Disclaimer: there is more to see in Lyon besides food.
vocabulaire quotidien: lèche-vitrine – literally “window licking”, this is the act of gazing at the delicious food displayed in shops, but not necessarily buying anything; Lyon is the perfect city for lèche-vitrine since it is known as one of the gastronomical centers of the world. This is a result of both the rich culture and history of the city and the number of Michelin Star restaurants in proportion to the size of the city. I spent the past two days in Lyon my family, and if there’s one thing we do best it is that we truly know how to taste a city.
Our first dive into Lyonnais cuisine was a cozy bouchon in Vieux Lyon, the old city of Lyon dating back to the middle ages. The word bouchon can literally be translated into English as the cork of a wine bottle, but in terms of restaurants a bouchon is a typical Lyonnais restaurant, which, unfortunately for me, serves a lot of meat.
For our next venture, we ate dinner at Leon de Lyon, a true French restaurant from the menu and décor all the way down to the crisp white aprons and perfect posture of the servers. Since I couldn’t taste the meat dishes, I do feel as if I missed out to some degree on the experience of this restaurant so I inquired into a reliable source (my father), who spent the first half of his life in Europe, to share his opinion of Leon de Lyon: “incredible, exactly what I expected form the culinary capital of France, and don’t forget to mention the museum-like visit to the toilets.” He’s definitely right about the last part! The walls are lined with paintings and photos of famous people, especially showing off that the restaurant hosted nine heads of state in 1996. Overall, I loved the restaurant despite my vegetarianism, and the Christmas/winter decorations added a certain charm that’s hard to find elsewhere.
We woke up Tuesday with empty bellies, ready to take on a new day of aromas, spices, and flavors. Our lunch destination was Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. Paul Bocuse is an extremely successful and well-known French chef from Lyon, who has earned himself Michelin Stars and owns restaurants throughout the world, and as a result has actually increased the reputation of Lyon as a city of culinary triumph. These “halls” are spread out in a large building, each hall catering to a specific food – fromagerie, charcuterie, patisserie, bouchon, quenelle, etc. We ate quenelle, an oval shaped mixture of fish or meat, with egg and breadcrumbs and usually poached, but can also be grilled, and served with a sauce. You’d be excited to know that they offered quenelle nature, which is vegetarian and made from eggs and grains instead of fish or meat, and I was very content to partake in the experience of tasting true Lyonnais cuisine.
Les Halles de Lyon is the perfect place for lèche-vitrine because there is so much food to see and here in France, the process of displaying food is an art so not only does the food look incredible in itself, but also the way that it is showcased makes lèche-vitrine a veritable hobby. We obviously bought a strong, runny cheese because how could the Freudmans ever miss an opportunity to eat French cheese, especially in France? And we tasted a tarte aux pralines, a little rose tart, special to this region.
Also noteworthy: check out the Bernachon chocolate shop, one of the best in Lyon!
Lastly, there exists a unique candy in Lyon called Le Coussin de Lyon, made from almonds and in the shape of tiny green silk cushions, by the company Voisin. While I don’t love these, I do think that while in Lyon, it’s a must to eat at least one.
Now it’s time I close my computer and turn my attention to the Swiss countryside passing outside my train window…I’m en route to Geneva!