Best Wine Pairings for French Food: An Introduction

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What do you first think about when you think about French culture? Is it the music? The art scene? The smoking? I would wager that one of the first things that pops into your mind is the wine. French wine is one of a kind and while there is other great wines around the world, French wine is especially delicious. I started this blog in the hopes that someone out there would find a recipe or food that was interesting and something new to experiment with, but what French food would be good without the delicious French wine to go with it. So here is my introduction for you in the world of French wines as they relate to French foods.

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The Whites

  1. 2012 Chateau de Bonhoste: This citrus Sauvignon Blanc works very well with the more bitter vegetables that are usually hard to pair with a wine, like asparagus and artichokes. The citrus really balances out the acidic flavor and enhances it.
  2. NV Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau Brut: This is an almost apple flavored white, but it still manages to not be overly sweet. It also works well with asparagus and salads, perfect for a hot summer evening.
  3. 2010 E. Guigal: This viognier is very floral with almost a peach scent to it. It works well with summer salads as well las summer scents on your deck. It does run on the sweeter side of things, so proceed with caution.
  4. 2010 Domaine Luneau-Papin Pierre de la Grange: This white works wonderfully with most seafood, but has a special flavoring with shrimp. The wine runs on the acidic side, making it nice company for seafood.
  5. 2008 Vacheron Sauvignon Blanc: In general, Sauvignon Blanc is the safest French white wine you can go with. It is reliably good and works well with
  6. many different meals. The Vacheron will remind you of grapefruit and summer time, making it a lovely afternoon selection or even a good pairing for a fruit dessert.

The Reds

  1. 2009 Chateau Hyot Bordeaux: Bordeaux is one of the easiest red out there. The Chateau Hyot is full of a rich flavor with almost a subtle butter hint at the end. It is delicious with all red meats, steaks especially.
  2. 2009 Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages: Beaujolais wines are usually pretty forgiving and go with many different types of food. This wine in particular works very nicely with chicken dishes.
  3. 2001 PUR Quartz et Sable Beaujolais Villages: Another fine Beaujolais choice, the PUR Quartz is an unsulfured choice, allowing patrons with a sulfur sensitivity to still be able to partake in the deliciousness. It works well with seafood, specifically tuna, which is a good alternative if you are not a big fan of white wines.
  4. 2011 Fabrice Gasnier Chinon Les Graves: Chinon is known to be some of the lightest reds out there, bringing an almost rosé quality to it. This chinon works well with vegetable dishes, such as ratatouille, enhancing the flavors of the herbs and the vegetables.
  5. 2007 Joseph Roty Bourgogne Rouge: This Burgundy wine is wonderful with stews and other comfort foods in winter. It comes with a full and smoky quality, helping warm you from in the inside out as well as adding in a lovely addition to your meal.
  6. 2006 Bouchard Bourgogne Rouge: Another lovely Burgundy, the Bouchard is earthier, making a nice choice for beef meals that are heavy in vegetables like potatoes and carrots. It really brings out the flavors of the food nicely and can even be thrown into the pot when you are cooking your beef.

Seven of the Most Interesting French Recipes

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So I have taken you down the road of the strangest and perhaps most disgusting recipes, the classic recipes, and the easiest recipes. Let us now look at the simply the fascinating French recipes. I think of them as interesting because they are unusual, but not necessarily to the point of grossness, but just curious that they are food the French would eat while the Anglos would certainly not eat the same food.

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  1. Lamprey à la Bordelaise: A lamprey is a type of eel and is difficult to find in the United States. Unfortunate really because it is quite good. And do not scoff at the idea of eating eel. People eat it all of the time in sushi. If you do get your hands on lamprey, here’s a fun recipe to experiment with: http://www.foodarts.com/recipes/recipes/31114/lamprey-la-bordelaise.

