One of the great joys of visiting France is indulging in incredible food and wine. In Part Three of our series on French food and wine, we’re diving into the country’s western region. Lovers of red wine and red meat take note: this is where you’ll want to order a nice, bold red to go with your steak frites.
The Food and Wine of Western France
French and Spanish flavors mix with fresh seafood in the Basque region, and Bordeaux is prized for its fine wines and comforting and hearty cuisine. If you’d like to sample the famed Bordeaux wines, the port city has many cafes and wine bars to choose from, or you can head out into the countryside and visit a few of the region’s wine chateaus.
Bisque: Many creamy soups are often referred to as bisques, but a traditional bisque soup is made from a strained shellfish broth (ideally with shellfish fresh from the Bay of Biscay), thickened until nice and creamy. Tomato paste is often added to bisques for flavor and color.
Bordeaux Wines: Bordeaux is the largest wine-producing region in France, with 90% of production going towards red wine. Most of the red wines in Bordeaux are blends, where different types of grapes are combined together. To be a true red Bordeaux the wine must contain at least two of the following three types of grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France, and/or Merlot. Like the reds, most of the white wines from Bordeaux are also blends, mainly from the Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Semillon grapes.
Canelé: This cylinder-shaped vanilla and rum-flavored pastry is a specialty of Bordeaux. The pastry batter is poured into a mold that’s been brushed with beeswax or butter which gives the canelé a dark and crusty exterior, while the inside is creamy, almost like a custard.
Piperade: A regional vegetarian side or main dish from the Basque region, Piperade is somewhat similar to Provence’s ratatouille. It’s made with sautéed tomatoes, onions and green bell peppers. The dish is flavored with piment d’Espelette, a regional (mild) chili pepper flake seasoning made from Espelette peppers.
Cassoulet:Rich and hearty, cassoulet is a meaty casserole made from different types of meat, including duck or goose confit, pork skin, and white beans. All of the ingredients are cooked together, low and slow in a ‘cassoule’ dish.
Roquefort: White and crumbly with veins of blue mold running through it, Roquefort is a blue cheese made from sheep’s milk. It gets its name and distinction from being aged in the caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. The cheese’s strong odor and flavor pairs well with bold red Bordeaux wines.
Chèvre: This French goat’s milk cheese is white in color, and tart and tangy in flavor. It can range in texture from soft to firm depending on the moisture content of the cheese and how long it’s been aged. The longer the cheese has been aged, the bolder the flavor.
Sauternes: This is a sweet wine with a distinct, dark yellow color from Bordeaux. This wine gets its sweetness from grapes that are raisined from a fungus. This process is known as “the noble rot.” Sauternes are often served chilled with or as dessert, but it also pairs well with foie gras.
Foie Gras: From the Dordogne region, foie gras is a French delicacy made from the liver of duck or geese that have been fattened by being force-fed, which is said to make the live taste extra rich and buttery. Foie gras can be served cold as a pate or whipped into a mousse, and it can also be served warm by pan roasting the liver.
Steak Frites: One of France’s most popular dishes, Steak Frites is a bistro classic consisting of a juicy steak served along a side of French fries. The cut of steak can vary but an entrecote (ribeye) is common. The French tend to serve their steaks rarer (saignant) than in America, so here’s a short guide to doneness when ordering:
Bleu – extremely rare
Saignant – very rare
A’ Point – rare to medium-rare
Bien Cuit – medium to well-done
Is the way to your heart through your stomach? Then you’ll love our wine and romance voyages in 2018 and 2019. Both itineraries include two nights in Bordeaux, as well as stops in other popular French ports.
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