France has a long culinary tradition. French cuisine nowadays is a result of centuries of research, elaboration and perfection. It is an integral part of French culture. Thanks to the interest in the French for good food, their chefs have always been encouraged to create elaborate new dishes to satisfy the most discriminating palate.
The origins of the success of French cuisine can be attributed to Catherine de Medicis. When she became Queen of France in 1533, she brought her own Florentine chefs from Italy. At this time, Italian chefs were more experienced than French chefs. They introduced new dishes and sophisticated techniques that they adapted to French products. This gave French cooking a real boost, and the country’s culinary influence has never stopped.
French cuisine is sophisticated, varied, well balanced and based on local and high-quality products. Unlike other countries, France does not have one national dish. Because each region has its own local products and specialties, it is more appropriate to name regional dishes than a single one.
At the end of this feature, you’ll find a list of restaurants that serve French cuisine in Doha that we have discovered across the city!
Here is a tour de France of the regional specialties:
Alsace cuisine is rich and unique. Most Alsatian dishes are not found in other parts of France. The most famous specialty is Chouchroute, sauerkraut garnished with potatoes and a variety of meats such as sausage, pork or ham. The Baeckaoffe is a one-of-a-kind Alsatian fare baked with white wine usually in a traditional pottery dish only made in the village of Soufflenheim. It’s a stew comprised of pork, beef and lamb garnished with potatoes. There are many Alsatian cakes and desserts, but the best is the Kougelhopf, brioche pastry with butter, eggs, raisins, whole almonds marinated in kirsch. At Christmas, bredles and gingerbreads decorate the tables of all Alsatian families. Bredles are cookies of different shapes flavoured with anise, cinnamon or almond.
Brittany has excellent fresh seafood: Coquilles-St-Jacques (sea scallops), lobsters, langoustes, crabs, clams, shrimps, mussels, and oysters will all be found on the market stalls of Brittany. This region is also famous for traditional crêperies serving wheat crêpes and buckwheat galettes accompanied with cider. La Chandeleur, celebrated 2 February, is the crêpes day in France. Eating crêpes the day of la Chandeleur will bring a year of happiness!
A trip to France would not be complete without sampling escargots and frog’s legs. Burgundy snails are with the petis-gris snails, the two varieties eaten in France. Escargots à la Bourgignonne are stuffed with garlic butter. Frog’s legs are sautéed in butter with fine herbs. The Boeuf Bouguignon is another typical Burgundy specialty. It’s a beef stew marinated with Burgundy red wine. The best-known regional product is Mustard de Dijon, secretly produced in the town of Dijon. This strong mustard is used in vinaigrette, sauces and nicely compliments red meat.
Normandy is renowned for the quality of its dairy products and apples. The region is home to the world-known Camembert cheese. Originally made more than 200 years ago in the lovely village of Camembert, genuine Camembert cheese is exclusively produced in Normandy. Apples also play an important part in the Norman cuisine. They are not only used in desserts, but in alcohol and liquors. The region is famous for cider and a strong apple brandy called Calvados. A mixture of Cider and Calvados, the Pommeau de Normandie is another regional beverage. In Normandy, it is tradition to drink a glass of Calvados in the middle of a meal to help digestion. This 200 century-old ritual is called Trou Normand (pictured right). Nowadays, a Trou Normand is still served in the middle of a meal, but as an apple sorbet soaked with Calvados.
The warm and sunny weather of Provence produces high-quality fruits and vegetables whose delicious scents can be spotted in the open markets of Southern France. The basic ingredients of Provençal cuisine are olive oil, garlic and herbes de Provence. Among the typical provençal dishes, Ratatouille is a vegetable stew made out of tomatoes, peppers, zucchinis, onions and olive oil and Salade Niçoise, comprised of lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, tuna, eggs, black olives and anchovies. As Provence is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, Provençal cuisine also revolves around fresh seafood. Marseille’s specialty, la Bouillabaisse (seafood bouillon) and Anchoïade (sauce made of anchovies, olive oil, garlic) are two of the main Provençal specialties.