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  1. Beef tongue: I know you are probably thinking, “Hey you said that this would not be gross,” but you see the tongue is not that weird of a food to eat. It is a very interesting food to eat. The tongue is merely a muscle, after all, which is no different than any other muscle we eat. The shape just seems to really throw people off. If you would like to give cooking it a go, try out this recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/236880/slow-cooker-lengua-beef-tongue/.

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  1. Frog legs: I have often heard that frog’s legs tastes just like chicken. I really have to disagree with this statement, because I do not think that they taste much like chicken in any way. I am not exactly sure who said that to begin with. It is the eating the frogs that gave the French the “frog” nickname by the British. I am not sure what inspired them to first decide to gnaw on a frog, but I assume it is more of desperation than desire. You can purchase frog legs from your local butcher. Here’s a recipe if you would like to try it yourself: http://www.food.com/recipe/simple-sauteed-frogs-legs-40405.

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  1. Lapin: I think that eating rabbit meat is much less taboo than it used to be, but it is still interesting nonetheless. My host family would slaughter their own rabbits, so there were often rabbit corpses in our refrigerator. I do not recommend purchasing rabbit with the head still on. Here is a recipe for you to try out: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/3727-lapin-a-la-bourguignonne-rabbit-with-red-wine-sauce.
  2. Tetines: Ok maybe this one is a little bit on the gross side of things. The cow udder is also a piece of the cow that the French simply will not let go to waste. But really, the worst is just envisioning chewing on a cow’s udder. If you can get beyond the idea of what it really is, you should be able to eat it without too much worry. Here’s a recipe if you find udder from your local butcher: http://www.food.com/recipe/roasted-cow-udder-300277.
  3. Tripe: Also a little gross is the tripe. The tripe consist of the animal’s stomach and intestines. That is a hard one for me to get over, and again is demonstrating how the French waste nothing when it comes to their meat. I have not brought myself to try it out, but I do know that the people I have heard discuss it say that it truly is delicious when done well and is very high in protein. Here’s a recipe here: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/04/deep-fried-tripe-recipe-how-to-fry-tripe.html.

 

  1. Pigeon: If you think about how many pigeons are always wandering around the streets of all of the major cities in the world, imagine if we perceived the pigeon as a meal. Sure the meat is not exactly substantial, but why should we not eat it? Pigeon meat is actually very similar to that of quail and something you should not scoff at before trying it. Here’s a recipe to consider working on: http://honest-food.net/2014/12/22/roast-pigeon-recipe/.

 

Strangest French Foods

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As is true when you visit any foreign country, when visiting France, you are going to be exposed to food that you have never seen before. This does not mean the food in France is any better or worse than food anywhere else, but it does mean that you may see something new. You could hate it, but maybe you will discover that you have a palate for something different you had never expected before.

Something I want you to keep in mind as you peruse this list is the history of France. The country is one of the oldest in the world and has seen more than its fair share of war and struggles. A lot of the cuisine they eat is a result of hard times and struggling to put food on the table. Even as recently as World War II, people were scrounging just to have one meal on the table, meaning you would not want to waste anything that has the potential for being edible. When it comes down to it, starvation is a terrible way to die and most humans will end up eating things they may not have otherwise considered as an alternative to dying slowly. That is not the case for all of their foods of course, but just consider that the culture was built around a lot of hard times.

Here is a list of some of the strangest French foods that people eat in France.

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  1. Boudin Noir: This dish is not so weird for Europeans, but it is very weird for Americans. Also known as “black blood sausage,” boudin noir is comprised of congealed pork blood. When a pig is slaughtered, the blood is saved and mixed with vinegar to preserve it. They then mix the blood with other things like onions, rice, apples, or anything else you can think of. There are many different ways to prepare it though and no two ways will be exactly the same.

