Sourcing local produce and yacht provisions in France
Last updated: 30/04/2018
France takes its food very seriously: From gathering and preparing provisions to cooking and the excitement of sitting down and tucking in, food is a huge part of the country’s cultural identity – so much so that UNESCO declared French cuisine as ‘World Intangible Heritage’ in 2010.
While France is known for its delicious breads, wines and cheeses, food varies greatly from city to city and region to region – it’s heaven for foodies!
Here we cover some of the main culinary specialities across France and where to pick up the best provisions for the yacht on the French Riviera.
Local specialities and cuisine in France
French cuisine is renowned for its finesse and mastery of basic cooking techniques. Its dishes are often perceived to be painfully complex, but most just require a little time, patience and the best ingredients to get right.
Meals across the country are generally created with the same objective in mind: To enhance the flavours of locally sourced ingredients. Many meals simply combine fresh meat or fish with locally picked vegetables. Ingredients are usually chosen on how the flavours complement each other, meaning there’s almost a culinary logic to every speciality dish that emanates from France.
One such signature is Coq au vin, a dish native to the Burgundy region, which typically pairs chicken braised with red wine, mushrooms, onion, salt pork, garlic and sometimes brandy. It has become famous internationally because it embodies what French gastronomy is all about ¬– combining meats and vegetables to produce healthy and fulfilling meals.
That theme continues with Cassoulet, another speciality that transcends French borders. Originating from the South of France, Cassoulet is a casserole of white beans, meats and vegetables; thought of as the perfect comfort food. It’s easy to prepare and never fails to satisfy.
France, of course, is also recognised for its fine dining, and the duck dish Confit de Canard is among the finest anywhere in the country. The meat is specially prepared using an centuries-old slow-cook process, where the duck is marinated in salt, garlic and thyme for anywhere up to 36 hours before being slow-cooked in its own fat at a low temperature. It’s traditionally served with confit-roasted potatoes and a side serving of garlic and salad.
In terms of dessert, France is the birthplace of many sweet treats. One of the all-time classics is Tarte Tatin, a unique take on the traditional apple pie. Named after the proprietors of the hotel where it was created, Tarte Tatin is an upside-down pastry where apples are caramelised in butter and sugar before being baked. It can be made with either short crust or puff pastry, or even with an altogether different fruit.
Cheese, breads and wines
Before dessert – or even in place on occasion – come the foods France is best known for worldwide: Bread, cheese and wine. Served as a separate course after the main to ensure maximum enjoyment, these foodstuffs epitomise fresh French provisions with their intense flavours and textures.
The right combination leads to each component tasting even nicer than it does alone and, in turn, creates some interesting fusions.
In France, le fromage (cheese) is classified in four categories: Soft, semi-soft, hard and bleu. Their flavours are described as mild, medium, strong or bold.
Among the most popular varieties is Camembert, a soft cheese, while Brie, Roquefort and Boursin are also widely heralded in homes and restaurants across the country. Traditionally there are between 350 and 450 distinct types, although a selection of these are only readily consumed in the regions in which they are produced.
The range of breads in France is equally broad. Over time some French varieties have been embraced in other countries as the bread of choice, but authentic Baguette, Brioche, Ficelle and Pain de champagne can of course only be found here in French boulangeries.
France is littered with vineyards across its many regions, so there's never a lack of choice when it comes to selecting a wine to accompany your cheese and bread. Whilst there are exceptions to the rule, northern vineyards are known for their white wines and southern vineyards, from Burgundy southwards, for their reds.
Among the most popular reds is Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape variety particularly prominent in wines from Bordeaux. It pairs particularly well with firm and hard cheese. Zinfandel is also a fashionable red, but in contrast to the Cabernet Sauvignon, it couples nicely with milder, stronger cheese.
In terms of whites, a number pair well with salty, hard cheese, while others like Chardonnay are ideal accompaniments for softer cheeses.
A specialist wine/cheese stockist will be able to offer a clearer insight into the best combinations.
Seasonal fruit and vegetables
With its Mediterranean climate, fruits and vegetables are plentiful and delicious in the South of France. Gourmet Deliveries, one of the leading yacht suppliers on the French Riviera, recommends tomatoes, melons, figs and radish and asparagus to be among the best and most versatile fruits and vegetables the South of France has to offer:
Tomatoes: Tomatoes are delicious eaten on their own and can also be used in numerous recipes, with a subtle hint of basil. Tomatoes are grown in abundance in the South of France and they taste particularly sweet having been ripened under the Mediterranean sun.
