Lorraine, France – A Foodster’s Paradise

After three weeks of gallivanting through France, England, and Iceland (for about 15 hours), we’re finally working our way back into our daily grinds here in Brooklyn. We brought back plenty of French and English food-stuffs (a whole laundry basket’s worth), and perhaps we can trick our minds into thinking we’re still there.

The Lorraine region falls in the northeast quadrant of France, about 200 miles from Paris. Lorraine is a breathtaking area, not unlike New York State, with sprawling agricultural plains, lush mountain forests, and deep river valleys. Because Lorraine shares a boarder with Germany, its history and architecture carries a heavy German influence.

Landscape and aesthetics aside, the Lorraine region is a foodsters paradise. The area lays claim to the original recipes of some heavy-hitters in the food world, including quiche Lorraine, madeleines, and macarons. The natives of Lorraine are incredibly loyal to their Lorraine food heritage, and every town and city is sure to have a regional food specialty store bursting at the seams with Lorraine products from wine to jams to cheeses.

The city of Nancy in particular is famous for its bergamot and the original almond macaron. The Nancy macaron is a bit different from the colorful sandwich cookies that one usually associates with France. Tradition has it that two Nancy nuns created the cream-less Nancy macaron to fit their strict dietary habits. The result? A deeply honored chewy, almond-y cookie that is truly delicious. Despite the emphasis on the Nancy macaron, there was no shortage of the cream-filled cookies. Every patisserie carried the petite cookies in a heart-melting array of colors and flavors including lavender, pistachio, mirabelle, poppy (coquelicot), and lemon basil.

{Nancy macarons} {traditional macarons}

Another Lorraine specialty is the coveted mirabelle. The mirabelle is, quite simply, a tiny yellow plum, but its mysticism comes from the fact that about 80 percent of its global cultivation happens right in the Lorraine region. The season for fresh mirabelles is also unfortunately short, lasting for only about 2 weeks in August. As a result, the majority of the fruit is preserved as jams, wines, extracts, juices, soaps and the like, so the Lorraine natives can enjoy their sweet fruit year round. Of course I grabbed myself some mirabelle tea and extract, which I can’t wait to experiment with!

{fresh mirabelles, image courtesy of lonelilly.com}

A few other notable Lorraine goodies: local honey, outdoor markets, and of course, the Lorrainian’s love of backyard gardening.

{French beehives!} {honey, first of the season}


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