The Via Francigena, the Camino to Rome starting in Canterbury, crosses three of France’s regions: the North, Champagne Ardenne and Franche Comté. The best way to discover French culture is by tasting the traditional dishes of each of its many regions. And what best way to do it than while walking the Via Francigena across France? Your journey is more than a pilgrimage, it’s a truly culinary and life experience.
North of France Cuisine
You will reach France in Calais, where you will start your French tasting tour. The North of France covers a large variety of specialities with different influences, for example English and Flemish. Have a bite of the most common dishes with their unfamiliar but funny names such as the Potjevleesch Meat Stew, which is basically a white meat terrine in aspic; the Waterzooi, a rich fish stew made with carrots, potatoes, herbs and leeks, eggs, cream and butter, or even the Kippenwaterzooi, made with chicken, in particular the local and renowned Poulet de Licques. Don’t be afraid to taste the Maroille cheese, known as the ‘Little Stinker’ for its strong smell but really tasty once it is cooked. Try and relish the Tarte au Maroilles (Maroilles cheese tart), you won’t be disappointed .
Likewise, the region is well-known for its large production of beers, which is usually used as a component to this hearty local cuisine. For example the traditional French pot-au-feu is known as Carbonnade à la Flamande in Nord-Pas-de-Calais and the meat is cooked gently in beer, rather than wine and even one of the local cheeses, Tomme de Cambrai is washed with beer. Close to the coastal line, the region is also famous for its delicious seafood dishes, part of the typical cuisine as well.
Champagne Ardenne Food
Further along on your route you will arrive in the Champagne Ardenne region of the Via Francigena, mostly known for its delicate wine champagnes but not only for that. This part of France provides a variety of delightful classic meals that your palate will remember for a long time. You couldn’t miss the popular white sausage (‘boudin blanc’ in French) originally made in the little town of Rethel, where you could appreciate the how-know of the French butchers by relishing the fine texture of the sausage. As well, the region is proud of its ‘Andouillette’ of Troyes. This traditional family meal made with pork products, dating back to the Middle ages, is the best authentic dish to experience the Champagne Ardenne gastronomy.
For a bit of sweetness, try the playful and flavourful Pink Biscuit of Reims, a well-known cookie who is considered to be the perfect accompaniment for a glass of Champagne or the local wine. The biscuit has a distinguished flavour and texture given to it by a natural colouring component called cochineal. Likewise it has a crunchy consistency thanks to its double baked dough. The biscuit of Reims is the main base for making the famous and only one ‘Charlotte cake’.
The last part of the Via Francigena in France is the Franche Comté region when you are heading down to Besancon. The regional cuisine is usually defined as warm and rustic where cheese is the king of main dishes especially when it’s about Raclette or Fondue. Those are common friendly meals to share with your family and friends set up on a large table, where many plates of charcuterie (cold meats) and cheeses are all over with the raclette machine or fondue pot placed in the middle.
Comté cheese is one of the popular cheeses that you will find in this area among others, although each are as delicious and outstanding as the previous ones. It all depends on which kind of flavours you are looking for. Besides, honey is an absolute must-try product in this region, so if you are a fan don’t hesitate to taste it on a slice of brioche bread or even in a tea. You will definitely be satisfied by this generous and peculiar gastronomy, especially after a long day walking.
*If you would like more information and to book your walking holiday on the Via Francigena, Camino to Rome, please contact our travel specialists.