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  1. Escargots de Bourgogne: While we all are familiar with the fact that the French eat snails, it does not make it any the less strange. Imagine going out to your garden, plucking a snail off a leaf, boiling it, and eating it. It seems pretty gross once you really get to thinking about it. I do not personally find snails appealing in any sense of the word, but that does not stop the French from enjoying them.
  1. Oursins: Oursins, or sea urchins, are pretty standard in seafood faire in France. They are not as common on the other side of the pond, given their odd appearance, strange texture, and very strong seaside smell. To be honest, most Americans will find them repulsive. They are also hard to prepare, so I really recommend having someone else make them if you are interested in trying them.

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  1. Tête de Veau: I cannot get my mind around this one either. Black pudding? Sure. Snails? I at least tried them. Calf’s head? No I do not think so. Granted, it is certainly not something you will find daily, but it is still, albeit bizarrely, held dear by the French. They literally boil the head of a calf and serve it with mayonnaise and fat. It is definitely for the brave and those not weirded out by eating calf’s brains.

 

  1. Ris de Veau: In the same vein as tête de veau, ris de veau uses the thymus gland of the calf. It is more popular and easier found than the calf’s brains, but also not exactly the most appealing dish that you can find in France. But I will say it is less gross than diving into a calf’s head.

 

True or False: Best and Worst French Food Stereotypes

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I have heard so many stereotypes over the years about French cuisine that it has become a running joke. Some are so ridiculous that you could not imagine who thought of it, but at the same time, some sound ridiculous but are entirely true. So let’s play a little game called Vrai ou Faux?

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Everyone Eats Stinky Cheese

Verdict: Vrai

I have to admit that while I still cringe at some of the more potent French cheeses, and even some of the French do not eat the very stinkiest, most French people will eat stinky cheese without a second thought. Aged cheese, including both goat and cow cheeses, is a common delicacy and a normal dessert after dinner. The reason that their cheese is stinkier than the cheese we have here in the United States is due to the regulation on pasteurization and the aging process. The French take their cheese seriously and will not sacrifice flavor for pasteurization.

 

The French Walk around Carrying Baguettes

Verdict: Vrai

This is an unfortunately true and still comical stereotype about the French. Most people will purchase a fresh baguette every day and nibble on it while they walk home. You will often see them poking out of bags, purses, and backpacks in any French location you can imagine. Baguette is a definite staple.

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Everyone Eats Croissants Daily

Verdict: Faux

Without a doubt, croissants are a French necessity and something that you will easily find all over Paris. They are made fresh daily from boulangeries across the country. Yet, that said, most French people are not indulging in them daily. Have you heard about the stereotype that “French women don’t get fat?” Well they are not gorging on pastries daily, but usually once in a while or as a weekend treat. They know that they are fatty (and delicious).

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Everyone Eats Croissants Daily

Verdict: Vrai

Saying “everyone” of course is a pretty broad scope on things, but I will say that most people in France drink coffee. Bistros and cafes are scattered everywhere, making coffee easily accessible. People often drink it in the evenings as well after dinner. You will not see many people will coffee to-go cups, however. That is more of an American stereotype since the French like to take their time with their coffee. I am also pretty certain that French coffee tastes a lot better.

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The French Eat Snails

Verdict: Vrai

Snails or escargot, are not a staple in French cuisine, but they will eat them once in a great while. It is not going to be on a daily menu, but perhaps something on tap for a birthday. On a tangent, I once stayed with a French family who boiled the snails themselves and served them with mayonnaise. On the whole, I have an open mind when it comes to cuisine, but boiled snails with mayonnaise is the most disgusting thing I have ever eaten, easily beating out congealed pig’s blood.

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French Fries are a French Thing

Verdict: Vrai and Faux

French fries, or frites as they call them, are not actually a French food. Frites originally came out of Belgium and were adopted into French cuisine. That said, you can find French fries on everything. Whether stuffed into a gyro, on top of a pizza, or alongside of your croquet monsieur, French fries make their appearance in French food in unexpected ways. I honestly had never had a gyro before my travels through France so I did not know that it was not the normal way to eat one. I also was completely dumbfounded when I received a pizza covered in them. But more on my pizza questions later.

 

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