Lyon, France: a Gastronomical Wonderland

Lyon Travel guide

It is widely believed that the food capital of the world is Lyon, France. Stocked chalk full of bouchons (French bistros) and Michelin-rated restaurants, Lyon is brimming with a renowned cadre of spectacularly well-trained chefs.  Second in size and wealth to Paris, it rests comfortably between two major wine-growing regions: the Beaujolais to the North and the Côtes du Rhône to the South, and is nicely flanked by two beautifully flowing rivers: the Rhône, which originates in Switzerland, and the Saône, which is a right tributary of the Rhône and converges with it here.  The architecture is enchanting, the food and wine are legendary and this truly is one of the prettiest of French cities.  Surely by now I’ve convinced you to plan a trip.  No?  Well let me continue…

Local delicacies abound in Lyon, beginning with many specialty pork dishes and sausages, quenelles, which are fish or meat dumplings, assortments of charcuterie eaten mid-day with a glass of Beaujolais wine, and the best macaroni and cheese on earth, rumored to be the result of many wonderful local cheesemongers paired with an influx of migrating Italians over the past few decades.  Moderately priced meals are found all over the city and the salade de jour is the “Salade Lyonnaise”: lettuce with chunky, salty bacon (frisée aux lardons), croutons and a poached egg on top, which is then broken and mixed with the vinagrette just before consumption. Yum!  The Lyonnaise potatoes originated here and are widespread in fine dining establishments all across the U.S.  Made with sliced potatoes fried in goose fat with onions, they are rich and delicious. In fact, just make this my daily starch from now on!  Regardless of where you eat, or what you eat, your meal is sure to be a delightful play of traditional ingredients used in a non-traditional manner. 

Making an art of going to the Sunday farmer’s markets to purchase and prepare the best French produce, dairy, seafood, and meats, the French savoir faire dictates that the people of Lyon find everything from fish to frog legs and lettuce to lentils at these outdoor havens.  Local cheeses are especially plentiful and the best-known of all is the St. Marcellin cheese, which is a yummy cow’s milk cheese that is so soft and ripe, it runs all over the plate and is, therefore, often served in a bowl!  The best French ingredients abound right here in this lovely city and you are pretty much a foodie by birthright, or payment of property tax.

As a visitor to Lyon, you are immediately challenged just to sample a few of the local delicacies, made by just a few of the world-class chefs, served in just a few of the haze of dining choices… but when I visited Lyon, I had barely enough time to take my luggage to my very tiny hotel room and get the lay of the land before being rushed straight to Paul Bocuse.  Paul Bocuse is THE restaurant in Lyon!  Known for their brilliance in technique, ingredients and presentation, and lauded all across the country (and world, for that matter) for the genius, flair and following of Mr. Bocuse, my husband and I had the pleasure of dining here, and specifically added Lyon to our French itinerary for the sole purpose of seeing for ourselves what all the fuss was about.  Sure enough, the meal was a parade of one amazing course after another with a presentation like I have never seen before, or since.  The china, the silverware, the decor — all impeccable.  However, a rather strange thing happened that night that neither of us expected.  At some point during the evening, between the procession of courses, the removal of plates and swapping out of utensils over and over again, the “show” took on a life of its own and somehow became a comedy.  Maybe it was the near collision we were in on our way to the restaurant that left our rental car’s side mirror worse for wear.  Maybe it was that mid-way thru the meal, Mr. Bocuse, himself, began making his way around the tables and taking photographs with the patrons, appearing more like a robotic, made up version of a chef than the actual legend that he is.  Maybe it was the exhaustion of the day, the steady flow of wine, the intense, extremely bright lighting, or just the sheer thrill of getting a table here…  Whatever it was, laughter overtook us that evening and we simply could not stop.  After two hours, we found ourselves racing thru the final courses and left in a haze of shame and giggles that still makes us shake our heads in embarrassment and wonder.   How could we disrespect Mr. Bocuse like that?  What really was that funny?  How can one meal cost so much??!

I suppose we will never know what turned an otherwise delightfully elegant evening into an episode to rival most third-grade staring contests, but whatever the answers, the next time we return to Lyon, we vow to eat in many lovely, quaint bouchons and try many other local foods and wines.  We’ll probably even dine at Paul Bocuse, again.  Just next time without the giggles.

Paul Bocuse
L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges
40 Rue de la Plage
69660 Collonges au Mont d’Or
Tél. : (33) 04 72 42 90 90
http://www.bocuse.fr/accueil.aspx

Menu

Grande Tradition Classique

préparé pour l’ ensemble de la table

Escalope de foie gras de canard poêlée au verjus, pomme gaufrette

Soupe aux truffes noires V.G.E.
(plat créé en 1975 pour l’Elysée)

Turbot au Champagne

Granité des vignerons du Beaujolais

Volaille de Bresse en vessie «Mère Fillioux»

Sélection de fromages frais et affinés «Mère Richard»

Délices et Gourmandises
Petits Fours et Chocolats

200€ par personne

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