admiration for Racine and in another for Stendhal, who found Racine an inexpressible bore."

                      This argument is a fallacy only destined at one's intellectual laziness. Not only can one person like both Stendhal and Racine, but one should. It's preposterous to think that because Stendhal himself didn't like Racine that one needs to choose a side. That is not how culture and sensibility works.
                      Picasso laughed at Bonnard's painting, so should I pick my football team ? Or am I allowed to enjoy the incredible preciseness of Picasso's work who manages to somehow deform the human anatomy with such an intricate knowledge that it retains all it's harmony and "reality", and at the same time marvel at the use of light and color by Bonnard who's paintings seem to vibrate, to be alive and connect directly to my soul ?

                      Food is culture, food is sensibility. Is it Art ? That's another question, but I will not choose between Brittany, Normandy, Basque or Savoie... I like it all, thank you very much.

                      1. re: Rio Yeti

                        I'm glad the remarks are stimulating.

                        1. re: hazelhurst

                          That was 1 minute of my life I won't get back.

                          1. re: hazelhurst

                            Is that a quote from someone else? If so, please complete with the name of the author. Thanks.

                            1. re: Ptipois

                              It is a quotation. I wonder that it was not spotted. A.J.Liebling "Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris." Originally published in The New Yorker in 1959 and issued as a book later on. It is his "Rien! Je ne regrette rien" swan song. It is,among other things, an early assault on the Michelin Guide and is lots of fun. He laments, even then, the "disastrous" decline of French cooking, measured against his experiences beginning in 1926-27. It is worth more than a passing glance or a minute of one's time one chooses to forget. And it is very fine writing even if one disagrees with him.

                              1. re: hazelhurst

                                It is very fine writing indeed, but the quotation is way outdated. Owing to the globalization of cooking and the uniformization of French restaurant food in particular, regional cuisines are far less represented in Paris and even in provincial France now than they were in 1959. That is why I had trouble understanding the unreferenced, out-of-context quotation: the parameters have changed so drastically since then that it doesn't even make sense anymore.

                                One interesting point is that it helps to identify precisely some of the serious harm that Michelin has done to French cooking since the 1950s. I would like to tell the many 50BestRestaurantsList-bashers: don't blame the recent developments, blame the real offenders, the ones who started it all: the tire merchants.

                                To be fair, the worst blow was hit in the mid-Seventies with the so-called Nouvelle Cuisine (which was not new at all).

                                1. re: Ptipois

                                  You are quite right to remark that the quote was out-of-context but the thought was only to suggest that the OP was on the journey to understanding something that had been remarked upon by a superb correspondent. It is impossible to put it into complete (?) context in such a casual conversation as we enjoy here. Liebling's excuse for the memoir is his complex remembrances upon reading Waverly Root's classic "The Food of France" a book that even Root knew was out-of-date before he wrote it. To read Root's thoughts on the Pont du Gard and its desecration by the Tourism Industry (by 1958) is enlightening, if depressing. Root wrote of a world I saw in its twilight as a boy and, as with all memory, it is sweeter in recollection than it probably was in reality. "Forsan et haec olim meminisse inuabit" as Virgil teaches us. And, although modern scholars insist he did NOT write it (or, if he did, it was juvenilia) "mors aurem vellen 'vivite' ait 'venio'" [Death tugs at my ear and says["whispers"] "Live! for I am coming..."]

                                  1. re: hazelhurst

                                    I remember walking along the top of the Pont du Garde in about 1964 I don't remember there being much that was touristy about it then. On a recent visit I was surprised about the development and the fact I couldn't go to the top anymore...!

                    2. Before you feel that you need to escape French food, please realize that DOM TOM (Départements d'Outre-Mer, Territoires Outre-Mer), aka French overseas departments and territiories are very much a part of France and provide food that is unique yet still intrinsically part of French culture; Creole and Antilliaise cusine, Reunionnaise for example, and then you have the cuisines form Francophone West and North Africa and Asia. And then there is Corsica which is very much part of France despite the wishes of separatists.

                      I spent a couple of weeks in the Auvergne in central France, and the cuisine is quite a bit different. Many Parisian bars and bistros were started by folks from Aveyron. In fact it might be legitimate to say that French regional cuisine IS the cuisine of Paris, as typical bistro fare is an amalgam of regional highlights, from Alsatian choucroute and Savoyard tartiflettes to Breton galettes and Auvergnat lentils du puy. I imagine you've heard of Alsace and Provence?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Steve

                        "In fact it might be legitimate to say that French regional cuisine IS the cuisine of Paris"

                        Absolutely. I'd even say that Paris bistro cuisine derives directly from Auvergne cuisine, mixed in with Parisian elements. Alsace cuisine is more associated with brasseries, Breton cuisine with crêperies, and Savoie cuisine in Paris has receded since the 1950s. Most of the Paris bistrot repertoire has strong Auvergnat origins.