Food in France is more important than anything else. In France, people just don't eat and drink for feeding themselves but for having pleasure. Eating and drinking well is a passion for most French people. Long lunches and dinners, and spending time at a "terrasse" (outdoor café) is usual.
There are 3 meals in France : breakfast, lunch and dinner. and of course, you may taste typical French snacks during the day.
Breakfast : usually, French people take bread and pastries (croissant, a pain-au-chocolat (a square-shaped chocolate-filled pastry)) with coffee, tea or chocolate. While breakfasts are usually available at your hotel, you will have a much more typical one in a café, with croissants and espresso!
Lunch, from noon to 2 PM : some restaurants offer special menu for lunch ( usually displayed in front of the restaurant as "special midi")
Dinner beginning usually at 7 PM
Snacks : you could taste French crepes, waffles, ice creams and also delicious pastries in "salons de thé" during the day. But you may also find cakes and pastries to take away, at every "boulangerie-pâtisserie". You will also find small stands selling sandwiches, pizzas or French fries during the day.
First of all, we will try to know better French food and French wine, and then, explain where to eat and drink in France.
French Food and French wine :
F rench food :
Bread &rench people are bread eaters and bread is usually very good throughout the country. You will enjoy the traditional "baguette" but also many kinds of breads .
Pastries You will find pastries in "patisseries" : croissant, pain au chocolat and many others...
Cheese: France is the country of cheese. There are almost 400 different kinds of them in the country. Most restaurants have a good plateau de fromages (cheese board). You will enjoy of course well-known Brie, Camembert, Livarot, Roquefort, Saint Nectaire, Comté, Cantal, Salers... but also, depending on the region where you are, some local cheeses, don't miss them! : Bleu des Causses, Maroilles, Chaource, Valençay, Selles-sur-Cher...
Regional dishes In every département of France, you will find local specialties. Each region takes great pride in its own cuisine and you'd better don't miss to try them!
French wine and drinks :
French wine: France has numerous wine regions : Bourgogne (Burgundy wine), Bordeaux (Bordeaux wine), Vallée de la Loire (Loire valley wine)... giving very different wines. Usually, if you want to choose wine in a good restaurant, ask the "sommelier". He will help you to find the best wine considering your meal. Otherwise, you have to know basic rules :
Dry white wines are good with starters, fish and seafood. Very good white wines (Burgundy wines for example) are delicious with starters, some cheeses (Comté, tomes...) and white meats
Sweet white wines are very good with some cheeses (Roquefort...) and deserts
Rosé is usually served with casual meals during summer
Red wine is usually delicious with red meat and cheese. ù
You may buy bottles of wine : - directly from the producers ( vignerons ) at vineyards, or at Maisons or Syndicats du Vin (representing a group of wine-producers), which allows you to sample the wine before buying. in the cities :
in wine shops where you will have the seller's opinion and in supermarkets, where you will find cheapest prices.
&rench drinks :
Champagne is a delicious white wine with bubbles. It is an excellent aperitif but you could also enjoy it during the meal or the desert.
Cognac is a brandy, coming from the Charente region upper from Bordeaux. It is a delicious way to end dinner. Finest cognac brandy is coming from areas called Grande Champagne. Of course, best cognacs are oldest ones. You will find VSOP (Very Special Old Pale), aged around 4 years and if you can, try XO (Extra Old), aged of 10 years minimum.
Pastis is an aniseed drink (brand name : ricard, pernod...) served with cold water and ice as an aperitif
Where to eat and drink in France ?
Restaurant or brasserie ?... There are many places to enjoy &rench food in France. But you have to know two main differences
Restaurants : Restaurants are open for dinner (usually from 7.30 PM to 9.30 PM), but not always for lunch. Many restaurants are closed on Sunday night and one day during the week.
Auberges or Relais are restaurants
Brasseries : Brasseries are like cafés serving traditional French food at lunch and dinner but also, for some of them during all day and night!
All restaurants and brasseries must display their price on the front and must display if they accept credit card. "Au menu" or "à la carte"?...
Le menu: Menu offers usually a three course meal (starter + main meal + desert) for a set price. Beverages are frequently not included. At lunch time, many restaurants offer a "menu spécial midi" which is a quite cheaper meal for lunch.
La carte Lunch and dinner may be chosen "à la carte", which means item by item. It is usually more expensive than the menu but you can chose what you want...
The Etiquette and the vocabulary... Having a meal in France is quite formal. And French people are sometimes proud and arrogant... Don't ask for some more meal or a doggy-bag, it is not done... Even if you learn it at school, don't call your waiter "garçon" but "monsieur" or "madam" if it is a waitress... Everything will be easier if you try to speak and read a little French.
Go here to to see some restaurants I recommend