Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King

40 In France: In Love With Lyon (4th in a series)

posted by in Food Tripping

In Lyon, views to love, bouchons, and a cuisine I fall head over heels for.

Paris – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

LyonPart 1, Part 2

Aix en Provence - here

Marseille - here

Lyon is a city of in-betweens: in between sea and mountain, in between northern and southern Europe, and lying at the foothills of the Alps, is in between two rivers, the Rhône and Saône.

France 2014 614

France 2014 1016

Within the past decade, the Rhône’s Rive Gauche (Left Bank) has been redeveloped to provide the Lyonnais with gorgeous landscapes for strolling. The Berges du Rhône is a path separating traffic on the upper level while below, paved areas with tiered seating provide ideal lounging when the sun’s out.

France 2014 705

France 2014 913

France 2014 912

France 2014 633

Lyon presents me with an entirely different perspective on France, one that’s more romantic, and certainly one that’s breathtaking: I lose track of time looking at these views!

France 2014 698

France 2014 746

France 2014 758

Grand Lyon, the old town…

France 2014 600

France 2014 622

France 2014 631

… and its newer side, are true charmers. I’m smitten.


Gourmets agree with famous 19th century French food writer Maurice Edmond Saillard (aka Curnonsky), when he said Lyon was the capital of [French] gastronomy. France’s third largest city has the enviable position of being situated at an intersection of the country’s most abundant agricultural areas. Markets gleam with fruits from the Rhône valley, poultry from Bresse, fish from the Dombes lakes, and the Alpine regions supply dairy for the exceptional cheeses. And let’s not forget about the wine, but more on that later.

France 2014 748

Bouchons are seen throughout Lyon, a type of restaurant serving the traditional cuisine. It’s a carnival for carnivores like me, food heavy on offal, meat, sausages, pâtés, etc. While Les Authentiques Bouchons Lyonnais has officially certified only about 20+ bouchons in Lyon, it’s entirely effortless to eat well in almost any bouchon here.

France 2014 654

France 2014 711

Bouchons, most founded in the 17th and 18th centuries, are well-worn but enthralling affairs. Checkered tablecloths, wooden chairs, floors made from tiles or wood scuffed from use – they all contribute to the authenticity of place.

France 2014 657

The pot de Beaujolais is a thing of beauty and a digestive necessity since Lyonnais food is heavy. The pot has a solid 3 centimeter base and holds about 1 pint (2 cups) of wine, “the right amount to satisfy the thirst of a mature and experienced man,” [or woman], so goes the saying.

My Beaujolais shown here with salade Lyonnais, assorted greens and herbs seasoned with a mustard vinaigrette, scattered with croutons, and crowned with a poached egg.

France 2014 836

Linen napkins, heavy cutlery, and glasses. Bouchons treat their customers right.

France 2014 708

Of all the bouchons I eat in in Lyon, Café Comptoir Abel is my favorite. Reputed to be the oldest and most authentic bouchon in Lyon, its waiters are gruff and efficient but the food is faultless.

France 2014 713

Saucissons de Lyon aux lentilles (sausages with lentils) changes my life, and I don’t say that lightly. Slices of pork sausage and globules of fat ooze succulence. Spoon in now a serving of lentils; little things with a big hit of mustard, tantalizing textures. It’s a magical spell of acid on smoke, salt on fat. I’m bewitched.

France 2014 722

My Bin experiences his own epiphany, the beef fillet with morels. The beef is softness incarnate, a raft of pleasure carrying morel mushrooms. Dark and delicate, the cone-shaped fungi boosts the earthiness of the red wine sauce. This dish has so imprinted itself on my husband’s taste memory that he tells me, “We’ll come back to Lyon just to eat this again.”

France 2014 726

Wanting to try something new, I have the hen with a sauce veloutée. It tastes like a gamier chicken.


France 2014 753

France 2014 740

France 2014 757

Away from the cobblestone streets and deep within some buildings are Lyon’s traboules. These are secret (and dark!) passages wending their way through the apartment blocks and beneath the streets. There are about 315 passages linking 230 streets, a total length of 50 kilometers. These secret ways date from the Roman times and were built by canuts (silk weavers) to dispatch their wares in bad weather. It’s very cool in these traboules, the thickness of the walls shutting out any sound.

France 2014 744

The unassuming door that leads to a traboule.

Specialties of Lyonnais cuisine & food I really enjoy

France 2014 666

I make sure to try cervelle de canut, literally:”silk weaver’s brain.” Favored by Lyon’s canuts (silk weavers), it’s called such because it’s either a statement of the intelligence of the canuts or because it was thought to resemble brains. It’s more pungent than I expect it to be, one of those dishes that defies preconceptions.

France 2014 834

St.-Marcellin, a white cheese made with goat’s or cow’s milk. As it ages, its sheen changes from light blue to red and it becomes so soft it’s got to be eaten with a spoon. In the photo above, a wedge of bread serves the purpose.

France 2014 689

I don’t like meringues, can live without them. But when I try this massive meringue, I’m seriously forced to reconsider my prejudices. Its exceptional crispness belies the chewy caramelized sugar within. From my favorite boulangerie in all of Lyon, La Boulangerie de St Marc. Beside the meringue is a baton of rye bread filled with figs and walnuts. I eat this while in the laundromat waiting for my clothes to dry.

France 2014 894

Moules au Roquefort, mussels bathed in a creamy cheese sauce. Fragrant with white wine and thyme, it’s poetry made edible.

France 2014 898

The writing on the bowl is so apropos.

France 2014 889

Before the moules, my Bin and I gulp down cool fine de Claire oysters with swigs of a Muscadet wine. I taste the ocean in my mouth.

France 2014 862

France 2014 853

In the heart of the city, I stumble upon Lyon’s only cupcake store. Its name: Little. We enjoy the top two flavors, Nutella and Speculoos. The little cakes have a nugget of each ingredient hidden in their middle. Cupcakes in France tend to be a shade more dense than their American counterpart, and the frosting is either cream cheese or meringue-based.

France 2014 625

Sure, you can get waffles on any street in France but in Lyon, they’re especially crisp. Shamelessly smeared with Nutella, the paste glistens before freezing up in the chilly air.

France 2014 603

The patisseries in Lyon have many sweets unique to them, one of which is the gigantic tuile. Lavished in all manner of glazes and/or pocked with toppings, they’re madly, definitely decadent.


Addresses of establishments mentioned in this post:

Café Comptoir Abel
25 Rue Guynemer, 69002 Lyon, France


La Boulangerie de St Marc
13 Rue Sainte-Hélène, 69002 Lyon, France

7 Responses to “40 In France: In Love With Lyon (4th in a series)”

  • Lori, please tell me you’re heading to Valrhona’s La cite du chocolat! Would love to experience it vicariously through your words and photos :)


    Lori Reply:

    Sad to say I’m not, Meryl. That’ll be for next trip.


    Meryl Reply:

    Something for me to look forward to then! ;)


  • Somebody pick my jaw up from the floor. Spectacular food, spectacular photos, spectacular post!


    Lori Reply:

    Truly appreciate your reading every post, Rainie!


  • This post makes me all nostalgic. I lived in Lyon for 4 months as a student and I found it more charming that popular Paris.


Leave a Reply

Heads up! You are attempting to upload an invalid image. If saved, this image will not display with your comment.

Top 10 Books of 2013

Follow Us