Dinan Food & Wine

Beef, Beer, Cider, Butter, Seafood. I'm gonna have another freaking heart attack!

Unlike the south of France, the north is known for more familiar things we are used to at home. Instead of lamb and goat, Brittany and Normandy are heavily into beef, pork and some of the world's best seafood.

Dining Out

For dining we have a few options. Dinner out in France is, of course, something everyone should experience. Keep in mind it can be pricey at times, ranging from a reasonable 30e for a 3 course meal to well over 100e. We recommend that apart from a special dinner out once or twice, you stick to eating out at lunch time while out wandering around. It's much, much cheaper and quite often the menu is the very same as the late evening offering but at half the price or less.

Restaurant Morbier Cheeseand table manners differ slightly in France. Nearly every place will post their daily menu outside for the public to peruse. If you wander into an area with lots of restaurants, feel free to look at every menu and choose the one you think looks best for the money. Ignore anyone standing beside the menu board trying to get your business. Places that are busy as hell are your best bet. The French know food… avoid empty and desperate places.

Keep an eye out for "Prix Fix" on the menu. That means that they are offering a special "pre-fixed" meal at a special price. Typically it's a 3 or 4 course meal with specific items offered at a reduced price. Think of it as the "chef's special" we are used to here in the US but it covers an entire meal. Typically these are quite special and very tasty.

Blood Sausages!

When at table, the French tend to linger. In fact, you will be charged what's known as a, "table charge" that covers the cost of the bread, water, waiters, etc as you sit there for hours. Be aware that you will NOT be brought the bill for your meal until you specifically request it. The French assume that you may be staying for hours to chat, argue, etc and they respect that time until you ask for the bill. Tipping is ok, just not as generous as the US custom. For a casual lunch a few extra Euro is welcome. In a café just rounding up the bill to the nearest Euro and adding one is fine. For a really special meal, tip as your heart tells you.

By the way, never, EVER call a waiter "Garcon". It's hugely insulting and will pretty much guarantee your removal from the table.

Toothy Dinan Fishes

Here's some good info from Clayton's niece who spent a summer in Paris.

Marché de la Bastille - every Thursday and Sunday mornings, there is a huge outdoor market stretching North from the Bastille along Blvd Richard Lenoir.  They have dozens of food stands, as well as random clothes and home goods.  It's well, well worth a visit.  You can see more of it here, or here.  Metro- Bastille

Le Loir dans la Théière - my favorite restaurant.  It's at 3 rue des Rosiers 75004; Metro- Saint Paul.  It's in the heart of the Marais, the old Jewish district, where the roads are narrow and ancient.  I always went for lunch, when they have these fantastic savory tarts.  Be sure to get dessert - they have this whole table filled with tarts and other wonderful things.  I've written about it here, or here.

Du Pain et des Idées - I mentioned it in the last link for Le Loir... this is one of my favorite patisseries, or pastry shops.  34 rue Yves Toudic 75010, Metro - Republique or Jacques Bonsergent. They were voted best baker in Paris for 2008.  Do not miss the chausson a la pomme - which is basically croissant dough wrapped around half an apple.  It is phenomenal - by far the best I have ever tasted.

Pierre Hermé - my other favorite patisserie.  While du Pain et des Idees is more rustic, PH is more fancy.  On Saturdays, the line stretches out the door and along the street.  Get the macarons.  If you only take my advice on one thing to eat in Paris, get the macarons.  They are feather light and crisp and delicate yet so full of flavor.  Incredible.  I wrote about my first trip there here.  72 rue Bonaparte 75006, Metro- Saintt Sulpice or Saint Germain des Pres

Au Ciel de Paris, Tour Montparnasse - Tour Montparnasse (Metro - Montparnasse-Bienvenue) is the only sky scraper in Paris.  You can go up to the top one of two ways: you can pay 7E to go to an observation deck, or you can go to the way overpriced restaurant with mediocre food called Au Ciel de Paris.  But - if you go at like 3 PM (a time that no Parisian would ever go to a restaurant), you can sit at a table at the window for two hours while sipping un cafe or a cocktail, and no one will rush you because the place is empty.  It's great.  I've written about it here (which also has macaroon pictures).

As for Brittany and Normandy...
I haven't been to Brittany, but it's crepe country.  Eat savory and sweet crepes at a sit down restaurant.  The traditional beverage to have with crepes is hard cider, so drink that.
A famous pastry from Brittany is called a kouign amann, which translates as butter cake.  It's a sweet, buttery pastry.  Worth a taste.

Normandy is known for milk and apples and seafood, and what you can make from them.  Go for pastries that feature apples and cream.  Drink cider and, if you're feeling adventurous, Calvados - an applejack brandy.  They cook with a lot of butter and cream - a sauce Normande is a cream based sauce.  They make a lot of famous cheeses: best known, perhaps, is Camembert, but there's also Pont l'Eveque, Livarot, Neufchatel, and dozens of others.  Fish, shellfish (especially mussels and oysters), and duck are all good choices for main courses.

Wine, Beer and CiderFrench Wines

Wine, wonderful wine...

Oddly, wine in France is easy. You get a choice of Red, Rose or White. Easy peasy! Unlike the rest of the world, French wines are defined more by region than grape type. Most French cannot tell you what grape types are in the wines they like, just where they are from.

Look at it like this…
In the US we select wines by grape. Merlot, Syrah, Cab Sav, etc. In France you select by region. Burgundy, Bordeaux, Cotes du Rhone, etc.

Confusing? Not really. Each region has its particular spirit to the wine. Burgundy, Bordeaux, tend to be big fruity bold reds. Cotes du Rhones are peppery and bright reds. As a friend once told us, "A bottle of Bordeaux is the aged and wealthy aunt you want to be related to. A bottle of Cotes du Rhone is the hot 18 year old in the miniskirt you want to date."

When dining out just order red, rose or white. The waiter will bring a fantastic local wine appropriate for what you have ordered.

If you are buying wines to take home or to bring back to the apartment to enjoy, don't pay a lot. There are some amazingly tasty wines for under 10e, some for under 6e. Experiment, it's just wine!

Cider and Beer

I wish I had more to say about what’s available up in the North of France.  The cider is legendary, the beers are strongly associated with traditional English and Belgian methods.  I have a dire feeling there is going to be a lot of “sampling” going on.

Cidre

Cider (Cidre) is the traditional Breton drink fermented from apples, its distilled cousin is Calvados, a smooth apple brandy, usually brought over from the neighbouring province of Normandy. The only authentic Breton wine is Muscadet, a dry white wine which is an excellent accompaniment to the abundant seafood of the region. However, every restaurant, café, bar or creperie will have its Patrons selection of regional wines - French (of course!). A glass of vin rouge, rose or blanc will cost you a couple of Euros.

As you research, please send us stuff to post here!