Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Our picnics in France

Crepes stand in Saumur
Picnics at our campsites
Pizza in Bonnieux. We didn't have a knife to cut it.
Paella in Bandol
Ice cream stand in Bandol
Roast chicken from the market Bandol
Cafe croissant from locl bakery
Beignets de courgettes

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Food for families

After visiting France so many times, I am inspired to write about food. I was also inspired in the past but it wasn’t that easy to create a blog without hosting it. Now it is very easy to create a beautiful blog.

France is renowned for its cuisine and wine. The restaurants abound. Unless eating in very touristy areas, one could run into bad luck. But even in touristy places I am always surprised that it is easy to find a good restaurant.
Children are generally accepted to the restaurants with a few exceptions. In terms of portions, except some very refined restaurants which have several servings per meal, the food portions are good to big.

However, I am writing these pages (Food in France) rather to people who like staying for a longer time and have a kitchen or for someone who would like to experience France otherwise than through restaurants. For restaurant lovers I am still publishing specific posts.

The popular belief is everything is expensive in France. But in reality it is possible to have a better quality meal in France for same or less money than in Montreal. Food to go from a bakery which includes pizzas, sandwiches, quiches, bread and pastries is inexpensive, fresh and very good quality. In addition to that food stands often sell delicious crepes and ice cream.

We are usually staying for a week or more in one place and rent an apartment or a mobile home in a camping. This allows us to experience the country and its food in a different way.

One of my favorite things consists of visiting local markets and even supermarkets. To me it is equivalent to an excursion. I like seeing and trying items that we don’t have back home. After all cuisine and wine are big parts of a culture. I like improvising a meal from a local produce. Sometimes I also ask the local seller or a neighbor on how to cook a particular specialty from that produce that I can easily prepare.

What I tremendously enjoy in France, is the fact it is possible to order from most restaurants or traiteurs a meal to go. Traveling with a child is not always easy to seat in a restaurant for many hours. We usually rent an apartment with a terrace and sea view, so we can enjoy our meals from there. The wine is very cheap from a supermarket, but it is also possible to buy good quality wine from the market, the supermarket, a specialty store or even directly from a producer. No need to compromise on quality of food or wine.

Markets and stores also sell a lot of cooked food. It is very easy to get a deli picnic, find a nice setting (it is not what is missing in France) and enjoy your trip.

I now carry a tablecloth, a pair of high quality portable plastic wine glasses, plastic glasses, a corkscrew, a knife, plastic cutlery, a couple of Tupperware boxes and napkins. We are ready for a nice picnic anywhere.

While traveling by car, there are regular aires de repos which have various food options, but also have most of the time picnic tables. Some of them even have a nice view, like the one in Carcassonne and the one on top of Cassis.

Surprisingly for us, at supermarket in France high quality food is sold and is very affordable. Cheese is very cheap: starting 2E it is possible to have a camembert and be able to sample various cheeses. Pates and terrines are from cheap at 1E and up to most expensive foie gras. Smoked salmon, hams and sausages are the same price as back in Montreal. Wine even sparkling and cider can be purchased starting 1E. Although in my experience for an acceptable quality I never go lower than 2E the bottle. Several sorts of fish soup are sold together with la rouille and croutons. We only have to heat it and serve. Even frozen food is better in France than many restaurants back in Canada. Examples of frozen food include potatoes (so many sorts of them cooked in specific style), ratatouille (we tried one in Provence and it was really good).

At the market foods ready to eat include delicious paella, olives, tapenade, anchoiade, sausages, roast chicken and sometimes lamb. Roast chicken comes with vegetables or potatoes. Not to mention fruits and vegetables which are spectacular and fresh. Cheese and meat at the market are expensive.

Our son is pizza lover, and in France it is possible to order a pizza to go. He also likes quiche, and most recently declared a passion for strawberry and raspberry tartelettes. Ice cream choices are incredible including cassis, lavender, chestnut, melon violettes flavors (yes only in France) not to count all other choices. Gelatos are also available.

Omelettes, crepes, croques Monsieur/Madame are also delightful for everyone, not only to kids.

Other countries food is also available both in restaurants and to go and is delicious as well. Asian, Mediterranean food to just mention a few is available too.