French Cooking Class: How to Read a French Menu

December 17, 2020  |  By Liz SanFilippo Hall
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A charming French cafe during our France cooking vacations.Whether you’re eating out in a French bistro, cafe, or restaurant, navigating the menu can be a bit overwhelming as you’re presented with so many delicious options. While you’ll learn more about making a full French menu during a cooking class, such as with Chef Frederic in Paris, here are some tips on how to make sure you’re ordering what you think you are!

For starters, the French have a few different kinds of menus, other than la carte, in which items are ordered a la carte. For fixed priced menus that offer two or more pre-determined courses for fabulous prices, take a look a le menu or la formula. The wine menu is referred to as la carte des vins, and the tasting menu is une dégustation.

Tables are a restaurant during a France cooking vacation with The International Kitchen.Learn how to read an Italian menu.

Once you have the right menu in hand, it’s time to start ordering! Enjoy an apéritif, or drink before dinner, to stimulate your appetite, and then have a bite-sized amuse-bouche. These can range from the simple — such as brochette or samosas — to the more complex, as chefs use that one bite to explore new flavors and ideas before making them into a bigger dish.

See all our culinary vacations in France.

The entrance to a French restaurant during a culinary vacation in France with The International Kitchen.Next is your entrée. Don’t let the word confuse you; in France it means an appetizer or starter (the “entrance” into the meal, as it were). This part of the menu may include spreads, like rillette and tapenades, as well as breads, foie gras, and other small dishes. The main course is referred to as the plat principal; this is your meat or fish course.

Of course a meal in France wouldn’t be complete without fromage (cheese) as well as dessert with a café (coffee) or a digestif (after-dinner drink). While aperitifs help stimulate the appetite at the beginning of a meal, the digestif is a great way to end, as it helps you digest your wonderful 4-hour meal!

The menu board at a restaurant during a culinary vacation in France.Bon appétit!

Learn more about dining out and making a classic French meal with our cooking vacation A Parisien Rendez-Vous as well as a number of one-day classes and cooking vacations.

By Liz Hall

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