France // The north //

Regional food and drink

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French Flanders has one of northern France’s richest regional cuisines. Especially on the coast, the seafood – oysters, shrimps, scallops and fish, and above all, sole and turbot – are outstanding, while in Lille moules-frites are appreciated every bit as much as in neighbouring Belgium. Here, too, beer is the favourite drink, with pale and brown Pelforth the local brew. Traditional estaminets or brasseries also serve a range of dishes cooked in beer, most famously carbonnade flamande, a kind of beef stew; rabbit, chicken, game and fish may also be prepared à la bière. Other pot–cooked dishes include hochepot (a meaty broth), waterzooi (chicken in a creamy sauce) and potjevlesch (white meats in a rich sauce). In addition to boulette d’Avesnes, the Flemish cheese par excellence is the strong-flavoured maroilles, used to make flamiche, a kind of open tart of cheese pastry also made with leeks (aux poireaux). For the sweet-toothed, crêpes à la cassonade (pancakes with muscovado sugar) are often on menus, but waffles (gaufres) are the local speciality and come in two basic varieties: the thick honeycomb type served with sugar or cream, or the wafer-like biscuit filled with jam or syrup. Game looms large on menus in the Ardennes, with pâté d’Ardennes being the most famous dish and juniper berries used to flavour food à l’Ardennaise.

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