Why Lyon is the gastronomy center of France
Study the geography of Lyon, in south central France equally distant from Marseilles and Paris, and it’s easy to understand why many people consider it the country’s food capital.
It lies at the confluence at the Rhone and Saône rivers, just north of the growing regions of Mediterranean-influenced Provence and east of the Alps. The exquisite chickens of Bresse are to the north while extraordinary wine regions of Rhone and Beaujolais surround it. The best ingredients in the world are not only nearby but easily accessible. And since good, fresh ingredients are paramount to any chef worth his or her salt, it comes as no surprise to learn that 14 Lyon area restaurants have received Michelin stars for 2015.
I ate a cock’s comb as part of a luncheon meal framed around sweetbreads and fish in the two-star Brasserie des Confluences restaurant operated at the new Musee des Confluences by chefs Guy Lassausaie and Jean Paul Pignol. Its taste can best be described as lemony and it was rather gelatinous. Its English description on the menu describes it as Bourgeoise of puff pastry shells, Nantua’s sauce, sweet breads, crayfish, poultry, kidney and cockscomb. The dish was truly delicious although my tablemates were not as excited about it as I was.
Chef Paul Bocuse, world guru of food, has long favored Lyon and his brasseries include those that democratize fine dining. Paul Bocuse has been awarded three stars, Michelin’s highest honor.
The historic Les Halles Paul Bocuse, the covered market in Lyon’s Part-Dieu neighborhood, is where he regularly shops. Fifty-six purveyors of everything from the freshest seafood to truffles, caviar and even horse have market stalls here. Ten small restaurants and bars serve oysters and champagne breakfasts. Here you’ll also find the renowned “Mere Richard” for cheeses, “Sibelia”for cooked meats and all sorts of regional specialties. It’s at 102 Cours Lafayette in Lyon.
A bouchon is a typical Lyonnaise eatery, informal and specializing in regional cuisines and wines. Translating roughly as “tavern,” it’s a gathering place for groups of friends and families and bouchons are found throughout Lyon. Daniel et Denise bouchon is one of the best and despite being crowded and noisy, it dishes up a delicious Lyon experience. Table wines are privately labeled Beaujolais and Cotes du Rhones.
Chef Joseph Viola took me into the kitchen where his award winning pâté en croûte aux ris de veau was being plated. That translates as veal sweetbreads in pastry crust and it’s tastier than it sounds. Paul Bocuse claims it is the best in Lyon.