It’s officially Day 2 of my French Gourmet Trip and Day 1 finished out STRONG. I took a walking city of Vieux Lyon (the old city), experienced the B.I.G. (no relation to anyone Notorious — it’s actually the biennale international du goût, the world’s largest food festival that takes place specifically in a tunnel), and ate dinner in an authentic French bouchon helmed by chef Joseph Viola, named a Master Chef of France in 2010. As every single writing teacher I’ve ever had says, it’s better to show you than to tell you, so follow me on this photo tour of my first full day in France. Allez!
The children of France refuse to play on anything except Aladdin-themed carnival rides. This wasn’t even part of a carnival. It was just plunked down in the middle of a square and tiny French kids were yelling “I CAN SHOW YOU THE WORLD!” They did not deliver on their promise.
It says “Figues,” but make no mistake, those are *not* figs. These sausages were at a market along the Saonne and I badly wanted to buy one for lunch. I had searched for an hour for a place to change my dollars into euros, but to no avail (hence the credit card minimum enforced at the cheese shop). As such, I was forced to admire the wares without purchasing.
Take forty degree weather, add in the largest pedestrian tunnel in France (and maybe the world?), throw in a bunch of food booths spaced very far apart and you have the biennale international du goût. Basically, walk a mile-long tunnel and buy little things to eat along the way. Below, you’ll see a photo of the “world’s largest cheese plate,” which was apparently being verified by the Guinness Book of Records. You couldn’t eat the cheese. It wasn’t on a plate. I don’t know what separates this from a cheese shop, except that it was in a tunnel. In any case, I wanted to jump in and take some cheese. I resisted the urge.
This is Joseph Viola, the chef at one of Lyon’s very famous traditional bouchons Daniel et Denise. What’s a bouchon? It’s kind of like a tavern. They used to cater to the working men of Lyon who needed a drink and a meal after long hours at the silk factories, but now they’re the standard-bearers of traditional Lyonnaise cuisine. In 2010, Viola was named Maître Cuisinier de France, an incredible honor that makes him a master chef of France. You can tell because it’s written on his jacket and his collar is fashionably outfitted in the colors of the French flag. He’s also designated as master of those awesome glasses.
The most famous dish of Chef Viola is pâté en croûte, a very traditional pate of roughly six thousand different meats and foie gras. Viola is such a master that his pâté en croûte was named best in the world at the 2009 World Pâté en Croûte Championships, which are apparently a thing.
For the main course, we had two of the most famous dishes of Lyon: Quenelle and saucisson Lyonnaise (also known as cervelas). The quenelle is similar to a steamed fish mousse. If you know what gefilte fish is, this is like a much more refined version of that. It was served in an orange sauce and I never quite figured out what it was. It had crayfish in it.
The saucisson Lyonnaise was an intensely flavorful boiled sausage. I loved it. Those little black strands on top? Those are truffles. Mic drop.
Did somebody say side dishes? Oh. Sorry. That was my new Hungarian friend Andras. He said “Szaj dishes” which means mouth dishes. I don’t know why he said that. On the left is a plate of macaroni in a super heavy cream sauce. On the right are fried circles of potatoes. They call them “French fries.”