How to Eat In Style: Culinary Gems from the Past for the Present

On a recent summer excursion to France, I was fortunate to come across many different culinary hideaways. Though the trip had begun as a chance to get some good creative writing done and to marvel at the vast French landscapes, this trip quickly turned its focus onto food. The group I was travelling with was led by a native of the Bordeaux countryside. With his help, there was no shortage of fine dining to be found in the Côte-d’Or of France. With open minds and empty bellies, our group ventured to some of the local eateries which are famed for the food as well as documented historical ties to some very notable names.

France is notorious as being home to some of the biggest names in popular culture for centuries; from kings and queens, to notable writers, to movie stars, France has fed all walks of humanity. Though this history is not always out in the open, each of the French locals I had the pleasure of meeting were willing to speak about the specific time someone famous ate at their café, or any of the other multitudes of histories that are tucked away in the French landscapes. France is a country of many things, but most importantly it is a country of food and of gossip.

One of the most notable places we ate while in France was called Les Deux Magots, better known by its reputation as Ernest Hemingway’s favourite Parisian café. Located in the centre of Paris, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of Parisian life and culture, this little café had a booming personality. Along with the simple French dishes, this café boasts dishes named after Hemingway and all of his famous literature. The key to a good time at the café is to ask for the “chocolat chaud” (the hot chocolate) which was known to be one of Hemingway’s favourites while he wrote there in the 1920s. This café is visited more than many other cafés in Paris, not only for its delectable food but for the publicity that links Hemingway as a patron during his early career in the jazz age. Rightly honoured, this is definitely a café worth checking out with a good novel in tow.

Similarly, in the outskirts of Paris lies one of the oldest working restaurants remaining in Europe. This small restaurant, Le Procope, was at one point in time the favourite dining spot of France’s most notorious royal family, King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Before it was socially acceptable to eat out in public, many of the royal families would eat out in secret to get an experience of the culture of their city. This kind of experience would sometimes be otherwise impossible for people of such high social status. Louis the XVI and Marie Antoinette would meet at this small French restaurant to get informed on the cities lesser known facts and to stay in contact with their people. Some 400 years later, this famous restaurant holds some of the royal families possessions as well as some of the most amazing French onion soup one has ever tasted. Though notable for its connection with the French nobility, this quaint spot is definitely a destination for a marvelous dining experience with an extensive wine list fit for a king.

France is a vast country which holds an amassed quantity of amazing restaurants for every kind of appetite. What gives France its culinary edge is the amount of history steeped into each establishment which has been open in most cases for hundreds of years. This French excursion allowed me to enjoy some of the most decadent meals I have ever had while making me feel like royalty for enjoying them in such venues. The aforementioned restaurants among so many others offer the experience of fine dining as well as a quick look into the past. Quite a lot to sink your teeth into if you ask me!


Shannon McLaughlin is the summer edition’s Creative Director for On the Danforth Magazine. In her off time, she enjoys reading books, writing fiction, cooking Italian comfort foods, travelling anywhere with history and playing fetch with her extremely cute and remarkably sly Persian cat, Feona. Follow some of her more traceable quirks and jokes on Twitter here

One Comment

  • Laurie

    Ohhh, this article makes me want to run right back to France and experience the places I missed out on first time around! Food, books, adventure…..recipe for happy memories!

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