Gastronomic specialities

French cuisine is famous all over the world. However, it is important to distinguish the cuisine now ubiquitous in luxury hotels from regional and suburban specialities created from simple dishes and served with an elaborate selection of side-dishes and appropriately-matched wine. A complete French lunch consists of a hors-d’oeuvre or appetiser, an entrée or first course, a plat de résistance or main course, fromage (cheese) and a dessert. In winter the first course could be a hearty soup (potage), or a regular soup (soupe). Pasta or rice is served as accompaniment to the main dish. Distinctive French bread is well-known in the shape of the delicious baguette.

Typical dishes include pork chops, roast beef, and onion soup; besides these, shellfish and fish are also very popular. Many different sauces are used in French cuisine based on béchamel, mayonnaise, tartar sauce (oil and hard egg yolk), butter and concentrates of various meats with wine and spices added: Armoricaine, concentrated fish, oil, wood, cognac and various spices; Béarnaise, emulsified butter with egg yolk and shallots; Aurore, béchamel with tomato; Bigarade, duck sauce with orange or lemon juice, to recall just a few of them.

Cheeses are one of French cuisine’s proudest boasts and many diverse types are available: amongst the most famous are Camembert, with a tender and perfumed texture made between pieces of wood; Chèvre, based on goat’s milk; Roquefort, a type of gorgonzola from sheep’s milk seasoned to be spicy; Brie de Meaux, with white crust and a tender and creamy texture, along with so many others.

French sweets are numerous and for the most part based on creams made from milk and egg or Chantilly: one can distinguish Beignets, with fruit or cream filling; Charlottes (cakes filled with fruit); Crepes; Soufflés; Mont Blanc, a typical chestnut purée with whipped cream.
French leavened pastries are excellent and found in their simplest form in the Brioche, more elaborately in the Croissant and more refined still in Rum Baba. French wines have always enjoyed a well-deserved fame: Bordeaux wines produced in the Garonne basin; Bourgogne wines produced in the Saone basin; Champagne, perhaps the most famous of all French wines, produced to the north of the Reims-Epernay-Chalons triangle; and Beaujolais, produced to the north of Lyons, along with so many others.

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