If you’re planning a culinary journey, do you choose an elegant bistro or a luxury restaurant? Street food stalls or patisseries? While Paris and Palermo have quite different cuisines, they both have plenty of taste sensations for curious foodies. Here are some of the specialities you won’t want to miss on your travels.
An atmospheric bistro or a picnic with an Eiffel Tower view?
Paris is synonymous with streetside dining at atmospheric bistros but also with picnic baskets and blankets in the public parks around the Eiffel Tower and luxurious, Michelin-starred restaurants. Not forgetting its many street stalls serving delicious crepes, luxurious patissiers bursting with multi-colored macarons, crusty baguettes, and buttery croissants. No wonder so many associations with France are food-related – the French are famous for their good taste, in both fashion and dining!
The best dishes in Paris
So what are the French capital’s must-try dishes? Restaurants and bistros dish up a classic of French cuisine, onion soup. Made with white onions, garlic and a lean, tasty broth, La soupe à l’oignon is served with baguette croutons and plenty of Gruyère cheese. It is said that it was invented by Louis XIV, and Napoleon and Josephine enjoyed it in Le Grand Vefour, which operates to this day! Another restaurant worth a recommendation is the trendy Bistrot des Vosges, which has a classically French flavour. Another truly Parisians dish is snails, known as escargot. They come in a variety of versions, however a popular favourite is Burgundy snails baked with butter and herbs. You can taste them at L’Escargot Montorgueil, where snails have been served for almost 200 years.
No trip to Paris is complete without sampling fried frog’s legs (cuisses de grenouilles) and foie gras, which is a pâté made of rich goose or duck liver. While dining in the city of love, it is also worth visiting restaurants serving truffles, such as Le Maison de la Truffe as Parisians love these expensive, aromatic and incredibly tasty mushrooms.
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Typical Parisian meat dishes include steak with chips and braised duck breasts, for instance, with prunes and candied apples, known as margets de canard aux pruneaux confits et pommes. As a snack, you will, of course, be served cheese. You can sample up to 300 kinds of cheese and it is typically served between the main course and dessert. Mussels (moules), oysters (huitres) and raw meat in the form of steak tartare are also very well-liked.
Paris: sweet or savoury?
While dining is almost a celebration in Paris, it’s also common to eat on the go in the morning. What can you grab and go when sightseeing? If it’s early then visit a bakery, such as La Maison d’Isabelle, and try a croissant made from real butter. It is a calorie bomb and a feast for the palate! On almost every corner you will also find outlets with crêpes, which are thin pancakes with various toppings. Do you prefer something sweeter ? Try brioche buns with chocolate. If you have a little more time to spare then drop in for a coffee at one of Paris’ many bistros – be sure to add a pinch of salt. Add profiteroles to your set; these delicate dough balls are filled with vanilla filling and ice cream, or perhaps opt for a tarte aux fraises – a strawberry tart, or some almond flour macarons. You can find the very best ones in the Pierre Hermé and Ladurée patisseries. In autumn and winter, try the thick hot chocolate known as chocolat chaud.
Palermo: local restaurant or street food with sea views?
When you think of Palermo, situated 2,300 kilometers away from Paris, a completely different association pops up in your head. Street vendors with the aromas of frying or grilling wafting around them, small eateries with red-and-white checked tablecloths, joyful groups of food lovers in illuminated squares by night, stalls brimming with vegetables, fruit and fish in abundance… Sicilians love local cuisine, som much so that you can still sample dishes that first originated in the Middle Ages here! What’s more, they really love to have fun, which encompasses convivial dining with plenty of heated discussions.
Surprising Sicilian street food
Palermo can be safely described as the capital of street food. Food lovers preparing for a trip to Sicily’s capital write meticulous notes – not only with the best restaurants’ addresses, but withspecific squares, streets, bazaars and streets that sell the best local dishes . There, among the bustle, you can hear the sounds of Sicily’s lip-smacking cuisine. So, which specialties should you try? Dishes prepared from offal and ingredients that are considered unwanted in other cuisines feature prominently in Palermo. Trystigghiola, consisting of lamb intestines wrapped around a skewer, seasoned with parsley, lemon and salt, and also pane con la milza, also called pani ca meusa, which is roasted pieces of calf spleen, lungs and trachea. Fritolla, which is fried pieces of meat, cartilage and veal fat, is also tasty.
Vegetarians will be tempted by the panelle, chickpea flour pancakes, or crocchè – fried potato croquettes. When served in a bun, they are known as mafalda. The Sicily’s gold standard of street food is arancino – deep-fried rice balls stuffed with tomato sauce, meat and peas, or just cheese or meat. You can also buy traditional pezzi di rosticceria on almost every street corner.
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These baked rolls of various types include calzone with ham and mozzarella, pizzotto with mozzarella, ham and tomato sauce and spiedino with minced meat. Do you like pizza? Try sfincione – a Sicilian version of pizza that comes on a thick, spongy dough base with cheese, herbs and often sardines. We recommend Mercato Ballarò and Vucciria in Piazza Caracciolo for the best examples.
Palermo: sweet or savoury?
Prefer an atmospheric restaurant? There are plenty here! Choose places that serve authentic Sicilian dishes cooked according to old recipes, such as Osteria Ballarò or La Loggia Cantina & Cucina. And what to look for on the menu? Pasta con le sarde, i.e. pasta with sardines, is a classic. This dish is seasoned in the same way as the Arab inhabitants of Sicily once did, with wild fennel, pinenuts, raisins, roasted almonds and saffron. Also popular is pasta alla Norma, with tomatoes, aubergine and ricotta. Don’t forget the traditional orange salad with parsley, olives and olive oil! Also try sarde a beccafico, which are sardines stuffed with breadcrumbs, pine nuts and raisins. For dessert, grab the cannolo – these crispy tubes are stuffed with ricotta cream, or a siciliana cassata with ricotta, marzipan and candied fruit – we love the ones at Cafè Lucà. Enjoy a coffee at Pasticceria Cappello, where you can also order a setteveli torta, which has as many as seven layers of chocolate and hazelnuts. When it’s really hot, you can cool down with a fruit, pistachio, coffee or almond granita.
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For Europe’s finest restaurants, cafes and street food, it’s time to plan a delicious culinary adventure to Paris or Palermo.