When we think of the great cuisines of the world, French is almost always at the top of everyone’s list. The techniques used in French cooking have been adopted by cooks in nearly every country, and the terminology transcends languages.
But even as we recognize French cuisine as one of the world’s greatest, the image that comes to mind when we’re asked to describe French food can be very different from one person to the next. Some people immediately think of haute cuisine, or ultra-fancy fine dining. Certainly, the exquisiteness of proper service is another aspect of French dining that has informed restaurants around the world.
But there’s also the more common French cuisine, what I like to refer to as country French. These are the “peasant dishes” that would be considered comfort foods. Coq au vin is a simple dish of chicken cooked in wine; boeuf Bourguignon is beef braised in burgundy wine; cassoulet brings chicken or duck, sausage, bacon and, of course, wine together. All very common dishes that might be cooked in any home in the French countryside. But doesn’t it sound haute to say them?
We have several fine French restaurants, both fine dining and countryfied, in Central Florida. Here are some of my favorites:
Le Coq au Vin: named for the dish, which happens to be one of its signature dishes, too. It’s so country French that it’s logo is a rooster saying “Bon appetit, y’all.”
Cafe de France: this little cafe even has a few sidewalk tables for that ultimate Parisian experience.
Chez Vincent: the former chef from Cafe de France, Vincent Gagliano, runs his own restaurant in Winter Park’s West Side, a blend of fine dining and country.
Venetian Room: There’s no mistaking the experience here; it’s haute cuisine at its best.
Le Chefs de France: It’s the restaurant at the France pavilion in Epcot, which turns a lot of people off. But it’s owned by two of the most famous chefs in the world -- Paul Bocuse and Roger Verge.
Paris Bistro: Tucked away off of Park Avenue, PB offers a sedate dining experience.