On Monday, when I shared my recipe for French Ratatouille, I alluded to the fact that I studied abroad in France for a year. I realized that I haven’t talked much about my “French side” (it was one of my majors in college, after all). This was just a French week overall for me, as my roommate and I even hosted a French friend I met years ago through couchsurfing.org this week!
Before moving to Lyon, I had not been exposed to a lot of what I’d like to call fine dining. It’s not like my parents only ever treated us to Olive Garden and Chevy’s — plus, what kid doesn’t prefer that kind of stuff anyway? But I never really had a taste for it until my later teens. There are a fair amount of high quality restaurants in Santa Barbara, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many college kids who can actually afford them.
In France, being able to go out for a fine dining experience is much more accessible for a larger part of the population. That’s not to say that there aren’t a ton of McDo’s, Subways, and sandwich shops like Brioche Dorée — believe me, there are, and I took full advantage of them and their 3€ sandwiches. But there are also extremely high-quality restaurants who offer a 3-course Menu Fixe for less than 15€.
As part of my study abroad program, we were treated to dinner at a restaurant called La Cuvée several times throughout the year and took little excursions to nearby villages where we were also treated to meals. Here are 3 noteworthy meals from the first semester I was in France, ending with the Most. Epic. Meal of All. Time!!! Everyone I studied with reading this probably already knows which one I’m talking about :)
Being that my initial language level was pretty awful, I rarely understood what they said they were feeding us… I will try to be as descriptive as possible!
Before we start, let me just throw it out there that most of my meals looked like this:
Now that we have the ugly truth out of the way, let me show you the good stuff!
(I didn’t always document it, but while browsing these pictures it is safe to assume that multiple bottles of wine are a’flowin.)
“Thanksgiving” Meal in Grenoble, France — November 2008
Considering where we were, this was a fairly decent attempt to treat us University of California students to an American Thanksgiving meal. What do you think?
It started with an apéritif, as is traditional in France.
Salade avec un… breadstick?
Our Thanksgiving plate! Sweet potato, pumpkin gratin, some kind of cranberry, and either chicken or turkey (we couldn’t really tell at the time!)
The best part:
It was much colder in Grenoble than in Lyon (Grenoble is in the mountains), and it was there we saw our first snow!
La Cuvée — December 2008
This was our second trip to La Cuvée — we had all already grown fond of the restaurant and eagerly looked forward to our return…It didn’t disappoint!
Salade Lyonnaise — A Lyon specialty! Frisée, lardons (bacon), and a poached egg make up some of the key ingredients to the classic salad.
Leg of Lamb, with sauce and veggies
Ice cream with candied orange zest, and Crème Anglaise spiked with Grand Marnier
And without further ado…
The Best Meal of All Time — Chez Marie et Ludovic à Beaujolais — September 2008
You may have heard of Beaujolais before. It is a wine region close to Lyon that releases their wine every fall, and there is a yearly festival to celebrate the Beaujolais Nouveau. Marie and Ludovic are long-time friends of the UC Education Abroad program and each year they open their home in the Beaujolais region to UC students. Marie bakes fresh bread, and Ludovic takes care of producing their wine.
Near the beginning of the year, we had an amazing meal in their home that was followed by a tour of their vineyard and bread-baking ovens.
OK, keep in mind at this point we were already stuffed from pâté, bread, wine and pickles.
And of course, dessert from the breadmaker. Sweet brioche and other assorted goodies!
By this point, we were all slightly drunk and ready to explode. See, look how miserable I was:
And yes, I do know now what an idiot I looked like wearing a hoodie in France.
This is Marie, preparing fresh bread for us!
Marie and Ludovic, being adorable and French.
Sorry for the huge barrage of photos. Can I make it up to you with this gem?
I’m sorry. That picture of me defiling a statue of King Louis XIV just made it worse didn’t it?
Anyway, will all of my readers do me a favor today?
If you like reading French anecdotes, or travel stories and tips in general, I advise you head on over to my friend Adrienne‘s blog Cultured Chaos. Adrienne and I studied in Lyon together, which means she was present for the above amazing meals — Her birthday is tomorrow and after a not-so-happy couple of weeks, I want to wish her a much happier birthday!
Adrienne lives in NYC and has the travel bug like me (but she actually travels, ahem). Click to see her own take on Lyonnais cuisine, and some wonderful photos she took throughout her own travels in France!
Bon anniversaire, Adrienne!