Food in Lyon, France
Chef Paul Bocuse SÉBASTIEN VÉRONÈSE
The sprawling southern city of Lyon is known as the gastronomic capital of France. Every year, gourmands from around the world flock the city’s Michelin-starred restaurants as well as its humble bistros. Although these days, Lyon is often associated with super-star chef Paul Bocuse and his nouvelle-cuisine, its culinary reputation was established a full century earlier with hearty, traditional fare. Today, both types of cuisine are widely available throughout the city.
Lyon’s Culinary History
Lyon first made its mark on the French culinary scene in the 19th century, when the city was the center of the booming silk industry. Hungry silk workers clustered in tiny bistros, called “bouchons” to consume the robust, cheap fare necessary to carry them through their 18-hour work days. Then, bouchons were bare-bones, family-run establishments, sorely lacking in style and décor, but infused with a welcoming, home-style atmosphere.
At the turn of the century, the most popular bouchons and restaurants were run by women, formerly of large bourgeois families that had to let go their cooks. According to “French Provincial Cooking” by Elizabeth David, it was through these “mères” (mothers) that the cuisine of Lyon became widely known and respected. It was only in the second half of the 20th century that male chefs in Lyon began to take over.
Traditional Lyonnais Food
A traditional Lyonnais menu centers around meat, particularly offal. Typical foods include andouille (grilled chitterlings sausage), tripe (pig or cow’s stomach), or boudin noir (blood sausage). Other common dishes include, chicken liver salad, cervelas, (raw pork sausages), quenelles (flour, egg and cream dumplings), or Cervelle de canut, (which means “brains of the silk-weaver” and consists of cream cheese mixed with garlic and chives.) Some contemporary bouchons serve more upscale French cuisine, such as fois gras and truffles, but for many Lyonnais, true bouchons only offer foods that are distinctly unpretentious.
Paul Bocuse and Nouvelle Cuisine
Lyon’s favored son, chef Paul Bocuse brought worldwide glory to Lyon with his innovative cooking. Described as the father of nouvelle cuisine, Chef Bocuse changed centuries of traditional French cooking by drastically cutting down on the use of heavy cream and butter and by relying on the taste of fresh ingredients. His namesake restaurant in Lyon has had three Michelin stars since 1965 and he owns several other highly-rated restaurants in the region, including the four brasseries, Le Nord, Le Sud, L’Est and L’Ouest, each of which have notably different styles.
Lyon’s Main Market
Restaurants aren’t the only way to enjoy the culinary treats Lyon has to offer. You can shop for your own fresh ingredients at Lyon’s main market, Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. This enormous market located near the Part-Dieu station has a sea of stalls groaning with local fruits, vegetables, game, fish, fowl, produce and a host of French delicacies. If you visit the market, seek out the shop of Renée Richard, the celebrated cheese monger, and sample one of her creamy St. Marcellins. Chefs throughout Lyon buy their cheese from Madame Richard.
No French meal is complete without wine. In the majority of restaurants in Lyon, the house wine will likely be either a Beaujolais or Côtes du Rhône, both of which are wines of the region. The Beaujolais wine region lies just north of Lyon, while the Côtes du Rhône region is just south. The wines are distinctly different. Beaujolais are almost always reds made from Gamay grapes, producing a light-bodied wine. Côtes du Rhône may come from any of several grape varietals, may be white, rosé or red, and have flavors that range from flowery to dessert sweet. At more upscale restaurants, you will have a larger selection of wines. But at many of the traditional bouchons, you may have to drink whatever wine the owner is serving.
( This article was written by Barbara Diggs in «USA Today». Read more: http://traveltips.usatoday.com/food-lyon-france-11410.html )