Cuisine of Southwest France is made of produits du terroir. Truffles thrive in the Périgord region. Most popular are the Black Perigord Truffles, rare underground mushrooms known for a unique taste and aroma. Truffles are used in sauces, omelettes and numerous other recipes. The other local specialty of the Southwest is goose. Goose’s liver is used to make foie gras, which is a traditional Christmas and New Year dish in France. The cities of Toulouse, Castelnaudary, Carcassonne are renown for their Cassoulet, stew made of sausage and white beans. The region is also home to one of the oldest cheeses, Roquefort. It has been produced in the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon for centuries.
Lyon touts itself as the gastronomic capital of France. The city is home to several world renowned Grands Chefs including Paul Bocuse, Pierre Orsi, Léon de Lyon. Famous professional cooking schools like the Institut Vatel and Paul Bocuse School of Culinary Arts are based in Lyon. Streets are lined with a multitude of small family-run bistros called Bouchons Lyonnais, and these serve traditional Lyonaise food. Local specialities include Andouillette de Lyon (sausage made out of pork chitterlings and marinated with white wine), Quenelles (light dumpling made of fish), and Rosette de Lyon (dry sausage made from leg of pork). Lyon is also known for regional cheeses, such as Saint Marcellin, and locally made chocolates and candies, called Coussins de Lyon (marzipan sweets shaped and decorated like cushions).
Savoy features a traditional mountain cooking based on cheese and potatoes. Savoy’s cheese-board includes, among others, Tomme de Savoie, Beaufort, Reblochon and Emmental de Savoie. One of the authentic Savoyard dishes is Tartiflette, a gratin of potatoes with reblonchon cheese, onions and bacon bits. Two Savoyard dishes have popularity extended far beyond the Alps: Fondue, half emmental, half beaufort cheese melt with Savoy white wine in a special saucepan and Raclette, raclette cheese melt in a special grill and served with potatoes, delicatessen products and pickles.
Corsica produces excellent cheese, meats and deli products known for their singular flavour. It is an unspoiled island where pigs, goats and ewes are raised freely. Dishes are prepared with spices exclusively found in the Corsican scrub. Cheese is still made by shepherds using ancestral techniques. These factors, combined with a mild climate, produce unique and high-quality products. Many Corsican recipes are prepared with Bruccio, a fresh goat cheese that is only created here. It is used in omelettes, and with pastas, meats, fish or vegetables. Chestnuts are omnipresent in Corsican food. They are used in cakes, pies, donuts and custard tarts.
As with all cooking, French cooking is considered an art. And as with any art form, it has roots in the past, but remains in a constant state of evolution. French chefs are always striving to maintain high-quality standards, while also demonstrating creativity.
Marhaba Picks: Independent Restaurants and cafes offering French Cuisine in Doha
(in no particular order)
- Brioche Dorée, Gulf Mall | 4031 0641
- Eli France Cafe, Multiple locations | 4435 7111/222
- Fauchon Cafe, Salwa Road and Souq Najd | 4432 4888
- IDAM an Alain Ducasse Restaurant, Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) | 4422 4488
- Ladurée, Multiple locations | 6603 2793
- La Maison Martinez at JW Marriott Marquis City Center Doha | 4429 5000
- La Parisienne Doha at InterContinental Doha The City | 7021 8803
- Leau De Cafe, Tawar Mall | 4480 7857
- Lenotre, Multiple locations | 4455 2666
- Le Relais de l’Entrecote, The Pearl Qatar, Parcel 1 – Unit 41 | 4442 8118
- Le Train Bleu, Al Hazm Mall | 4443 4442
- Opus at Park Hyatt Doha (Qatari/French cuisine) | 4009 4330
- Paul Bakery and Restaurant, Multiple locations | 4413 5507
- Sel & Miel at The Ritz-Carlton, Doha | 5576 4278, selmieldoha.com
- The French Olive, Multiple locations | 4444 4777 (Barwa Al Sadd),
4488 8329 (The Pearl-Qatar)
- Yum Yum – K108 Hotel Doha, Al Ghanim Street | 4433 3000
Author: Sarah Mascarenhas
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