If you want to be a confident restaurant patron (and not just some clueless wannabe tourist) when dining out in France, this is the card for you!
I'll teach you all the vocab you need to navigate the sometimes confusing world of French food. And soon I hope to make a companion card, Dining Out Customs in France. I'll link back here when I do :)
So first, a little introduction. If I had to choose my favorite thing about living in France, it would definitely be... drumroll, please....
French food is simply amazing. Buttery croissants, chocolate crêpes with whipped cream on top, juicy roasted duck, baguettes on baguettes on baguettes... and the CHEESE. Oh god, the cheese. It's indescribably delicious, all of it.
And sadly, a lot of it you can't really find or replicate in the states. Not easily, at least. So while you're in France, you must, must, must make the most of your meals there. And then share lots of photos with us so we can all drool and be jealous :)
First, let's start with the courses. This is usually a little tricky for foreigners, due to a sneaky false cognate. When eating out in France, be prepared to eat the following courses, in this order:
appetizer – l'entrée
main course – le plat principal
dessert – le dessert
Don't get "entrée" confused with "plat principal"!!! In English, we say entrée to mean main course, but that's not true for French. Also, sometimes before dessert (or in place of it), the French eat a cheese course (le fromage). This is more of a fancy or special occasion course, though.
And then there are the drinks.
apéritif – a drink (typically alcoholic) served before the meal
digestif – a drink (also typically alcoholic) served after the meal
These are pretty big in France, particularly when you go out with friends. It's nice to start the meal off with a little apéritif :) it makes things more fun and festive.
When it comes to beverages, there's a lot of wonderful things to drink in France.
un sirop ("see-roh") – water mixed with a fruit-flavored syrup, like grenadine
un diabolo – sparkling water mixed with fruit-flavored syrup (It's like a homemade soda. The best is diabolo menthe – it's like green peppermint soda!)
un coca – Coca-Cola
l'eau – water
l'eau gazeuse/pétillante – sparkling water
l'eau plate – flat water (no bubbles)
le lait – milk
un café – coffee
un café allongé – a large coffee, American-style
un espresso – a small Italian-style espresso coffee
le jus – juice
le vin rouge – red wine
le vin blanc – white wine
le rosé – rosé wine
la bière – beer
le cidre – cider
With ice – avec des glaçons ("ah-veck day gla-sohns")
There are three easy ways of beginning your food or drink order in French. Just use any one of the phrases below. Add the menu item you'd like, and voilà!
Je prend... – I'll have...
Je voudrais... – I would like...
J'aimerais... – I would like...
Add please to the end, and you'll be extra-polite :) The French LOVE politeness!
s'il vous plaît ("see voo play") – please
Example: Je prend un cappuccino, s'il vous plaît. – I'll have a cappuccino, please.
When Ordering Meat
If you order a steak, or sometimes with a burger as well, the waiter might ask you how'd you like it cooked. You can respond:
saignant – rare
à point – medium
bien cuit ("beeyan kwee") – well done
Here are a couple words describing how something tastes.
sucré – sweet
salé – salty
épicé – spicy
acide – sour
C'est épicé? ("say ep-ee-say?") – Is it spicy?
Like us, the French eat three square meals a day. They are:
le petit déjeuner – breakfast
le déjeuner or le repas de midi – lunch
le dîner – dinner
But in the afternoon, many French people like to take a little break. They might have a coffee and a pastry, or something sweet (a sucrerie) or even a glass of beer. A snack or light meal is often called une pause.
So in France you'll probably see advertisements for "une pause gourmande" (a gourmet break) or "une pause café" (a coffee break). And now you'll know what they mean :)
Where is there a good restaurant? – Où y-a-t-il un bon restaurant?
A table for two, please. – Une table pour deux, s’il vous plaît.
The wine list, please. – La carte des vins, s’il vous plaît.
A pitcher of water, please. – Un carafe d'eau, s'il vous plaît.
Do you have any vegetarian dishes? – Avez-vous des plats végétariens?
The check, please. – L’addition, s’il vous plaît.
If you're not sure how to pronounce these phrases, almost all of them are on this list by Fodor's Travel Guides, which has excellent audio pronunciations! Just find the phrase and click on it to hear how it's said. And if you have any other questions, you can always comment or message me :)
If you're trying to learn/teach yourself French, I'd love to hear how your journey is going! I'm also taking requests for cards on any type of French phrases or vocabulary (or even grammar!) that you would like to learn.
I learned French in just under 4 years, so I've been there too :) and I definitely have some good tips for language learning. Let's learn French together – and have fun!! :D
Looking forward to hearing from you guys! ^.^