For many of us, French food is the cuisine to consider when looking for a fancy night out. Even the word “cuisine” is French. Though our tastes have branched out a bit in the last decade or two, French food is still la crème de la crème of technique. In fact, many chefs who cook other types of food actually start in French kitchens to get their skills up to snuff.
The only trouble with traditional French food is that the menu can sometimes seem intimidating. No worries! A little knowledge can go a long way in understanding French cuisine, from the delicious ingredients to the preparation that went into them and how to pronounce it. Here's a list of our favorite dishes along with everything you need to masterfully pick out one dish for each course.
Pain et beurre (Pan eh burr)
Literally just bread and butter, this is the traditional start to any French meal. Once you’ve tasted a baguette from a French restaurant or bakery, you’ll understand why all those tourist shots show French people running around with baguettes – they’re magnifique.
Soupe à l’oignon gratinée (soup a la oh-nyon gra-tee-nay)
Most French cooking is really about taking simple ingredients and delivering them in a way that’s unforgettable. Consider soupe à l’oignon gratinée simply a more difficult way of saying “French onion soup.” It’s also way more delicious than its American-named counterpart. The onions are finely grated, the croutons are just the right amount of crispy and the cheese on top… it’s perfect for a cold day or any time you want to wrap yourself in warmth.
Truite aux amandes (tru-eet ohs ah-mahnd)
Only a French chef would say “I’m going to encrust this trout with almonds,” but we’re so glad they did. A little salty, a little sweet and filled with texture, this is one treat you’ll order over and over again.
Steak frites (stake freet)
Remember that bit about making simple things extraordinary? Steak frites (steak with fries) is no exception. Hearty, satisfying and classic, this classic French dish is good any night of the week (especially with a glass of Côtes du Rhône red wine).
Petit bucherondin de chèvre (puh-tee boosh-er-ohn-dan duh shehv)
French cheese is unforgettable and baking chèvre (goat cheese) and serving it atop a perfect little crouton just makes it better. Served with greens and a French Dijon dressing, this salad helps your tummy recover from the exquisite richness you’ve just experienced.
Speaking of cheese, if you did not get enough in your salad, prepare to be wowed by more traditional French cheeses (just to make sure you’re full after that salad). Yes, you’ll probably encounter brie (bree), which is a lot less strong if you only eat the inside. Camembert (kah-mem-bear) is a good alternative if you find brie too strong. You may also see Roquefort (rohk-for), a type of blue cheese, smelly but delicious Morbier (more-be-eh) and the slightly sweet hard Comté (kohm-tay). Try them all and see which you like most.
Tarte tatin (tart tah-tan)
Whoever first said “as American as apple pie” would eat their words if they got a taste of this amazing upside-down apple pie. Often prepared with golden apples for extra sweetness, the sugar that is used caramelizes in the oven and then this beauty is flipped before serving. People feel very strongly about whether tarte tatin should be served with ice cream or alone. The answer is yes. Try it all the ways, because it’s impossible to get enough.
Other words you might want to know
Prix fixe (pree fix). This is a set price menu that usually involves many courses. Choose one option from each section and enjoy.
Bière (bee-air). Though the French are not typically known for their beer, the option is available should you want it.
Vin (van). Whether you prefer the red vin rouge (van roozh) or the white vin blanc (van blahnk), French wines are classic and delicious. Experiment to find the right varieties for you.
Bon appétit (Bone app-ay-tee). Enjoy!
Hungry yet? Use the Uber Eats app to get some authentic French food on your timeline, because bringing the check in a timely fashion is one thing that some French restaurants have not mastered. Bonus, you don’t have to pronounce a thing.