Traditional haute cuisine—a delicate balance of flavors, sauces, and ingredients blended with a studied technique—includes such classics as:
And, of course, French cheese is justifiably famous, with softies Brie and Camembert and blue-veined Roquefort topping the list.
But when people started thinking healthy a few decades back, buttery, creamy, saucy French cuisine quickly found itself on the "out" list of fatty, cholesterol-heightening foods.
So the French invented nouvelle cuisine, which gave chefs an excuse to concoct new dishes—still French, mind you, but less fattening because they used fewer heavy creams and less butter and served only itty-bitty portions.
When the nouvelle trend lost steam, people began spinning off more healthful (cuisine minceur) and/or more creative (cuisine moderne) cooking styles.
Add to these styles the capital's mix of French regional restaurants (Alsatian, Basque, Auvergne, Provençal, and others), great "peasant" dishes like cassoulet (a glorious and hearty stew of sausages, pressed duck confit, sometimes other meat, white beans, and tomatoes; I'll go way out of my way for a good cassoulet), and the many ethnic restaurants, and you'll never want for dining variety in Paris.
There's no way I can go fully into French wines here, but your waiter or the restaurant's sommelier (wine steward) should be able to pair your meal with an appropriate vintage.
But be careful—ordering wine by the bottle can jack up the cost of your meal in no time. Table wine by the liter carafe or demi (half a liter) is always cheaper and tastes almost as good as any fancy estate label.
France's top red wines are produced in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Beaujolais, and the Loire and Rhone valleys.
Great French white wines hail from Alsace, the Loire, Burgundy, and Bordeaux.
And don't forget that sparkling white wine from the vineyards east of Paris called Champagne.
Favorite restaurants in Paris
★★★ Taillevent (Classic/Haute) [€€€€€]
★★★ Au Bascou (Basque) [€€–€€€]
★★ L'Epi Dupin (Baby Bistro) [€–€€€]
★★ Auberge Etchegorry (Basque) [€–€€€]
★ Les Bouquinistes (Baby Bistro) [€€-€€€]
★ Perraudin (Classic Bistro) [€–€€]
★ Chantairelle (Auvergne) [€€–€€€]
★ Brasserie Bofinger (Brasserie) [€–€€]
Restaurant du Palais Royal (Classic/Modern) [€€€]
Brasserie Balzar (Brasserie) [€–€€]
Auberge de Jarente (Basque) [€€]
Brasserie Lipp (Brasserie) [€–€€]
Remember this. Eat up. Enjoy. You'll be walking alot anyway.
Some people may be intimidated by the idea of sitting down to what many—certainly the French themselves—consider the most refined food on the planet.
Don't sweat it. The only people with a need to impress anyone are the chef and kitchen staff.
Have your waiter suggest some dishes, and let the sommelier pick out a wine; then just sit back and enjoy the flavors.
Fixed-price meals are a fixture of Paris.
You usually get a limited choice for each course—starter, main, dessert—but spend far less than ordering from the full a la carte menu (usually €20 to €35).
The best bargains in this department are on menu déjuener (lunch menus).
A passionfruit-kissed crème brulée, one of the greatest dessert options in Paris. (Photo by Alpha)