–What was the most delicious food you had and how does it relate to the culture of the place you had it?
This was also an insanely tough question to answer. Just thinking over the meals I had all over the country made my mouth water (I’ve posted a few pictures at the bottom of this post so that yours can too.) I definitely didn’t want to leave the food behind when I left. It made me realize that living in New York, it’s high time to find some authentic French restaurants in the city to take my taste buds back.
With every meal, I tried to find somewhere within sight of monuments or beautiful views to make the experience even better. I realize that this put me at risk of only finding very touristy spots which is something I definitely what I try to avoid when eating in other places. However, I think I did a pretty decent job of finding locations that were still as authentic as possible while still having exceptional views. This made it really hard for me to choose a favorite meal because there were so many places I ate with such great energy and ambiance. I sat in front of the Château des Ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany) and had a filet of dorade (bream) which was light, fresh, and absolutely delicious. I sat in front of the cathedral in Chartres and had duck confit. In Carcassonne, I had a traditional cassoulet inside the walls of the ancient medieval city. I sat in the plaza next to the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) which is where the Papacy was centered in the 14th Century and had a light truffle pasta and a glass of Châteauneuf-de-Pape. But I realized that the question wasn’t about the coolest place in which I had eaten, rather, the most delicious food and the culture to which it related.
So to properly answer the question posed to me, I think the most delicious food I had while I was in France was the duck. Obviously, there are more than two ways to prepare duck but the main two you will see on menus (at least in my personal experience) are either duck confit or magret de canard. Fortunately, I tried both while I was there. Duck confit is usually made using the whole duck which is roasted in its own fat (confit basically means that the meat is cooked slowly in its own fat as a means of preservation.) Now duck is already more rich than chicken because it is higher in fat as well as being entirely dark meat but when it is prepared as confit, it goes to a whole new level. The one I had in Chartres was served with champignons (mushrooms) and pommes de terre (potatoes.) It was my first real meal in France and it definitely did not disappoint. The meat was extremely tender and the jus was rich and delicious! The other way that duck is prepared is called magret de canard and is made from the breast of duck that has been raised specifically for foie gras and because of this the meat is usually slightly higher in fat and very much more tender. The meat is prepared in a much similar way to steak and is usually served medium rare or rare (the best way to have it, otherwise the meat becomes much too chewy) and traditionally comes “au miel” meaning with a honey sauce, however, I also had it once or twice “au poivre” which in the case of the magret is a creamy pepper sauce (this one was my personal favorite!)
Duck is extremely popular in France which means you can find it on most menus across the country. We don’t see as many duck-based dishes in the States because duck is more of a game food than farm raised whereas in France farm raised duck is extremely common. Outside of Asia, France has one of the highest duck populations in the world and since the Roman era, has been popular in French cuisine. Surprisingly the preparation I liked the most (magret de canard) is fairly new to the food scene. About 50 years ago a chef by the name of André Daguin began preparing the breast of the duck as you would a steak which skyrocketed the magret to one of the single most popular foods in France! Both preparations, according to many of the sources that I’ve read, originated in Gascony in southwest France.
As cliché as it may sound, the cuisine is one of the top factors for most travelers when visiting France. And for good reason, it’s some of the best I’ve ever had.