Salads have come a long ways in Paris. Not so many years ago, you could walk into a restaurant, order ‘just a salad’ and the waiter would give you a look of contempt. Maybe we can thank the leafy diets of top models, but for whatever the reason, it’s easy to find plenty of full-meal salads on Paris’s restaurant menus these days. The salads have gotten bigger – and in some cases can be equal-to or even more caloric than the ‘plat du jour’ or the daily special. Plan on spending between 13 to 15 Euros for a dinner salad.
Where to find salads
Most brasseries, cafes, pizza restaurants and tea salons (salons du the) serve salads. On occasion, you’ll find a tea salon/ ‘saladerie’. Formal restaurants may be less likely to serve a salad as a main plate – however even Le Grand Vefour – a Michelin star restaurant has its lobster and truffle salad (but you’ll undoubtedly want to go on to the main course after this delcious starter). The one place where you may have trouble finding a salad is in a wine bar. Traditionally, wine and salad are never served together because of the vinaigrette dressing which would clash with the taste of wine.
Here are just a few of the types of salads you may encounter on a French menu:
A salad parisienne might resemble a ‘chef’s salad’ in the US with copious amounts of deli ham, chicken, some hard-boiled eggs, lettuce, and sometimes potatoes. This is NOT a diet salad.
The Perigord region is famous for its duck and goose liver pate, but also just about any part of duck will do for a salade perigourdine. Duck giblets (or gesiers) are piled on top of a bed of lettuce. This salad may include walnuts which are also abondant in the Perigord region.
Salade du Chevre
Goat cheese is baked in the oven and presented on little toasts over a bed of lettuce. This little circles of goat cheese are also called ‘crottins’ (not to be confused with ‘crottes’ which are little turds, FYI).
Normally a nicoise salad will include canned tuna fish. The traditional salade nicoise will also have artichokes, pepers, and maybe anchovies instead of tuna (but tuna is more common in most brasseries).
Like the Perigord region, the Auvergne prides itself on hearty cuisine and likewise its salads will satisfy a big appetite. You can expect to find roasted potatoes plus either sausage or bacon bits and nuts with a helping of mountain cheese thrown in for good measure. Definitely low cal.
You might find this hard to believe but a California salade in France will automatically include corn and chicken breast. (I’d love to know who was responsible for introducing this ‘californian salade into mainstream French cookery). A few kidney beans may be thrown in for good measure – which may cause the salad to migrate from being called Calfornienne to Salade Mexicaine. In any case, don’t expect to find artichokes or any product that actually grows in California.
No, this isn’t a mescaline salad. Mesclun are a variety of greens which look really nice on the plate (like dandelion leaves) which tend to be slightly more bitter than regular lettuce. Salade mesclun is normally offered as a first course starter (really nice with pears and a sprinkling of Roquefort cheese, for exmple).
For any of you who may remember what a real Caesar salad is, you’re chances of finding a Caesar salade are about as good as bumping into George Clooney at the Nespresso store on the Champs Elysees. Rarely will you find romaine lettuce in France and even more rarely will you find any resemblance of an anchovy.
About the salad photos
Top salad photo is a caloric powerhouse of panfried potatoes, duck liver ‘foie gras’, and strips of cured meat. Somewhere underneath all that meat is lettuce. I found this ‘stick to your ribs’ salad in the vicinity of the Three Ducks Hostel in a typical brasserie/cafe.
The second salad is the sort your likely to find in your typical pizza/pasta parlor. This one was served to us at the Pasta Break at 51 Rue de Montparnasse.
The third seafood salad with orzo is not your typical Parisian salad. In fact, we found this one in Caen, not Paris. You’d think at first glance it’s a Californian salad, right? Sorry, not in France. Citrus salads do not get big play here in most brasseries.
If you have a favorite French salad to add to this list, don’t hesitate to send me a line. If your comment doesn’t make it through the spam filter, just e-mail me directlyl, and I’ll post your recommendations.