of our most momentous travel milestones.
Along with variety, talent, unrestrained dedication and a sixth sense
for sheer excellence, cuisine a la francaise is the standard
by which food around the world is judged.
But when it comes to one specific French delicacy, I am head over heels in love.
Fish and seafood of all stripes inspire many of the most
memorable culinary adventures I've ever encountered.
Come to think of it, feasting on fish is akin to taking a grand tour of France.
Each region has its own distinguishing specialty,
deserving of a little pre-planning effort on your part.
Don't most of us have an innate urge to go to the beach to seek
peace, beauty and serenity at the water's edge?
Twinned to those second-nature longings, we often soak up much of our travel
joie de vivre by eating what comes out of the water -- be it sea, river, lake or stream.
If you're willing to try new things without knowing exactly
what you're doing -- isn't that the pure definition of travel -- you're going to love
the deep dive into the fresh catch of the day at countless French restaurants.
And that, my friends, is reason enough to take a tour of France -- so you
too will have one whopper of a fish story when you return home.
Just like any good fisherman, make the most of your best instincts.
Consider local markets, fishing ports and hole-in-the-wall hangouts
where the grub may be simple but essentially as fresh as it gets.
Remember, chow time in France commences wherever you land.
Seaside shack or seaside resort, it's going to be a grand slam.
For more serious endeavors, do a little upfront planning.
Search out bistros and brasseries with good reviews -- but
don't get too caught up in them.
Elaborate menus and fancy wine lists are terrific but truth be known,
most of my favorite experiences weren't in famous dining rooms
decorated with Michelin stars and to-die-for wine lists.
Throughout France, most chefs have the unbeatable advantage of artistry
and ingenuity baked into the freshest bounty that nature can provide.
Just look for PASSION - the hallmark of every good dining experience.
fish and seafood are always front and center.
Gorgeous fare ranges from the transcendent to the rustic and everything in between.
Paris delights with a complex dining universe that includes traditional recipes such as Coquilles Saint-Jacques to hints of exotic Asian influences and delicate Mediterranean delights such as squid risotto.
Platters brimming with les fruits de mer grace many of the
boisterous tables in Paris' legendary brasseries.
Daily markets are chock full of swimming champions that
deserve as many gold medals as Michael Phelps.
France consumes well over ninety tons of oysters each year.
That's a lot of love for a country the size of Texas.
Claires, creuses, papillon, belon and more, the variety will amaze you.
But of course, Paris is landlocked so most of your feast hails from
coastal areas such as Brittany and the Atlantic Coast or from lakes
and rivers dotting the French countryside.
I often identify cities and regions with the fresh catch of the day -- and yes, I still dream about many of these mouth-watering flashbacks.
In Biarritz and the surrounding Basque country, we ate fish every day -- sardines,
hake, cod, tuna -- and have a memory of one sea creature
so large it completely covered a huge platter.
The divine delicacy was flat as a pancake but we still don't know
exactly what it was -- reason enough for a return visit...
Just a few of our tableside tastes that are sure to inspire:
Collioure -- anchovies, both fresh & canned; little pink rouget...
La Rochelle -- briny oysters; mouclade (mussels swimming in white wine and shallots)...
Alsace -- trout stuffed with morels; fish stew with hints of Riesling wine...
Lyon -- quenelles (little fish dumplings)...
Provence -- bouillabaisse, nicoise salad, monkfish, and tins of sardines...
Normandy -- sole meunière; mussels marinières...
Brittany -- Belon oysters; langoustines; bulots; sea bass in a salt crust...
The Loire -- freshwater fish such as sandre (zander) & pike served in beurre blanc...
Champagne -- trout swimming in a delicate champagne sauce...
Languedoc -- garlicy brandade de morue; cuttlefish; bowls of tellines...
Lille - moules-frites piled high in charming little cafés and pubs...
And that's just for starters!
No tuna fish casserole, that's for sure -- and don't forget the sea salt,
another treasure from the coastal waters of France.
to the fine art of good eats in France.
From Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party to Cezanne's haunting still lifes,
it's easy to get your stomach juices rolling in the middle of a Paris museum.
Which is fine by me, because that means it's time for lunch...
The art of dining on fish is a whole other art form in France.
From time to time, a whole fish will be presented to you, eyeball and all.
This is as normal to the French as a platter of bacon
and eggs in the USA, so try not to look too terrified.
And yes, before you ask, the head is considered a delicacy
so consider carving out a little portion of the cheek to taste.
Remember that old board game called Operation?
Deboning a whole fish may remind you of that silly competition
but I promise, no buzzer will sound off if you screw this up.
You can always ask the server if he's willing to debone the fish but
seriously, it's not that hard to do on your own -- just take your time
and channel your inner Dr. Sanjay Gupta...
Start by gently slicing down the center
from the base of the head to the top of the tail.
Slide your knife under one of the cut sides and gently lift
the fish meat from the backbone, in one piece if you can.
Do the same on the other side and then flip the fish to
reveal the other and repeat -- voila -- you're a surgical specialist.
Congratulations, you're now more connected to your feast -- Enjoy!
in beautiful Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a historic Basque village
located in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
We ordered two different preparations of the local trout and sat back to enjoy
the outdoor ambience as we waited .... and waited ... and waited, finally deciding
the fish was so fresh it had yet to be caught.
Long story short, it was worth the wait.
Unquestionably, this was the best trout we've ever tasted.
Fresh, locally sourced, casual -- the feast will forever live in our food memory bank.
Flavorful France -- where every meal feels like a splurge.
it turns out, the biggest catch of all is France itself.
This enchanting country offers many opportunities for blissful travel,
beginning with its many palate pleasing temptations.
Thank you, fish masters, shellfish wizards and
all you fishermen and women of France.
You are amazing.
And the wines to match strike a particular chord as well.
Check out a Muscadet or a Sancerre for starters
and consider trying a red or rosé if the mood strikes.
And of course, when in doubt, champagne goes with everything.
A true bleu-blanc-rouge flavor adventure -- Santé!
I love feeling like a little fish in a big pond when I travel.
Some may not like that particular state of mind but I believe it
promotes appreciation for all the little things that surround us.
That may be one more reason why, year after year,
I'm ready and willing to cross that big "pond" to get back to delicious France.
Yes, "fishing" in France is one of the best pastimes ever.
And that's no hook line and sinker.