Melons: Like tomatoes, melons from the South of France are also really sweet and juicy. It can be a healthy breakfast option or a component of a picnic lunch, maybe alongside a tasty meat.
Figs: Figs are grown in high numbers on the trees that adorn the French countryside and taste great. They can be used as ingredients in both sweet and savoury dishes, or as a snack during the day.
Radish: Grown in most greenhouses on the Cote d’Azur, radish is a popular vegetable ingredient in France. Interestingly the French also like to eat radish on its own with butter – give it a try!
Asparagus: In early summer, one of the most delicious vegetables grown locally is asparagus. Similarly to radish, the French enjoy eating it alone with a dab of butter, or alongside a poached egg.
Other local favourites include apricots, cherries, strawberries, peaches and green beans.
Sourcing provisions in the South of France
1. Local provisioning companies
There’s no shortage of local provisioning companies that can source and deliver wine and produce to visiting yachts, with many also able to serve Monaco and beyond.
Le Coin des Chefs, Gourmet Deliveries, Riviera Gourmet, Turnaround, Patisserie Riviera are all based in France, while Maison del Gusto is situated in Monaco and can also deliver to French ports. 1862 Wines & Spirits in Cannes is one of the region’s great wine and spirits suppliers.
These businesses pride themselves on sourcing the finest products and offering them at great prices, developing strong relationships with the chefs they work with in the process. The trust and reliability built up through these relationships ensures visiting yachts always receive the best service possible.
2. Local shops and suppliers
France is well known for its wealth of independent businesses and colourful fresh-food.
For speciality produce from region to region, the best port of call is always the expert local businesses; fromagers for cheese, boulangeries for bread and cavistes for wine. Goods may be more expensive in comparison to supermarkets, but the range is a lot more extensive and the quality noticeably higher.
If time is an issue, there are a number of good supermarkets and hypermarkets across the region. Auchan is a well-stocked hypermarchè that makes a conscious effort to keep food fresh for as long as possible. It has a strong variety of fresh fish and vegetables, and a particularly large cheese counter. There are branches in Nice, Cannes, La Seyne Sur Mer, Marseille and Sète to name but a few.
Carrefour is known to be a good source of organic produce and has stores across the country, including a branch in Antibes, while Leader Price is considered the best of the cheaper supermarkets for those on a budget.
There are also a number of gourmet and organic-specific food suppliers across the South of France, found in the main shopping districts of each town. These are worth visiting in search of particular varieties that aren’t commonly found in supermarkets.
3. Local food markets and events
Food markets (le marché) are a big part of French culture, with many towns and villages hosting at least one market every week. Even in the busy capital city of Paris, food markets can be found in every district, underlining the hunger among locals and tourists to buy fresh local produce.
Some of the most popular market destinations in the South of France include:
Antibes is home to a famous covered food market, in Cours Massena, which offers a mix of fresh food and vegetables, cheeses, olives and olive oil products. The outer stalls are for professional growers and traders, whilst running down the middle are people with large gardens or smallholdings. It’s a daily market from June 1st to September 1st, 6:00am to 1:00pm. In the other months it’s open daily excluding Mondays.
There are three main covered food markets in Cannes, at Forville, Gambetta and La Bocca. A number of small stalls fill the spaces, offering fresh fish, fruit, vegetables, chicken, herbs, spices and dairy products. Like Antibes’ markets, they’re open every day from 7:00am to 1:00pm. They’re also closed on Mondays during the winter months.
Dubbed the Queen of the Mediterranean, Nice is home to a large number of markets. The Cours Saleya fruit and vegetable market is considered one of the great French events, so much so the National Council for the Culinary Arts has labelled it a ‘special market’ as a sign of quality. It’s open daily except Mondays, 6:00am to 1:00pm.
St Tropez is slightly different in that its fruit and vegetable market, situated on the Place des Lices, is only open on Tuesdays and Saturdays, 8:00am to 1:00pm.
France also has many foires, or fairs. These are much bigger markets often taking place once or twice a year, usually on the local saint’s day. Boasting an eclectic and vibrant array of traders, there are normally several fruit and vegetable sellers at each foire, as well as suppliers of other organic produce.
Elsewhere, a number of unique events take place across the country each year to give an insight into the foods and tastes of particular locations.
Menton Lemon Festival is one such example; an eye-catching annual event that attracts over 230,000 visitors. Typically held between February and March, up to 300 professionals collaborate to create stunning displays and sculptures out of citrus fruits. It is not uncommon for 145 tonnes of oranges and lemons to be used every year!