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french bread, brie cheese, a bunch of grapes, and a glass of red wine The thought of French cuisine often brings to mind stylish patrons at a streetside cafe in Paris, but there is so much more depth and breadth to traditional French fare.  Breakfast is typically coffee and a pastry, but lunch is the most important meal of the day, often accompanied by a two hour break from work or school.  Wine and bread is served with both lunch and dinner, and cheese is commonly served as a separate course before dessert.

French cuisine is extremely diverse, as culinary specialties are often based on local resources which vary greatly among the twenty-one regions of France.  Paris is famous for its baguettes, as well as specialties like French onion soup and pastry puffs known as profiteroles.  The easternmost region of Alsace enjoys rich German-influenced fare such as pork sausage and sauerkraut.  The Aquitane region in southwest France produces excellent wine, along with dishes including foie gras (goose liver), black truffles, and lamb.  The remote region of Auvergne relies on simple ingredients such as potatoes, cabbage, cheese, pork, and mutton to create simple and hearty food.  Brittany, in the northwestern region, is greatly influenced by its British neighbors and features crepes, fish, and seafood.  Burgundy is one of the primary winery regions of France, producing legendary wine as well as dijon mustard, escargots, and rich beef dishes laced with cream sauce.  The Champagne-Ardenne region produces signature champagne and savory pastries filled with cheese.  The Normandy region is prized for its use of cream and apples to create omelettes, tartes, and ciders.  As the most "Italian" region of France, Province's culinary signature is olives, and the region creates dishes such as soupe de poissons (fish-based soup), salade nicoise (salad with vegetables, tuna, and egg), and various pasta dishes.

A traditional French meal is a dining experience that can range from hearty and simple to extraordinarily gourmet, but usually includes certain key ingredients.  It begins with an aperitif (a beverage designed to whet the appetite), and an hors d'oeuvre.  This is followed by several courses including the plat (main course) with vegetables, a cheese plate with or without fruit, and dessert, which is accompanied by a drink known as a digestif.  The best way to enjoy a French meal is to prepare dishes that originate from the same region along with complementary wines.  There are many French cookbooks and other resources available to assist chefs of all abilities in preparing delicious regional French cuisine.

Information about education and careers in French cuisine can be found at the Le Cordon Bleu and French Culinary Institute websites.

French Restaurants in each State and the District of Columbia

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About French Cuisine - French Culinary Traditions and Regional Cuisines