We just returned from our France trip and although mostly everyone in France speaks some English (and Spanish and German and Italian and it seems at least a bit of every language on the planet) once in a while you will find that one amazing restaurant where English is just not spoken.
This is where you can get into a little trouble. As intimidating as French menus may seem to you, a lot of the food served in France has been adapted in the US. For example; a croque monsieur is a hot ham and cheese sandwich. Not so scarry, right? Then again, you could end up with calf brain on your plate.
We’ve already given you a set of basic tips for eating in France and now here is a very (and I mean very basic list) of words and phrases that will make your trip just a little easier.
Carte: Menu, to aks for it, just say “La carte s’il vous plait”
Dessert: Well, dessert
Dîner: Dinner (easy enough so far)
Entrée: First course (the entrance to your meal – unlike the US where the entree is the main course)
Petit Déjeuner: “Little lunch” or breakfast
Plat Principale: Principal plate (main course)
Andouille/Andouillette: Sausage made from pork or veal tripe
Assiette de crudités: Raw vegetables with dressing (any time you see “assiette” it means a “plate of”.
Beurre: Butter, the French love butter. They put it on their sandwiches instead of mayonnaise for amazing results.
Bouillabaisse: Fish soup that originated in Marseille. The soup starts off with a boil and then goes onto a lower temperature. Absolutely delicious.
Bifteck (bleu/saignant/ à point/bien cuit): Steak (nearly raw/very rare/medium rare/well cooked)
Cassoulet: Stew, usually made with pork or lamb and beans, this originated in the south of France.
Cerveaux: Brains, usually from a calf. Delicious if you have the guts for it. Not so common in menus, but you will see it in Lyon.
Charcuterie: Cold meats
Choucroute: Sauerkraut with sausage and other prepared meats (Alsatian origin)
Confit de canard: Duck cooked in its own fat (usually served hot)
Coq au vin: Chicken in wine
Côte: Pork or lamb chop
Croque-monsieur: Hot ham and cheese sandwich (usually Emmental)
Croque-madame: Croque-monsieur with a fried egg
En croûte: In pastry
Entrecôte: Rib steak
Escargot: Cooked snails (usually in butter and garlic, but it can also be done in a wine sauce)
Foie gras de canard: Duck liver paté
Frites: French fries
Gigot d’agneau: Leg of lamb
Glaçe: Ice cream
Gratiné: Grilled with cheese on top (As in soup a l’oignon gratinée – or French onion soup)
Grenouille: Frog, usually as in Cuisses de Grenouille which are frog legs. Absolutely worth trying.
Haricots verts: Green beans
Lardon: Chopped bacon (you’ll often see it in salads, but pick some up and use it in omelets)
Moules: Mmmmmmussels (Moules frites: Mussels and Fries)
Pain: Bread (one of the best things about France is their bread, leave your fear of carbs behind and indulge)
Pommes de terre: Potatoes
Potage aux legumes: Vegetable soup
Poulet Rôti: Roast chicken (you will find this in fancy restaurants and corner shops all over France)
Salade Verte: Green salad
Saumon fumé: Smoked salmon
Soupe à l’oignon gratinée: Onion soup
Soupe du jour: Soup of the day
Steak tartare: Raw minced meat, marinated in wine, spiced with onion and herbs and sometimes served with a raw egg
Café au lait: Milky coffee
Café crème: Espresso with steamed milk
Café crème: Espresso with steamed milk
Café noir: Espresso
Carafe d’eau: Jug of tap water
Eau minerale (plate/gazeuse/pétillante): Mineral water (flat/sparkling/sparkling)
Jus de pomme: Apple juice
Jus d’orange: Orange juice
Kir: White wine with cassis or black currant syrup
Kir Royale: Champagne and cassis
Pastis: Anise-flavoured liqueur
Vin (rouge/blanc): Wine (red/white)
Pouvez-vous nous conseiller un bon restaurant?: Can you recommend a good restaurant?
Je voudrais réserver une table pour…personnes: I’d like to book a table for… people
…pour ce soir à dix-huit heures: for tonight at 18 hours (6pm). France uses military time.
Une table pour deux: A table for two, please
Avez-vous une carte en Anglais?: Do you have a menu in English?
Vous avez choisi?: Have you decided?
Qu’est-ce que vous voulez manger/boire?: What would you like to eat?
Est-elle faite avec des (crustacés/noix/milk)?: Is it made with (crustaceans/nuts/milk)?
Je prends la formule, s’il vous plait: I’d like the set menu, please
Je voudrais…: I would like…
Avec/Sans: With/Without (eg avec sucre: with sugar)
Un verre de vin rouge (blanc) s’il vous plait: A glass of red (white) wine, please.
L’addition, s’il vous plait: Can I please have the bill