By Fleet Corporate Executive Chef Franck Garanger
In the words of culinary legend Paul Bocuse, “Qu’il est difficile de faire simple.” That it is difficult to make simple. With cooking, the most difficult task is always to prepare something simple exquisitely. Simplicity requires great ingredients and great talent. Since you must always start with the ingredients for excellent results, on board our ships we continuously focus on sourcing high-quality artisanal ingredients.
My home country, France, has such a great variety of quality ingredients due to its soil and geographic location. And since France is a country filled with food and wine lovers like me, and eating well for us equals living well, we are very lucky for the abundance of top-shelf ingredients.
Though it is impossible to point to only one region that represents France’s most famed ingredients, food lovers should spend some time in Provence and the Loire Valley. I love Provence for the Italian influence, and of course I am partial to the Loire Valley since that’s where I was born. You must taste the beautiful Muscadet wine and enjoy fish freshly caught from the river.
Of course, you can travel around France without ever leaving our ships – tasting the cheeses and butters of Normandy, the famed lentils of Puy-en-Velay, and the wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy. Here are just a few of my favorite French ingredients that we have the great pleasure of using on board.
Flour: Planchot & Viron Farines
Our Planchot flour is custom-milled to our exact specifications and our chefs use the celebrated Viron flour, crafted from high-quality wheat harvested from the fertile fields of the Beauce region, for our retro d’or baguettes. This is definitely the one French ingredient I simply cannot live without.
Butter: Elle & Vire Beurre
Several types of our butter are sourced from Normandy, including our Elle & Vire butter, a dry butter with a nutty flavor that our pastry chefs use in the preparation of our delicious croissants and pastries due to the high butterfat content and rich, indulgent quality.
Cheese: Les Fromages AOC
The special French designation of Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée protects both the style and origin of the cheese. At least 14 varieties of French AOC cheese are featured in Marina and Riviera’s Jacques at all times, such as Camembert de Normandie and Blue d’Auvergne, and each ship offers a total of 50 types of cheese. Below are my three favorites.
Saint-Nectaire | Auvergne ; AOC-designated since 1979
This ancient cheese was named after the largest producing region in the Monts Dore area of the Auvergne. It is a natural round semi-soft cheese made from cow’s milk. Maturation takes place on rye straw in dark, humid cellars which produces a distinctive aged scent.
Saint-Maure | Touraine ; AOC-designated since 1990
This semi-soft buttery cheese is made from goat’s milk and is formed into an ash-covered log with a piece of straw running through its length, which helps maintain the shape.
Pont l’Eveque | Normandy ; AOC-designated since 1976
This square, soft, washed-rind cheese is made from cow’s milk and is named after the village in which it is made. Likely the oldest Norman cheese still in production, it dates back to the 12th century.
Beans: Le Haricots Tarbais
The holy grail of legumes, creamy Tarbais beans are grown in southwestern France and are typically used for cassoulet. This large bean has been consecrated by Label Rouge, an official French designation that guarantees the quality, since 1997. On board, we use Tarbais beans in recipes at Jacques and La Reserve by Wine Spectator, such as the Provençal Roasted Lamb Loin with Tarbais Bean Purée.
Lentils: Lentilles du Puy
Known as the caviar of vegetables in France, these green lentils are a specialty of Le Puy-en-Velay. They have been AOC-designated since 1963, and recognized under the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) classification since 2009. On board, we use these very flavorful lentils for different recipes in the Grand Dining Room, such as Le Puy Lentil Soup with Foie Gras Royale.